February 11, 2009 -- Brentina, the gallant mare who has carried so many U.S. hopes into the international dressage arena with Debbie McDonald in the saddle, was improving last night after undergoing colic surgery Tuesday in California. While her temperature has dropped, she won't be out of the woods for another few days, however, according to Debbie, who visited her 18-year-old partner in a veterinary clinic a half-hour from the mare's winter home in Thousand Oaks.
"We're hoping she will maintain that during the night," said Debbie after a visit to the Hanoverian yesterday afternoon.
"In spite of all of it, she was pretty happy to see us," she noted.
Although Brentina has never been prone to colic, Debbie believes that the combination of some erratic weather swings in her area recently, coupled with dental issues, led to Brentina's small colon impaction.
"She's so stoic, she doesn't show much pain," said Debbie.
"We just know her so well we decided after the first dose of Banamine not to mess with it" and shipped her to the clinic.
Surgeons were able to slit the intestine and remove the impaction without having to resect the colon. The mare is standing up and connected to IVs, but will not be given food until tomorrow. Debbie has asked all the mare's admirers to pray for her recovery.
The Hanoverian has retired from competition and is set to be honored during a ceremony at the World Cup finals in Las Vegas this April. Plans originally called for her to perform her famous "Respect" freestyle at her farewell, but the surgery means that won't happen. Debbie is hopeful, however, that she will be able to ride into the Thomas & Mack Center arena on April 17 so fans can salute Brentina for the last time. Her appearance is planned as the culmination of a special afternoon of pas de deux, in which Debbie will be participating on another Grand Prix horse, Felix, while her protege, Adrienne Lyle, rides Wizard, the mount on which she won the Brentina Cup last year.
Although Debbie is retiring from competition herself, she will continue to coach students and give clinics. Brentina, meanwhile, is just going to enjoy her life in pasture on the scenic Idaho property of her owners, Peggy and Parry Thomas. She will become a mother, but her babies are going to be carried by surrogates, so she can simply relax.
The retirement festivities at the arena are sure to be amazing in so many ways, a historic moment that admirers of Brentina and her rider will want to share.
"It's going to be fun. It's going to be very hard and sad and lots of tears will fall. But it's not a funeral; it's a retirement," says Debbie. "There are a lot of emotions right now in everybody's mind. It's very special, for sure."
The World Cup freestyle is set for the evening after Brentina's retirement. Anky van Grunsven of the Netherlands, a nine-time Cup winner and three time Olympic gold medalist, is expected to face off with Germany's Isabell Werth, who won the Cup the last time it was in Las Vegas in 2007.
For tickets, go to www.worldcuplasvegas.com. Ticket packages are available now; individual tickets go on sale February 16.
And to read more about Debbie and Brentina, be sure to get the April 2009 issue of Dressage Today magazine.