WWU equestrian alum works with dressage team at Olympics
|7/30/2012||Mary Ann Beahon|
|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE||(573) 592-1127|
Any equestrian understands that being a groom at the upper echelons of the sport is a difficult task during which sleep comes rarely, planning is unpredictable, and dedication isn’t only required, it is vital.
No one understands this better than Lauren Donahoo, a William Woods University equestrian graduate who is serving as a dressage groom during the Olympics.
Dressage— sometimes called “horse ballet”— is a French term meaning “training.” Its purpose is to develop the horse’s natural athletic ability and willingness to work, making him calm, supple and attentive to his rider. It is arguably the most elegant sport of the Olympic Games.
Donahoo was selected by Tina Konyot of Palm City, Fla., a Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI)-level rider, to serve as a professional groom in London. Her responsibility is Calecto V. Calecto, a dark brown Danish Warmblood stallion that Konyot owns and personally trained.
“I am grateful she took me on so that I could raise my standards and education to that of an international competition groom,” Donahoo said.
“Tina did hand-pick me, I suppose. I had solid references and a lot of enthusiasm to learn. She's also expressed that she needed someone who was a fast-paced person, and I appreciate multitasking and staying busy so I adapted pretty well to her expectations,” she said.
“I had prior experience handling a stallion, though exponentially different, and I think that helped as well. When she offered me the job, I did not hesitate for one minute to say ‘yes.’ This opportunity is unheard of, and worth every risk I took! I could not put a price tag on this experience.”
“It is just really exciting,” Laura Ward, assistant professor of equestrian studies at William Woods, said of Donahoo’s participation. “We have had students working overseas, but not for an Olympic contender. And of course ‘groom’ at this international level is a gross understatement. When Lauren got the call from Tina, we all told her she had to go! The horse was one of the top 10 in the U.S.”
Donahoo described being in Europe as “Unbelievable … The whole atmosphere is electric and really warming up. Being surrounded by the top six Grand Prix horses and their riders is spoiling me and teaching me so much. The USEF staff is incredible; all of it is truly amazing.”
While in college, Donahoo gained experience with breeding and showing stallions and riding Grand Prix schoolmasters working during summer and winter breaks. She worked with dressage notables Mary Claeys, owner and trainer at Bridled Passion farm in Cleburne, Texas; Anne Gribbons, owner and head trainer at Knoll Dressage near Orlando, Fla.; and Karen Pautz, clinical instructor of dressage at William Woods University.
Donahoo, who is from North Richland Hills, Texas, also worked as the assistant trainer at Lyndon Rife Dressage in Pilot Point, Texas, where she was mainly starting young horses and preparing/exercising show horses.
Since 2010, Donahoo has worked as a trainer of Iberian horses at MyLeah Andalusians, a small farm in Calwood, Mo., owned by a 2010 WWU graduate, Leah Hohmeier Strid, and dedicated to breeding and showing Andalusians.
“Working with Lauren has been a dream come true for us. The Iberian horse has a unique temperament, and finding a trainer who can bring them along correctly while maximizing their potential was a challenging task for us,” Strid said.
“Watching her have the chance to live her dreams at the Olympics is a humbling experience, and we look forward to the day she is competing there herself—maybe on one of our horses!”
Donahoo earned her bachelor of science degree in equestrian science from William Woods University in 2011 and stayed on as a graduate assistant, where her job entailed keeping track of the equine health records.
She also continued to work at MyLeah, showing a young horse at one of WWU’s dressage shows and participating in a clin