After a successful career as an amateur hunter/jumper rider, Donna Richardson switched to dressage in 1987. “As a teenager, I had been forced by Emmy Grant, one of the pioneers of American dressage, to do 40 minutes of dressage before being allowed to "jump.” However, when faced with a lame hunter and a jumper who didn’t like big fences, Donna remembered her earlier lessons and concluded dressage might be something both horses could do. By the time she had trained the Appendix Quarter Horse jumper to Grand Prix, Donna was hooked on the sport. When the time came for a new horse, Donna wasted no time in buying a three-year old Rhinelander from European dressage master Jo Hinnemann.
With Astaire, she started again at the base of the training pyramid. Despite
a serious bout with EPM, Donna and Astaire eventually became California Dressage
Society (CDS) and United States Dressage Federation (USDF) amateur champions
at Prix St. Georges and Intermediate I. When an injury ended Astaire’s
career just as he was nearing Grand Prix, Donna retired him and bought another
3-year old gelding, Jazzman.
With no more worlds to conquer in the amateur division, Donna turned professional in 1993. Jazzman was a once in a lifetime horse, advancing two levels a year, and winning CDS and USDF national championships at first and second level, third and third level freestyle, fourth level and fourth level freestyle, and Intermediate freestyle. In 1999, Donna fulfilled a lifelong dream, when she and Jazzman were named to the United States Equestrian Team. At the 1999 Pan Am Games in Winnipeg, Canada, Donna and Jazzman were team gold medallists and sixth individually. Jazzman continued his success at Grand Prix, being long-listed for the USET in his first year of competition, and earning scores as high as 75%.
In 2002, Donna once again rode for the USET, this time at the Sydney, Australia CDI. Competing on borrowed horses, she and fellow teammate Jeremy Steinberg brought home a team bronze medal. In 2006, Jazzman returned to action after prolonged recuperation from a serious suspensory injury. He wasted no time in qualifying for the United States National Grand Prix Championship , a feat he had accomplished his first year at Grand Prix in 2004. This time, however, Donna took him to Gladstone, New Jersey where he competed against the best horses in the country including Floriano with Steffan Peters and Kingston with Leslie Morse. Jazzman finished a respectable tenth overall but shined in the freestyle where he was placed fifth with a score of nearly 72%. In 2007, Jazzman was one of six horses qualifying for the World Cup Finals selection trial. But once again bad luck struck. He came down with a high fever after completing the Grand Prix and was unable to be shown in his best event, the freestyle. Later that summer, Jazz and Donna travelled to the Pebble Beach CDI where they achieved a measure of redemption by winning the Grand Prix Freestyle there. Donna had hopes of qualifying for the 2008 Olympic selections trials in what would likely be Jazzman's last chance. (He was now 17 years old.) But once again, it was not to be. After winning the Grand Prix and the Freestyle at a warm-up show in Indio, Jazz reinjured his leg. Donna has carefully nursed him back to soundness and Jazz will make his final appearance May 23, 2009 at the Flintridge Dressage Show. There he will perform his signature freestyle one last time, be unsaddled in the ring, and led out to a life of green pastures and all the love he deserves. Donna is currently looking for her next competition horse but Jazzman will be a hard act to follow.
Donna is now a United States Equestrian Federation S judge. She has lectured on “Physical Fitness for the Mid-Life Equestrienne” at the CDS Symposium, appeared as a demonstration rider at both the Conrad Schumacher and Raphael Soto clinics, exhibited Jazzman in a Grand Prix Freestyle at the Western US Horse Expo, and has written articles for Dressage Today and the USDF Connection. She coaches the local Pony Club in dressage and gives clinics throughout the United States. She trains horses and students at her own Fox Run Farm in San Marcos, California.