Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Hailey rider struggles at Beijing Olympics

McDonald’s mare spooked in ring

Express Staff Writer

It was a tough Olympics for champion dressage rider Debbie McDonald of Hailey.

While McDonald finished second overall in the Olympic dressage trial riding Brentina, her 17-year-old Hanoverian mare, she came in 34th in the individual competition.

The U.S. team did better, coming in fourth in the dressage team Grand Prix last week. But McDonald's personal performance in the team competition was troubling.

According to McDonald's blog, Brentina was spooked by something in the ring, making her less responsive to McDonald's commands. She and Brentina came in with a 63.00 percent.

"She went into the ring and was terrified by something," McDonald wrote on her blog. "I can't even tell you how badly I feel, not only for losing the team medal but also for letting the country down. This was certainly not the way I wanted to end a career."

McDonald, 53, and Brentina have been a pair for over 14 years, and up until their run in China, they had major success.

In 2004, McDonald took home the bronze from the Olympics in Athens. In 2003 she was the first American dressage rider to win the World Cup. In 2005, she won bronze at the World Cup and Brentina was named the 2005 Farnam/Platform USEF Horse of the Year.

Despite their poor results in Beijing, the rider and horse seem to be in good spirits.

"We are hanging in there." McDonald wrote. "Brentina has been full of herself and has no idea that she has not won a medal. She goes out and struts her stuff like she always has."

Dressage is a bit like horses performing ballet. Stemming from the French word "dresser," meaning to train, dressage originated during the Renaissance as a good training method for European cavalries.

There are three rounds in each competition that test the obedience and agility of a horse. In the first two horse and rider perform a set routine of dressage movements including passages, pirouettes and piaffes in a walk, trot and canter. The third round, freestyle, is individually choreographed and performed to music.

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