WWU equestrian alum works with dressage team at Olympics

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