Six months after resuming her position as the technical advisor for the U.S. dressage team, Debbie McDonald announced July 12 that she would be stepping down, effective Aug. 1. Her contract with the U.S. Equestrian Federation was initially supposed to extend through the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.
“I never was going to stay through Paris anyway,” said McDonald. “The way I looked at where we are right now, sort of in a building situation, and then seeing that, for me, I feel like I can offer a lot more just being a private coach right now, I just felt like it was a good time. It was a good time to let them now have plenty of time to get there for Paris. If I stayed longer and kept feeling this way, I kept thinking, well, that’s not fair either, so I felt that it was the right time. I’m very happy about the decision, and I’m looking forward to working with some riders that I work with and maybe have some nice young horses coming up. I just feel more useful at that level right now.
“I think right now [the team is] in a building situation,” she continued. “There are younger combinations coming up, and some of the more seasoned riders, I think they have some horses coming up as well. So I think next year starting the show season, hopefully we’ll see some new combinations coming out there, and that would be exciting for me to see.”
McDonald first served as the technical advisor from 2019 to 2021, when USEF announced it would not be renewing her contract. In February, she was reinstated. During her tenure, the U.S. dressage team won a silver medal at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics and the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, Peru.
“I’ve appreciated all the years I’ve worked, and hopefully everybody feels I was useful at some point,” she said. “I think I’m just at that stage in my life, and at my age, and having a little granddaughter now, I would definitely like to have more quality time [with my family].”
McDonald, 68, said she will still train a few riders, including her former employee and longtime student Adrienne Lyle, but that she will be selective about how many students she takes.
“I’m not going to kill myself. I’m not going to go from barn to barn for eight to 10 hours a day,” she said. “There will be a few that I work with, the ones that I enjoy, and the ones that I know that appreciate the help, and those are the ones that I’ll really focus on.
“As a technical advisor you’re watching a lot of schooling going on, but you really don’t have a voice in it, and I like being that voice, so I wanted to go back to the personal situation,” she added.