USA Creates New Elite Program With Olympic Riders Named to It, Debbie McDonald Returns as Development Coach

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Debbie McDonald with Laura Graves on Verdades in tuneup session at a European horse show. © 2016 Ken Braddick/

LEXINGTON, Kentucky, Feb. 1, 2017–The four United States Olympic bronze medal team riders, Allison Brock, Laura Graves, Kasey Perry-Glass and Steffen Peters on Wednesday were named to the newly-created U.S. Equestrian Elite Program. Debbie McDonald, coach of two of the riders, will return as developing coach.

The changes were announced after approval by the U.S. Equestrian Dressage Sport Committee, itself newly created after elimination of some committees aimed at streamlining decision-making.

Qualification for the new elite program, overseen by the Dressage Technical Advisor Robert Dover and Managing Director Hallye Griffin, is based on scores received at CDI3*/CDIO3* or higher competitions in the last 12 months.

The athlete/horse combinations for the Elite Program are:

* Allison Brock of Wellington, Florida and Rosevelt, a 15-year-old Hanoverian stallion owned by Claudine and Fritz Kundrun;

* Laura Graves of Geneva, Florida with her own Verdades, a 15-year-old KWPN gelding;

* Kasey Perry-Glass of Wellington, Florida and Goerklintgaards Dublet, a 14-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding owned by Diane Perry, and

* Steffen Peters of San Diego, California on Rosamunde, a 10-year-old Rhinelander mare owned by Four Winds Farm.

Steffen and owner Akiko Yamazaki turned over the ride on Legolas to his longtime assistant trainer, Dawn White-O’Conner.

Both Steffen on Rosamunde and Dawn on Legolas plan to compete at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival’s CDI5*/CDI3* in Wellington next week, as will Laura on Verdades and Kasey on Dublet.

The elite program riders will work with Robert Dover to set goals and determine schedules and receive training grants and other support to help reach their goals.

“Being or not being part of the program has no impact on selection for Games and Championships,” the federation said in its announcement.

Robert Dover said: “In the last four years, our goal was to create a very strong machine that would produce an Olympic medal for our dressage team, and the next four years will be spent continuing on that momentum and increasing the number of top combinations in the United States.” Dover said.

Plans were also finalized for a revamped development program, supported by Akiko and her Red Husky foundation.

Debbie McDonald, a multi Olympic, world championship, Pan American Games medalist and first American to win the World Cup title on the mare Brentina, will return as development coach after a break in 2016 when she focused on coaching Laura Graves and Kasey Perry-Glass.

“This revitalized program is going to give more individualized support to athletes, as well as their trainers and owners,” said Debbie. “Through this program, we will not only be able to target our funding and educational resources into identified combinations, but we will be able to continue to provide educational opportunities on a broad level.

“I’m very excited to be working again with US Equestrian and this unique opportunity that the Development Program is going to provide to our up-and-coming athletes.”