As soon as Melissa Mulchahey got Donna Novella home to the U.S., the pair went to work getting to know one another. "I brought her home and took her out showing a month after we had her here. She was just really easy. I thought, 'Wow, this is going pretty well."
It didn't take much to realize that Donna had what it took to compete successfully against top youngsters in the Young Horse competitions. Hence, Mulchahey decided to prepare her to compete in the Five-Year-Old competition. That meant giving up the ride on the talented mare. She found a rider, prepared the horse, but a month before Donna's first CDI – the Paxton CDI – she lost her rider due to a family emergency. At the time, Mulchahey was living in Ohio and with the help of the Hanoverian Verband, she found a replacement rider who flew for the Paxton show. "I knew she was a very good young horse rider," Mulchahey said. "She had four to five days to get to know the horse and she did great. But Donna helped because the horse was so adaptable and willing and hard-working. She won the Central States qualifier and ended up on the short list for Verden. But since only the top two got to go, we didn't make the final cut. Still, she did super, especially with a new rider."
Unable to find a local young horse rider to take the horse along, Mulchahey once again began riding Donna herself. "I worked with George Williams as often as we could. He has been very generous with his time and has been a mentor the last six years." With Mulchahey in the saddle, Donna continued to have success. The pair showed at First Level and in 2004 were the USDF Region 2 Reserve Champions. "Also, that year, I showed her in-hand in the breed divisions and she earned honors as Sport Horse of the Year and a Breeding Horse of the Year. She's a unique combination of a horse that has proven herself as a young horse and proven herself in-hand and now she's proving herself as an FEI horse."
Over the next two years, Mulchahey continued to ride and compete Donna with much success. In 2006, the pair had moved up to Fourth Level. Along the way, Rebecca Knollman had earned a first-place finish at the Region 2 Championships for Third Level. At the end of 2006, both Mulchahey and her husband were presented with career opportunities that would take them to California. "My husband is originally from California and we jumped at the chance. I'm from North Carolina," Mulchahay said.
Moving to the San Francisco Bay area of Northern California was, she said, "the best thing that could have happened to my horses. Here in California we have a depth of riders and trainers that, other than Florida in the winter, is unmatched. So I worked with and interviewed and talked with some riders out here in the San Francisco area and also spoke with trainers I respected on the East Coast, such as George Williams, and selected Elizabeth Hendrix to take over the ride on Donna."