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$25,000 Debbie McDonald Fund for FEI Riders

Photo by Amy Dragoo

Debbie McDonald, through her compassionate and effective training methods, has had a significant and positive impact on dressage training across the United States.  To honor her role in the success of U.S. dressage as a trainer, competitor, and coach, the Debbie McDonald Fund for FEI Riders was established to recognize Debbie’s unique contributions to the sport of dressage while enhancing the skill and effectiveness of the dressage community. 

Goals of the Fund include:

  • Providing funding for high-level training to horse and rider pairs who show potential to succeed at FEI Levels, and who may not otherwise have the opportunity for the training.
  • Growing the legacy of compassionate and effective dressage training embodied by Debbie McDonald.

Riders of any age, who meet the requirements below, are welcome to apply.

Applicant Criteria:  

  • Must be a U.S. Citizen or Permanent Resident.   
  • The horse and rider must be training and/or competing at Prix St. Georges or higher, including the Under 25 (U25) Division.
  • Must have a plan of how to expand dressage knowledge and skill in their region by sharing what is learned from this training.
  • Must be a demonstrated team player through volunteer work, donating resources, hosting educational events to help their dressage community, etc. 

Grants should be used to support the development of the horse/rider pair, including high-level training and competition opportunities that might not otherwise be available to them.

Grant Amount: 

At this time, one $25,000 grant will be available each year to a qualified applicant chosen by an independent selection committee comprised of dressage professionals who have had international success.   

Additional Information:   

Funding can be used for training and competition, but cannot be used only for competition.

Funding cannot be used for vet and/or farrier expenses, living expenses, or the purchase of a horse or equipment.    

An individual can only receive one $25,000 grant from The Dressage Foundation each year.     

The committee reserves the right to not award a grant in any given year if they determine that no candidate has met the criteria. Funds would then be held until the following year.  The applications and discussions of the selection committee are confidential, and their decisions are final.   

If the grant recipient is unable to attend the program specified in their application, The Dressage Foundation must be notified as soon as possible. Approval for a change in the use of funds is at the discretion of The Dressage Foundation and the grant selection committee.   

The online application form and all required documents must be submitted to The Dressage Foundation on or before June 15th of each year.  A final decision will typically be announced by July 30th.     

The grant must be used for training and events that fall after the application deadline of June 15th and within 2 years of that date.  

History of the Debbie McDonald Fund

In 2019, the Debbie McDonald Grant Fund was established by Pacific Northwest dressage enthusiasts to assist riders in the Region to pursue their goals of representing Team USA on the podium. The goal of the grant was to recognize Debbie’s unique contributions to the sport of dressage while enhancing the skill and effectiveness of the Pacific Northwest dressage community.

Three $10,000 grants were awarded to support developmental goals of Pacific Northwest FEI Riders, including those who were members of the USEF Dressage Development Program; for travel to the USEF National Championships, NAYC, or U.S. CDIs; or for other educational, training, and/or showing opportunities that furthered the development of the horse/rider pair.

Grant recipients were:

  • 2019 - Jennifer Williams
  • 2020 - Stephen Birchall
  • 2021 - Claire Darnell

In 2023, thanks to the generosity of Pamela S. Jones and the Jones Family Foundation—Malama Honua, the Fund was expanded and increased to offer $25,000 grants to FEI riders from across the country, to include riders in the Under 25 Division.