Debbie McDonald's Career Making Horse, Brentina, Passed Away

Mon, 04/26/2021 - 10:16
Debbie McDonald and Brentina at the 2006 World Equestrian Games in Aachen :: Photo © Astrid Appels

Debbie McDonald's career making Grand Prix horse, Brentina, passed away on Thursday 22 April 2021. She was 30 years old.

Brentina was a Hanoverian mare by Brentano II out of Lieselotte (by Lungau x Nomade x Derby). Born in 1991, the chestnut mare was bred by Wilhelm Rethorst from Badbergen, Germany.

Brentina was a full sister to the Belgian team horse Hofgut Liederbach's Barclay which competed at the 2006 WEG with Carl Cuypers.

Sold to the U.S.A.

Brentina was discovered at the 1994 Hanoverian Elite Auction in Verden by American Perry Thomas, who purchased her for 150,000 Deutsch Marks (75,000 euro). 

She moved to the Thomas' River Grove Farm, Idaho, USA and was originally intended as a horse for  Peggy Thomas. When she got bucked off, Debbie McDonald began training her.

First Major U.S. Titles Achieved by Brentina

In 1999, Debbie and Brentina made their first claim to fame at the Pan American Games in Winnipeg, where they won individual and team gold. 

Winners of the 2003 World Cup Final
They earned the United States its first World Cup Dressage Finals Champion's title in 2003 after Ulla Salzgeber was eliminated for doping use. The combination's Aretha Franklin’s freestyle, based on the song “R-E-S-P-E-C-T”, was a highly liked Kur to Music.

Debbie and Brentina represented the United States at the 2002 World Equestrian Games in Jerez de la Frontera, where they were fourth individually and made an impressive blow to the establishment as first time that Americans came so close to a podium place after 8 years.

The next year the mare was turned into a Breyer model horse to celebrate her success and they were ranked number two in the world.

At the 2006 World Equestrian Games they were 32nd in the Grand Prix, but won team bronze. The mare was withdrawn from further competition at that WEG.

The duo also represented the U.S.A. at the 2004 and 2008 Olympic Games. At the 2004 Athens Olympic Games, they led the U.S. to the bronze medal.

At the 2008 Olympics the mare unfortunately performed below par with 63% and a 33rd place in the Grand Prix. In the team ranking the U.S team got disqualified as one of the three results was removed when Courtney King's Mythilus tested positive to doping. 

 The 2008 Olympics were Brentina's last competition.


Brentina at the 2004 Olympic Games
In February 2009 she underwent colic surgery in California, two months before her official retirement ceremony at the 2009 World Cup Finals in Las Vegas. 

In 2010 two embryotransfer foals were born from Brentina at Pollyrich Farms in California: colt Dillinger (by Damsey) and colt Brighton (by Kingston). Dillinger ended up being trained by Adrienne Lyle, while Brighton stayed in California to be with Button Baker. In 2011 Brentina was bred twice to Totilas with frozen semen, but both embryo transfers (ET) failed to take.

In August 2013 Brentina had a second colic surgery at an equine clinic in Idaho at age 22 but recovered well from it. She returned to California for the rest of her retirement.

Brentina happily spent her days in the field at The Irons Farm in Santa Barbara, California, and was taken care of by Christi Sulzbach and her daughter Kate.

Legend for U.S. Dressage

Brentina's retirement ceremony at the 2009 World Cup Final
On Thursday 22 April, Brentina was euthanized at age 30 after having difficulties to stand. 

"This horse meant everything to me. Through the support of the Thomas family, and training from my mentor Klaus a Balkenhol, Brentina became my partner and really MADE my career in dressage,' McDonald told Dressage-News. "And look what adventures we had! We went, literally, all over the world. I’m so proud of Brentina and how she contributed to putting American dressage horses on the international map." 

Photos © Astrid Appels - Dirk Caremans

Related Links
Eurodressage Photo Database: Brentina
Where are They Now? Brentina 
Brentina Undergoes Second Colic Surgery
Brentina on the Road to Recovery
Brentina Undergoes Colic Surgery
Brentina Retired
U.S. Team Vet Confirms Brentina's Soundness
Brentina Withdrawn from Further Competition at the 2006 World Equestrian Games
Debbie McDonald and Brentina at the 2008 Olympic Games
Brentina, 2003 Limited Edition Breyer Model Horse
FEI Judicial Committee Decides on Rusty
Ulla Salzgeber Claims Third Consecutive World Cup Title
Debbie McDonald In For The Gold at the 2002 World Equestrian Games
Debbie McDonald and Brentina, USET Athletes of the Month July 1999
Verden Auction Horse, Brentina