Resignation of Debbie McDonald as USA Dressage Technical Advisor Confirmed, Search for Successor to Prepare for 2024 Paris, 2028 Los Angeles Olympics
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July 13, 2023
By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
The resignation of Debbie McDonald as U.S. dressage Technical Advisor, better known as team coach, was confirmed by US Equestrian Wednesday night, saying a search for a successor will begin to prepare for the 2024 Paris and 2028 Los Angeles Olympics.
Debbie, an icon of American dressage as one of the most successful competitors and trainers, resigned effective Aug. 1, as reported earlier by Dressage-News.com.
The resignation of Debbie at the age of 68 comes six months after she was reappointed to the post of “Technical Advisor,” the official term for the team coach, that was to run through the Paris Olympics in 2024.
“After many discussions, it’s a difficult decision for me, but the right one, as I begin to slow down my teaching schedule to spend more time with my family, to step away from the Technical Advisor role in order to allow the program to find a successor that can ultimately help lead the program through Paris 2024 and Los Angeles 2028,” Debbie said in a statement from the US federation. “It’s been an honor to work with the U.S. dressage program over the past 15-plus years, both as a coach and Technical Advisor. I wish nothing but success for the program and will still be involved with coaching on a limited basis. I look forward to seeing our athletes continue to succeed on the world stage.”
The federation said it will appoint an interim chef d’equipe to lead the team through the Pan American Games in Santiago, Chile at the end of October while the search for a permanent replacement goes on along with a review of the American dressage program.
“We respect Debbie’s decision to step down as Technical Advisor and are reviewing the potential of her working as a featured clinician for some of our programs and pathway events in the future,” said Hallye Griffin, Director of FEI Sport for US Equestrian. “We are setting our sights forward to the Los Angeles 2028 Olympic Games and will begin our search for a Technical Advisor with a goal to fill the role by December 1, 2023, with commitment through the LA 2028 Games.”
Debbie returned to the team coaching post on Feb. 1, exactly 14 months after the federation did not renew her contract following her leadership of the squad 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. She shared 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.
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. However, the US team placed high enough to qualify for the Paris Olympics.
Debbie’s personal students have included Adrienne Lyle, based in Wellington, Florida and who is pregnant with her first child. She rode Salvino on both the Tokyo Olympic and 2018 World Equestrian Games silver medal teams.
Also, Laura Graves of the Orlando area community of Geneva, who developed Verdades from a youngster to become the only American partnership ever to reach No. 1 in the world as well as earning bronze with the American team at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics and silver at the Tryon WEG.
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.