Havre, Montana – Dr. Michelle Donaldson is an Orthopedic Surgeon at the Northern Montana Specialty Medical Center in Havre. She has spent the last 19 years as a team physician for the US Olympic Snowboarding Team. She will now be adding a new title onto her resume; Team Physician for the US Olympic Equestrian Eventing Team. She is set to travel with the team this month to Holland to cover the Nations Cup. It is the last big International event for the team before the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.
For those unfamiliar with the Eventing Team, Eventing (also known as horse trials) is an equestrian event where a single horse and rider combine and compete against other competitors across the three disciplines of Dressage, Cross-Country, and Show Jumping. This event has its roots in a comprehensive cavalry test that required mastery of several types of riding.
Dressage is an exact set of movements ridden in an enclosed arena and is judged in balance, rhythm. suppleness, and most importantly, cooperation between the horse and its rider. The challenge is to demonstrate that a supremely fit horse also has the training to perform in a graceful, relaxed, and precise manner.
Cross-Country is the next phase and it requires both the horse and rider to be in prime physical condition and to have an excellent working relationship. The course consists of 12-40 obstacles; fences, ponds, streams, ditches, drops and banks; and various combinations. The scores are based on time, ability to cover obstacles, and the ability of the rider to implore the horse to obey the commands. While the rider is walked through the course prior to the event, the horse is running it for the first time.
The last phase of the Eventing competition is the Show Jumping. It is run on a timed course with 12-20 fences set up in a ring. In addition to normal jumping skills, the show jumping phase tests the fitness and stamina of the horse and rider, generally being held after the cross-country phase.
Dr. Donaldson is a rider herself. She and her husband currently own 6 horses. They started out trail riding, she moved on to the jumper ring, and then decided to try her hand at Eventing. She quickly fell in love with the sport and is currently competing nationally with her 12-year old warm blood, Harley. They recently placed sixth in the Pacific Northwest at Regional Championships and have qualified for the American Eventing Championships to be held in September 2020 in Kentucky. Because the team consists of the same horse and rider, the connection between them is vitally important.
It is through her experiences at regional and national competitions that Dr. Donaldson began working with the US Equestrian Team. Her expertise in orthopedics and in treating competitive athletes is invaluable. When asked what type of injuries riders typically sustain in Eventing she replied, “We mainly see minor injuries. Clavicle fractures and concussions are the two main serious injuries we may see. My main role is to be on hand should something happen.” This will be Dr. Donaldson’s first trip accompanying the team.
Only three teams will be competing in Holland with one team on stand-by. For more information on the team and their upcoming events, please visit https://www.usef.org/team-usa/teams/eventing.