by Erika Doria & Joanne Fox
U.S. Reserve National Champion, Point Man NJH & Gary
McDonald Arabians represents a bright spot in the Arabian Horse industry that brings together passion, family, Arabian horses, and success. Halter trainer, Gary McDonald is one of those fortunate professionals who has turned a lifelong love into his vocation, and while the championships come in abundance, Gary will tell you that "accomplishments become quickly outdated." The emphasis at his facility is on the thrill of competition, win or lose, and the joy it brings the people involved with the beautiful horses.
Growing up in Salt Lake City, Utah, Gary McDonald was immersed in the Arabian Horse industry from an early age. Being a part of his family's Arabian breeding and management farm - the first McDonald Arabians - Gary honed his horsemanship skills. From lead line through the youth performance divisions, Gary, along with his sister Carolyn, helped their parents grow their business along with helping to train and manage the breeding horses on-site. "I started paying close attention to the halter arena and breeding divisions," Gary says. "As a youth I usually presented the stallions to prospective breeders and clients at my family's farm. This experience, of course, drove me to focus on the halter horses and the breeding barn - which is undoubtedly my first love when it comes to the horses."
Gary attended school at Arizona State University, from which he majored in Psychology and minored in Accounting. 1998 Gary opened his own facility in Scottsdale - carrying on with the family's farm name of McDonald Arabians. "I decided to stay in Scottsdale for all the reasons so many trainers and breeders are relocating to this hotbed of Arabian activity," says Gary. "The perfect dry, hot weather is ideal for keeping Arabians healthy and looking good all year long. Plus, having the prestigious Scottsdale show in what you might call our 'backyard,' makes this area a perfect choice for the business."
With no more than forty horses in the training barn at one time, the McDonald Arabian show string competes at several Regional Championship Shows, along with Scottsdale, Las Vegas, Canadian & U.S. Nationals, and the Egyptian Event. With the focus on training, marketing, and breeding the finest halter horses with the amateur owner and handler in mind, Gary has found success creating champions in the open division whom their owners can turn around and show in amateur competition.
Gary's four children: Madyson, Camille, Kenny and Alleyna
Gary has been instrumental in the formation and successes of many of the unique venues which have been changing the face of Arabian Shows in the United States Today. In 2005, Gary served as Chairman for the Rules and Regulations Committee for the Arabian Horse Breeders Alliance for the inaugural creation of the Las Vegas World Cup Show Championships. In 2010, Gary, was re-elected to continue serving as a board member for the Arabian Horse Association of Arizona. At which he accepted the task of personally guiding and organizing the creation of a new division within the Scottsdale Show. The Scottsdale International Championships. This division for Purebred Arabian Show Horses is a combination of the 'best of the best' in exhibition, show management, judging, and spectator opportunities. Also, in 2010-2011 Gary collaborated with a few of the great minds in the Arabian breed, to create another new show: The Arabian Breeder Finals Championships. This show offers a venue that is judged by Breeders, for breeders, and truly is a celebration of purebred Arabian Horse. This is a new avenue for us that we are really excited about."
Gary & Lethyf Falconesse
When it comes to training, Gary's philosophy includes the maxim "Less is more." "I am methodical in my training techniques and aim to let the horses show themselves off by keeping them relaxed and happy. Given the focus we have on amateurs here at McDonald Arabians, it is important that my horses go into the arena with confidence and a solid foundation so their amateur owners can enter the arena with confidence as well."
In his training methods, Gary's goal is to have his horses confident and well-prepared through a step-by-step program that avoids haste and keeps the horse relaxed and happy. We're very detailed in the conditioning of the horse and avoid over showing them. He adds, "My personal goal in presenting each horse is to remain as quiet as possible so as not to distract from the picture of the horse. I want a horse to be confident enough to snort, flag its tail, and be animated without fear." He concludes, "I'm not there to be in its face or try to control it. I want the horse to present itself."
I believe what sets my clients apart from others in the arena is that their horses are responsive to the subtlest of cues. They are relaxed and presented in a dignified manner. I want my clients to truly enjoy the experience of showing their own horse, feeling that rush of adrenaline and pride as they enter the arena." Gary continues, "I've made people my priority. Rather than clawing the country for the next person, I want people in my barn that I enjoy and who enjoy me. I strive to be client service oriented rather than a win-at-all-cost mentality. Every time I travel, it is reinforced to me that the industry is absolutely full of owners who are excited and genuinely love their horses. I come home from almost every experience awestruck at how nice people are and how they love the Horse experience. Happy, vibrant people who love the breed."
Madyson and Alleyna
Madyson and Camille
Although McDonald Arabians is primarily a halter training facility, the farm recently expanded to offer performance training to those clients who would like to ride and show their horses as well. Gary explains, "While we are not currently planning to open a full-scale performance division, it is important to us to have our horses properly trained under saddle for our clients."
Ross & Marjeanne McDonald
Gary's business is truly a family affair. His father Ross continues to show in amateur halter at 79 years of age. Gary has four children who all love the daily experience and interaction at the farm. "The Arabian horse is and always has been a family experience for us, so it is natural for us to also encourage our clients to include the whole family in the Arabian experience. This is the core of the philosophy that drives us here at the farm." It is obvious that Gary's enthusiasm and passion are contagious as McDonald Arabians, LLC. continues to grow and succeed down the very path they outlined - one of integrity, passion, people, family, and of course, beautiful Arabian horses.