Debbie McDonald’s beloved Grand Prix partner Brentina has died at In The Irons Farm in Santa Barbara, California. She was 31.
The chestnut Hanoverian mare (Brentano II—Lieselotte, Lungau) and McDonald were the first Americans to win the FEI World Cup Final in dressage in 2003. Owned by Peggy and the late E. Parry Thomas, “Mama” blossomed into a staple and international powerhouse for U.S. dressage. She earned double gold at the 1999 Winnipeg Pan American Games, a team silver and bronze at the 2002 and 2006 FEI World Equestrian Games (as well as individual fourth in 2002), and a team bronze and individual fourth-placed finish in the 2004 Athens Olympics.
Brentina famously brought the audience to their feet in the 2005 Las Vegas World Cup Final when she performed her freestyle to Commodores’ “Brick House” and Aretha Franklin’s “Respect.” The moment became McDonald’s memory of a lifetime and earned her a third-placed finish. She was named the Farnam/Platform USEF Horse of the Year that year.
Mama returned to Las Vegas and retired at the Thomas & Mack Arena in 2009. She was later inducted into the U.S. Dressage Federation’s Hall of Fame. The Young Adult “Brentina Cup” Program is named in her honor and supports up-and-coming dressage riders.
In a statement, McDonald thanked In The Irons Farm owners Christi and Kate Sulzbac, veterinarians Dr. Rick Mitchell and Dr. Kristi Timm, mentor Klaus Balkenhol, and longtime groom Ruben Palomera.
“Without Brentina and the Thomas family, I would not be in the position I am now,” McDonald said. “Thank you, Brentina, for all you have done. Hope you are running the fields, eating as much as you want, and that Parry is feeding you lots of bananas! You were my horse of a lifetime; no other can compare.”