McDonald Arabians represents a bright spot in the Arabian Horse industry that brings together passion, family, Arabian horses, and success. Elite Arabian 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his vocation, and while the championships come in abundance, Gary will tell you that “accomplishments become quickly outdated.”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.” It really gives us a distinct ‘Home Court Advantage’.
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, World Cup Championships, Canadian Nationals, U.S. Nationals, Arabian Nationals Breeder Final Championships, and the American Cup. 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 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 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 Halter 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 National Breeder Finals Championships. This show offers a venue that is judged by Breeders, for breeders, and truly is a celebration of purebred Arabian Horse. In 2014-2015, Gary was elected as the Vice-President of the Arabian Horse Association of America. Gary has served several years on the Board of Directors for AHAA; and continues to be a Show Commissioner for the Arabian Nationals Breeder Finals Championships. Additionally, Gary is a National Level Judge for the Arabian Horse Association and United States Equestrian Federation.
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.” 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’s business is truly a family affair. Gary and his wife Jennifer, dedicate their lives to the health, and happiness of the Arabian Horses that are entrusted into their care. Gary finds Jennifer’s influence to this family business as invaluable. “Jennifer’s is beautiful, and is a complete natural at knowing how to market beauty. In addition to her Modeling career, she has also been a National executive in Sales for a major Technology company. Her talents have brought originality to the way McDonald Arabians approaches the relationships with both the Owners and the Horses themselves.” Gary and Jennifer travel the world in search for the finest Arabian Horses to incorporate into their client’s program. They are passionate with their love and enthusiasm and look forward to guiding you through your journey with Arabian Horses.
Gary is often low key about his (and his parents) personal breeding programs. He understands that his mentoring of others to help them avoid the pitfalls and ‘fads’ to achieve success is his primary role. Jennifer often takes a deep breath when she hears Gary consulting with a client about breeding. Throughout her career working at Nationally Traded Businesses, she understand the currency value of the consultations and knowledge that Gary shares free of charge with his clients.
Gary’s philosophy: “I don’t want to charge a fee for consulting: I want everyone to produce the best possible foals within their programs. If I am right, and they achieve this goal… I will have an abundance of next generation Arabians with which to compete; manage; and market. Their success then becomes my success!” Jennifer chuckled when one time, the client asked: “Do you think Gary is ever wrong?” She simply answered, “Genetics is a process, not a guarantee, but I haven’t seen Gary be wrong yet”.
The January 2015 Arabian Horse Time publication came out with the previous year stats. McDonald Arabians is the #1 Breeder of Halter Futurity Winners for the entire 2014 year! Then, in January 2016, the Arabian Horse Times declared McDonald Arabians for the Repeat Championship. McDonald Arabians is the #1 Breeder of Halter Futurity Winners for the entire 2015 Competition year! Who else was on this ‘Top Ten’ list? Many Internationally recognized breeders who produce 4-10 times the amount of foals each year as McDonald Arabians. They believe breeding is a numbers game… but to Gary, he is an Artist creating a very calculated Art Masterpiece.
Gary is immensely proud of his children. The oldest, Madyson is married to Derek Eisenbach and they are navigating their way in the world. Kenny, (aka: ‘The Heir Apparent’) Kenny is also married to the beautiful and brilliant Sydney McDonald. Kenny is owner and manager of Kenny McDonald International. Kenny has dominated the Arabian Halter Divisions in the past few years. Multiple National Championships and is a sought after handler for breeders worldwide! Alleyna and her husband Eli Bangerter, run and manage Gunlock Ranch in Southern Utah. Camille brings the artistic side of life to the McDonald family. through works of art as well as in personality. And the newest addition…. the beautiful young Charlotte. If you haven’t met Charlotte yet, then you need to visit McDonald Arabians again. Charlotte has the most mesmerizing blue eyes, charming personality, and brings new life to all visitors to the McDonald Arabians Ranch.
“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.