Wellington, FL - Debbie McDonald, U.S. Equestrian Federation Developing Dressage Coach, is scoping out possible horse and rider combinations to represent the United States in future competitions while in Wellington, FL. The Olympic and World Equestrian Games medalist was named the USEF Developmental Coach of the Year in 2008 and her reputation as a competitor, coach and trainer is profound. McDonald's passion for developing young riders and horses runs deep. Her success is proven by her protégé, Adrienne Lyle, who rode for the U.S. aboard Wizard in the 2012 London Olympic Games. "My job is to seek out combinations that might be able to represent the United States in the future," McDonald said. "We revamped the whole program. With the old way, we used to work off a developing list, and the way you got on the list was to make it to finals in Prix St. Georges, Intermediaire I and the Brentina Cup," she said. "But sometimes someone would make it to finals with an 18-year-old horse. That really doesn't fall into a developing program because that's the end of their career, not the beginning."
She observed today's Prix St. Georges class at the WEF Dressage Classic CDI3* presented by Today's Equestrian and Fellows at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival show grounds. She said she focused on U.S. riders who have scored well in recent shows on younger horses.
The top two winners in today's Prix St. Georges just happen to meet those criteria. Kimberly Herslow from New Jersey, riding her own Rosmarin, an 8-year-old Hanoverian gelding, scored a 73.728% to take the win in a field of 19 riders. "My hopes are that this horse becomes everything I know he can be, which is a Grand Prix horse," Herslow said. "And then, possibly go to Europe after that and get some showing in over there and see how he competes with the European horses."
Lars Petersen, Herslow's coach, said the talent of his student and her horse knows no bounds. "She'll go far," Petersen said. "Super horse with a talent for everything. Grand Prix − he'll do it."
Taking the second place ribbon was Caroline Roffman, who rode Her Highness O to a 71.404%. "She's really progressing and becoming a really reliable show horse," Roffman said. She plans to keep training with hopes of moving up to Grand Prix next year.
McDonald will continue her observations throughout the country to find the best and brightest future stars. "I'm very excited about the quality so far," she said. "Of course, I am trying to hit the places that concentrate the greatest number of riders, so Florida and California are the two major places," McDonald continued. "Then we're observing Houston and I think Saugerties and then the Festival of Champions Developing Horse Championships in August at Lamplight. We still have quite a bit more to observe."
After this weekend, a select group of riders and horses will be invited to participate in a special Developing Program Clinic with McDonald April 2-3 in Wellington. "I wanted to do this first training session before the majority of the people left Florida," she said. "We will have a pool of people that we would like to see under a different light and talk to them a little bit more intimately about what their plans are. It's much easier to do it here before they all leave."
Although she did not know the exact number of riders and horses invited to the Florida clinic, she said the number would be substantial. More clinics are scheduled in June in California and in June and July in New Jersey and are by invitation only from the USEF High Performance Dressage Committee. After the series of clinics, McDonald will compile a list of names to submit to the USEF to be put in a position to receive a grant to further their education in dressage.
"We have to have valid combinations to be competitive in the future," she said.