Debbie McDonald’s Lack of Voice in Training Led to Resignation as USA Technical Advisor

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USA Olympic team of ( l to r) Steffen Peters, Sabine Schut-Kery, Debbie McDonald and Adrienne Lyle in Tokyo in 2021. Photo USDressage

July 18, 2023


Debbie McDonald has disclosed that she resigned as United States dressage Technical Advisory because she felt she had no voice in coaching the team.

“Basically I resigned because I had no voice any more,” she told

“And I felt as a personal coach I would be more valuable, and wanted to spend more time with my family. As I get older, I realize what’s really important. I wish USEF all the success in the future.”

The resignation of Debbie at the age of 68 came on her return two weeks ago from the World Equestrian Festival in Aachen, Germany where the four riders on the American Nations Cup team all had their personal coaches.

Debbie would not elaborate on her role as technical advisor that did not include the coaching function that had made her one of the most important figures in the history of American dressage.

She completely immersed herself in coaching after a successful competition career on Brentina, the mare on which she became the first and still only one of two Americans to become World Cup champion. She rode Brentina on U.S. teams at the 2004 Olympics for bronze and 2008 in Hong Kong as well as silver at the 2002 World Games and and bronze in 2006.

Debbie was the personal coach of three of the four members of the silver medal team at the 2018 World Equestrian Game as well as working as a coaching partner and successor to Robert Dover as technical advisor. She moved into the position officially well ahead of the Tokyo Olympics.

After Tokyo, her contract was not renewed by the USEF following the filing of a civil suit in California against her husband, Bob, and herself though it was not served on them and was dismissed by the court. The federation’s action was widely denounced within the dressage community.

However, she returned as technical advisor on Feb. 1 this year.

Aachen was the first major European competition she attended since her return.

The federation news release confirming her resignation quoted Debbie: “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. 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.”

Debbie McDonald with Laura Graves, Adrienne Lyle and Kasey Perry-Glass in 2018. File photo. © Ken Braddick/

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, 2018 WEG teams and 2022 World Championships.

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.