Grass Lakes, Michigan – Stablemates Donatella and Donneur are such good friends, they even share blue ribbons. Donatella earned the blue in Thursday's FEI Grand Prix at the Dressage at Waterloo Summer Finale, but stepped aside on Friday so her friend could take the blue in Friday's FEI Grand Prix.
"The two have been stablemates for five years and they're frequently neck to neck at the shows," said their rider, Nancy Smith. "One day, one will win and the next day, it can just as easily be the other one. They're both very good horses." But Smith is also quick to credit Hubertus Schmidt, with whom she frequently trains in Germany, for helping her with the development of the horses from Prix St. Georges to Grand Prix.
In Thursday's Grand Prix, Smith and Donatella actually tied with Milo Mott and Marquis with a score of 64.167 percent. The tie was broken by the technical marks. In Friday's Grand Prix, Mott and Marquis again finished second, but this time behind Smith who rode Donneur in the Grand Prix rather than Donatella. Dr. Hilary Clayton, riding MSU Magic J, finished in third both Thursday and Friday in the Grand Prix.
Both Donatella and Donneur are owned by Caroline Ashton, a long-time friend and supporter of Smith. Together, Ashton and Smith have had a number of successes. In 1999, Etias, a horse owned by Ashton and ridden by Smith, was an alternate for the Pan American Games and now it's looking very much like Donatella and/or Donneur will one day take Smith to a spot on a U.S. team. The idea is rather thrilling for Smith, not because she longs for a chance to ride on the team, but because the success of the two fabulous horses is one she has shared with them from the start.
"The exciting thing for me is that I've been riding both horses since they've been youngsters. So we've made the journey from the lower levels up to Grand Prix together," Smith said. Ashton purchased both of the horses as youngsters and immediately gave the ride to Smith. While both are talented horses with international potential, Smith, who is based in Florida, said they are actually opposites in many ways.
"Donatella is very elegant and light, like a butterfly. Donneur is the opposite. He's small, but very powerful. They are two completely different rides and they are very competitive with one another," Smith said. Because of his power, Donneur, an 11-year-old Danish Warmblood by Donnergraf, is very good in the piaffe and passage where more strength is needed. Donatello, a 12-year-old Westphalian mare by Diamo, excels in the extensions and lateral work.
Smith said this is the first year at Grand Prix for both horses and she's using Dressage at Waterloo as a warm-up to Devon with an eye on next year's World Cup competition in Las Vegas and the World Equestrian Games in 2010.
She just finished new freestyles for both horses, but Donatella's freestyle, created by Tigger Montaque, will be the first to be unveiled. That's because she's the one entered in the popular Grand Prix freestyle competition at Devon.
"In a World Cup qualifier like Devon, you can only enter one horse in the freestyle. So Donneur is in the Grand Prix Special because that requires more power, which suits him. Donatella is more light and elegant and the freestyle fits her. It means that Donneur will have to do a World Cup qualifier freestyle at a different show," Smith said.