Latest COVID-19 Updates from US Equestrian can be found on the Coronavirus Disease Resources and Updates page.
  • Share:

NAYC Dressage Dreams Realized for Lucinda Donaldson

by Lindsay Brock | Aug 12, 2022, 7:00 AM EST

Lucinda Donaldson and Audi
Lucinda Donaldson and Audi. ©Andrew Ryback

When 15-year-old Lucinda (Lucy) Donaldson gave her final salute in the opening junior dressage test of the 2022 FEI North American Youth Championship, it was the realization of dreams. The top-15 finish in her NAYC debut was an accomplishment for her, her horse Audi, and her entire family.

Lucinda, who represents Region 1 from Parkesburg, Pa., is the daughter of equine vet Mark Donaldson and stepdaughter of USDF gold, silver and bronze medalist Emily Donaldson. Lucinda threw her arms around Audi before scores were even posted as they basked in the thrill of making it to NAYC at Traverse City Horse Shows in Michigan after only realizing it as an attainable goal in March.

"I thought the high points were my trot work; I feel like that’s my strength with him," she said. "I feel like I’m able to get him to engage more and really into the contact. I was very proud of him."

Lucinda grew up in the tack and started riding at age four. She began in the hunter discipline before transitioning to eventing. Today, she splits her time between eventing and the dressage ring. "My goal this year was to compete at NAYC and do my first CDI,” said Lucinda. "Both of those things happened today, so now I’d like to go for my [USDF] bronze medal. In eventing, I’m hoping to compete at the Preliminary level soon."

"I couldn’t do the eventing without the dressage," said Lucinda of how she balances her dual riding. "Eventing has taught me confidence and to go in and try to be confident in every round. Sometimes balancing the two can get complicated, but we figure out a way to get it done."

Facing her first NAYC appearance and her first CDI all in one day was an intimidating dive into the deep end of FEI competition, but Lucinda handled it as the confident rider that her time on the cross-country course has taught her to be. Her nerves were calmed by the fact that no one knows Audi better than her and her family.

Emily Donaldson has owned the 17-year-old KWPN gelding (Sir Sinclair x Indocus) since starting him herself as a 2-year-old. Together they progressed from training level all the way to Intermediaire 1. Characterized as her "heart horse," Audi was the mount that steadily carried her down her first Devon CDI centerline in 2017, just one month after being diagnosed and undergoing surgery for breast cancer. After an implausibly quick recovery, Audi and Emily had a successful Devon outing. Another dream realized.

When Emily returned home from her Florida season in 2021, Audi charted a successful season with experience in both the small tour and CDIs, but it wasn’t clear where his career was headed.

"I don’t know why we started talking about Lucy riding him, but she started with a training level test at Global to see how it would go and she knocked it out of the park," said Emily. "A few weeks later, we did first level and they once again did really well so I told her it was a realistic goal to try and pursue NAYC."

While sitting in a hotel room on the road showing in Florida, Emily and Lucinda submitted paperwork against the deadline to come to NAYC. They recall many people questioning the ambitious schedule they pieced together to ensure both horse and rider were prepared. As it turns out, Emily knows what her horse and her stepdaughter are capable of better than anyone.

Audi, a 17.2-hand horse that Lucinda describes as difficult to figure out in the beginning, is equal parts “total sissy and total sweetheart.” Other than Emily and Lucinda, Audi has only been sat on by US Equestrian Dressage Youth Coach George Williams and U.S. Olympian Bent Jensen, both tough acts to follow.

Lucinda admits that once she figured out Audi’s ride, the challenge was managing it at a championship event. "This is the most environment we have ever dealt with, and I’m just so proud of him," she said of the horse she has developed quite the solid partnership with. "At home, we trail ride twice a week and do a lot of ring work on our own. It gives us time to take it slow and bond.

"I honestly didn’t know if I would be able to get him from the warmup to the ring today," she continued with a laugh. "Having my dad and stepmom so involved and be able to see Audi stay in the family is really nice, but also gives me confidence to have them on the ground."

Lucinda and Audi have the beginnings of an unbeatable partnership in the ring, which has allowed her to focus on her own routine before showtime. "I make lists," she said. "I write out when I need to tack up, when I need to get on, when I show, and even when I need to breathe!"

With her parents' guidance, her horse’s talent, and a few lists along the way, NAYC is just the beginning of the dream for Lucinda and Audi.