Debbie McDonald is Back as USA Dressage Team Coach

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Debbie McDonald. © Ken Braddick/

Feb. 1, 2023


Debbie McDonald, one of the most successful competitors and trainers in the history of American dressage, is back as coach of the United States team.

The U.S. Equestrian Federation on Wednesday announced the appointment of Debbie as “Technical Advisor,” the official term for the team coach, effective immediately and through the Paris Olympics in 2024.

Her responsibilities include training support and working collaboratively with personal coaches over the next 18 months in the lead up to team selection for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

The appointment comes exactly 14 months after the federation did not renew her contract after she coached the team that won an historic silver medal at the Tokyo Olympics and coaching three of the four riders on the silver medal team at the 2018 World Equestrian Games plus sharing coaching duties in Tryon with Robert Dover as he had announced his retirement.

As the rider of the mare Brentina, she was on American teams at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, the 2002 and 2006 World Games, and in 2003 became the first American to win the dressage World Cup.

“The team’s achievement in Tokyo was such an incredible moment for our program, and over the last year I’ve felt a fire and drive to want to get our athletes back on the podium in Paris,” Debbie said.

“I’m so passionate about the potential of our athletes and combinations, and it’s my intention to make sure we’re doing everything we can to produce the absolute best results possible in Paris. I’m very motivated and feel incredibly supported to help our athletes work towards that goal over the next year and half.”

No coach was named in December 2021 as a successor to Debbie. The U.S. went through 2022 including the dressage world championships in Herning, Denmark with no team coach.

Debbie will work closely with Hallye Griffin, USEF Managing Director of Dressage, and George Williams who was appointed dressage High Performance & Pathway Development Advisor in December 2021 and will remain in that post.

Debbie, 68, currently coaches top ranked American Adrienne Lyle as well as Alice Tarjan on one of her developing Grand Prix mounts. She was coach for Laura Graves and Verdades, the only American duo to become No. 1 in the world as well as on Olympic and WEG teams and three reserve championship finishes at World Cups, along with team mate Kasey Perry-Glass.

Debbie and Bob McDonald, her husband, declared earlier this year after their 44th wedding anniversary they had “moved on” after spending more than two years fighting unproven allegations of behavior almost a half-century earlier. A SafeSport arbitration was closed and led to the USEF reporting in August 2021 that Bob had been “fully reinstated.” A subsequent civil case in which the McDonalds were never served was dismissed.