Local physician brings home top honors in national equestrian championship
Last updated 9/13/2021 at 10:54am
Northern Montana Health Care Orthopedic Surgeon Dr. Michelle Donaldson brought home top honors at the 2021 U.S. Eventing Association's American Eventing Championships - AEC - in Kentucky Aug. 30 to Sept. 4.
Eventing is also known as horse trials and is an English riding discipline rooted in cavalry training which consists of three phases: dressage; cross country riding with jumping of fixed obstacles such as fences, coups and water jumps; and show jumping.
Donaldson's horse, Byzantine SC, otherwise known as George, was champion of the novice horse division, which features obstacles up to 3 feet, and her 20-year-old crossbred, Danny Boy, was reserve champion in the 2'7" beginner novice masters division.
George started the competition with a stellar dressage round placing him in second overall and moved up to first after a flawless cross country and show jumping round. Danny Boy started highly ranked in seventh after dressage, moved up to fifth after cross country and was one of only a few horses that completed show jumping with no rails down, moving them up to the reserve championship spot - second out of 51 starters.
The AECs at the Kentucky Horse Park garnered nearly 1,200 total entries, with just fewer than 1,000 starters in all divisions.
"Danny Boy was born in Kentucky, so it was a great feeling to have him there for one of his last competitions before we retire him" Donaldson said. "I've only been competing in eventing since 2011, and when I first rode him, I knew he was the one for me. George has been competing in eventing for just over a year, and I am so excited about our future together. I just couldn't be happier with how well he handled the environment and pressure of the largest horse trials in the country. I have been so blessed with the best horses and team around me; I am just so grateful to everyone that has been part of this journey and encouraged me to keep going, even on days I wasn't sure I could do it."
Donaldson is an orthopedic surgeon at Northern Montana Specialty Medical Center in Havre. She has spent the last 20 years as a team physician for the U.S. Ski and Snowboarding Team. In 2019, she also was named a team physician for the U.S. Equestrian Team.
It was through her experiences at regional and national competitions that Donaldson began working with the U.S. Equestrian Team. Her expertise in orthopedics and in treating competitive athletes is invaluable. She is one of only a handful of physicians in the country who covers both a summer and winter Olympic sport.
For more information about AEC people can visit http://useventing.com/aec