holding barn where everything was
checked, horses were vetted, and
cargo was X-rayed before being
moved into the actual complex.
Donahoo was amazed at the
precision of the timing. Countries
were staggered so that the
driveways were cleared at all
times and there was never confusion as
to where the horses were supposed to go.
They made this the perfect temporary
facility,” she said. “Every carpet was rolled
out for these horses.” And to Donahoo, it felt
as if the red carpet had been rolled out for her.
Everyone you’ve seen pictures of or
drooled over is there,” she said. “You just die
inside to think of these amazing riders and
what they’ve accomplished, and they’re
walking around in the warm-up or they
shake your hand or your rider introduces
you to them.”
Every day she fed Calecto by 6 a.m., cleaned
his stall and water buckets, gave him either
magnetic or laser therapy, groomed him
extensively, tacked him up and put on his
leg wraps, and sent him off to the ring.
After Konyat learned Donahoo was
training for a half-marathon, she also added
a daily routine of Donahoo hand-jogging
Calecto for 45 minutes to an hour—which
became a crucial part of Calecto’s day.
Afterward, she took off his leg wraps and
tack, hand rolled him (his favorite part of the
day), put on his ice boots, gave him a full
bath, hand walked him until he was
completely cooled out, let him rest in
his stall before more therapy and sometimes
massage, put on his night wraps, fed him
dinner, and spit shined his tack.
Her only hours for rest were between 11
p.m. and 5:30 a.m.—when the Olympic barns
were shut down for the night.
If you think of grooming a horse for a
world show or championships … enhance that
by a thousand,” she said.
After all, you never know what miniscule
marks the cameras might pick up.
But the meticulous care of Calecto was
only part of Donahoo’s job. She was also
responsible for helping Konyot be the best
she could be.
Konyot asked Donahoo to spot her
pirouettes and piaffes —some of the most
difficult movements in dressage. That’s like
Michael Jordan asking you to help him with
his form while shooting baskets.
For her to be the best, she has to know
what’s honestly going on,” said Donahoo.
Even though I was conscious of people
taking pictures of me coaching [at the
Olympics], I had to focus on her.”
All of that hard work led up to show day,
which was a big production for Donahoo.
The pair warmed up in three separate
arenas before heading into the field of play,
the competition arena. Like everything else,
the timing was flawless, and volunteers
moved the horse and rider pairs with ease.
Donahoo watched in awe as Konyot and
Calecto took centerline. And as Calecto
trotted toward the judges, Donahoo sighed
in relief. This was everything she had been
After Calecto came to a halt, Konyot threw
her arms around Calecto. To Donahoo, it was
a perfect finish for a perfect pair.
A Bittersweet Farewell
All of a sudden you were heartbroken and
relieved and crying.” That’s how Donahoo
said she felt when it was over.
The months she had spent preparing
Calecto for his Olympic debut, the hours and
hours of cleaning and scrubbing in preparation
for the day’s events, the nerves it took to go
for a dream that seemed unreachable—now,
it was over.
Donahoo said goodbye to Calecto and
hello to the rest of her life when he was safely
stateside and released from quarantine.
Renewed Olympic Dreams
The young woman who began her career at
William Woods without having competed in a
single recognized show and graduated having
competed up to the 4th level had dropped
everything for the chance to be an
Olympic groom. Now, she is faced with a
future full of possibilities.
She got married in November and is open
to exciting opportunities for her future.
But one thing she knows for sure is she
wants to ride and, one day, return to the
Olympics—not as a groom, but as