US Olympic dressage medalist Debbie McDonald is the latest high-profile equestrian to join Brooke USA as an ambassador.
McDonald, known as the “First Lady of American Dressage”, will use the talent and passion she showed when riding Brentina to the World Cup Finals and Olympic Games. on behalf of working equines.
Brooke USA supports the overseas work of the Brooke, the world’s largest international equine welfare organization. Their mission is to improve the welfare of working horses, donkeys and mules in the world’s poorest communities.
Captivated by the ability to bring permanent change to the lives of working animals and their owners in developing countries, McDonald didn’t hesitate to come alongside Brooke USA.
“When I saw Brooke USA’s photos, read the material and learned about their mission, it didn’t take me five seconds to realize that when you don’t know what’s going on you never realize how sad something can be,” McDonald said. “I certainly would do anything in my power to help this amazing organization.”
When she was only 14 years old, McDonald saw the mistreatment of horses first-hand. It was personal: it was her own pony, Flanigan. It seemed like any other day going to the barn, but when she walked through the threshold she was met by a man she did not know in his stall beating him. When she went running for help, she met young trainer and future husband, Bob McDonald. With his help, she moved her pony to his hunter/jumper facility, promising to never compromise her pony’s mental or physical health.
Her passion for the treatment of horses is still apparent in her teaching and her demeanor today. When she saw the comparison between the before and after photos of the Brooke’s programs in 11 countries, tears came to her eyes, and she knew she wanted to make a difference.
“I’m hoping that I can draw more awareness about Brooke USA and what they are doing for the welfare of these animals,” McDonald said. “These days I travel a lot and continue to coach and teach clinics. I think that if it is done the right way, I can open people’s eyes in the sport and show them the everyday trials of these working animals – donkeys, mules and horses.”
Through direct veterinary intervention and scientific research, and by working with owners, communities and governments, the Brooke has been providing long-term, proven, sustainable solutions to many of the welfare problems facing working animals for 81 years. Last year alone the Brooke reached nearly 1.5 million equines, benefitting 6 million people in countries where many people earn less than a dollar a day.
Cindy Rullman, Fundraising Development Director for Brooke USA said it was a privilege welcome McDonald as a new Ambassadors.
“When the sport horse world becomes aware that 100 million equines are supporting 600 million of the world’s poorest people, and that the Brooke already has proven solutions to the enormous welfare problems they’re facing, we think they will jump in to help. Debbie can bring that awareness.”
McDonald joins an impressive lineup of Brooke USA Ambassadors that includes the Brooke’s Global Ambassadors: double Olympic Gold Medalist Charlotte Dujardin, internationally renowned “horse whisperer” Monty Roberts, and top sport horse owner Margaret Duprey, among others.
McDonald said: “It just brings tears to your eyes when you see the plight of these animals – heavy loads, injuries and lack of water or food – some of them are just a rack of bones. We can make a difference. Sometimes it’s something as simple as teaching owners about hoof care, vaccinations and proper feeding. You learn that this is happening and it is astonishing. My God, I didn’t even know that existed still.”
Brooke USA, headquartered at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, exists to support the overseas work of the Brooke in 11 countries across Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Central America.