Just a few months ago, Donahoo received
her own USA jacket. Tears fell from her eyes
as the realization kicked in—she had claimed
a spot in Olympic history. She had earned her
place as an Olympic groom.
A Life Shift
Donahoo was planning her wedding, pursuing
her master’s degree, and operating her own
training program. Everything seemed to fit
neatly into place. Until fate threw her a
After seeing two job postings for a
grooming position for the Olympic-hopeful
dressage team, Tina Konyot and her Danish
stallion, Calecto V. Calecto, Donahoo knew
she had to apply, even if it was a long shot.
When Konyot said she wanted Donahoo
to fly in for an interview, everything changed.
After a discussion with her fiancé about
postponing the July wedding for the
possibility of attending the Games—and with
encouragement from the WWU faculty—
Donahoo dished out the last of her savings,
bought a last-minute plane ticket, and headed
to Florida for the ride of her life.
Knowing she was underqualified for the
position, she gave it her all—hoping, just
hoping, this amazing opportunity could be
hers. During the interview, she proved
The only thing I could say is, I haven’t
said Donahoo. “That eagerness
is something that can be harnessed and put in
the right direction with someone who is
willing to teach.”
Konyot offered Donahoo the job on the
spot. “It was a big life shift,” Donahoo said,
but I would do it all over again.”
Preparing for Action
In December 2011, Donahoo headed to
Florida for the job. After a slew of CDIs
during the Florida winter season, she
accompanied Tina to her summer training
base in Ontario, Canada. The Selection Trials
and National Championships placed Konyot
on the team with Steffen Peters,
Jan Ebeling, and Adrienne Lyle.
Donahoo was on a plane to
England and then to the
pre-training facility in Hadleigh,
Suffolk, where the U.S. would have
six horses hosted by Linda Keenan
and Kenneth Dyrby at their farm.
It was completely private,”
Donahoo said. “There was no media
attention, so it was wonderful to
be able to relax—especially with
all the attention for Rafalca [Ann
Romney’s horse] and all the
hype about our sport from
Donahoo had to suppress what
she calls “fan girl status” and get
right to work.
I watched six of the top riders in the U.S.
work their Grand Prix horses every day,” she
said. “When do you get to do that? When else
do you get to give them a high five before
they go into the Olympic ring?”
Donahoo worked carefully with Calecto
to ensure he was comfortable in the new
place and climate. Going from New Jersey,
with weather topping 100 degrees, to Europe,
where jackets were a necessity, was a
substantial climate change that required a
Donahoo helped Calecto adjust by keeping
him warm with sheets at night and coolers
during the day.
It was nice to have time before this
incredible event to let the horses just be
horses,” she said. “They didn’t have to be
dolled up or look a certain way at a certain
time, and the riders could be candid with
the coach about what was going on. It was
perfect. Calecto even had his own private
The Ideal Venue
The morning after the opening
ceremony, the horses were moved to the
official venue. They were first sent to a
Donahoo cuddles with Calecto.
Tina Konyot rides her Danish stallion, Calecto.
Photo by Leah Strid
Photo by Leah Strid