Burbank, California – Brentina was back in action at the Cornerstone Event Management Festival of the Horse CDI*** and what a comeback it was. When the 17-year-old Hanoverian mare journeyed down center line for the first time in months she made it clear she's still got what it takes. She and Debbie McDonald finished second in Friday's CDI Grand Prix with a score of 70.542 percent, not far behind first-place finishers Steffen Peters and the 10-year-old gelding Ravel and their score of 70.875.
"It was emotional and it was exciting all at the same time," McDonald said. "I realize that at 17, Brentina only has so much time. It's so amazing to feel that she's still so willing and so excited to go down that center line. She was full of energy." In fact, she was full of so much energy that at times she seemed hard to contain. "She was almost electric in there today. She was so happy to be in there," said McDonald's husband, Bob. "She was actually stronger at the end of her test than the beginning."
Not so happy to be in Friday's CDI Grand Prix was Peters' other mount, Prince. The 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding by Hemmingway, had difficulty from the get-go leading Peters to take the unusual step of withdrawing midway through his test. Peters said that after Prince got stuck in piaffe the second time, he decided it was best to stop and focus on fixing the problem. "We went straight to the warm-up ring to solve the problem," Peters said.
McDonald admitted Brentina was a bit more tense and on edge than normal, but attributed it lack of time in practicing the tests and movements. "I've been focusing on getting her fit," McDonald said. "Literally, I'd say I've worked on pirouettes the last week, but she is so honest. It was just a matter of containing the energy today."
Her husband said the training plan is to peak Brentina at the time of the Olympic Selection Trials in June. "We're building her up steadily. I'd say she's at about 85 percent now and will be at 100 percent by trials." In terms of soundness, however, Brentina is at 100 percent.
Sidelined by Injuries, Brentina is Back in Action with Debbie McDonald
The popular Brentina, sired by Brentano II and owned by Peggy and Perry Thomas of Hailey, Idaho, has represented the U.S. in several international competitions. Her Grand Prix Freestyle performed at the Dressage World Cup in Las Vegas is still widely talked about among dressage circles as one of the best many had ever seen. If McDonald and Brentina make it to the 2008 Olympic Games, they'll ride to it again, said her husband.
A veteran of two World Equestrian Games, Brentina was essentially out of competition after the 2006 World Equestrian Games. Soon after those Games, she was diagnosed with a strained tendon. She was back in work and heading to Europe for training this past fall when she sustained a soft tissue injury in transport. "With soft tissue damage, you just have to wait it out so you don't do damage," Bob McDonald said.
The McDonalds are certain that Brentina is up to the job of competing at the Olympics and the judges seemed to agree. Still Debbie McDonald warns herself about being overconfident. "Personally, I think she feels amazing, just as good as ever," she said. "But, it's still an early year to make any predictions. If she stays on track we have a good chance."
McDonald believes the key to success for her and Brentina is if they can earn a solid 73 percent in competition. "The German judge [Volker Moritz] gave her that today and I know she's not even on top of her game. So, I think that's an attainable goal if we stay on the right track."
In other CDI competition, Steffen Peters and Montango won the Prix St. Georges with a score of 71.083 percent. Coming in second was Elizabeth Ball with De La Frontera and a score of 67.417. Right behind them in third was the pair of Jennifer Hoffman and Farinelli with a score of 67.250 percent.