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Emily grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and started riding horses when she was 5 years old. She garnered a well-rounded equestrian education through fox hunting, hunter/jumpers and horse trials. And when Emily was 13 years-old she decided to focus on Dressage. She received her USDF Bronze Medal and trained her off-the-track Thoroughbred gelding "Thanks A Bunch" from First Level to FEI Prix St. Georges.

After earning a Bachelors Degree in Art History from the University of Pittsburgh in 2005, Emily spent the summer as a working student for Courtney King Dye and then in 2006 with Jennifer Baumert. In 2007 Emily returned to her hometown of Pittsburgh to pursue a career in fundraising and marketing. Emily spent eight years working for several influential non-profit organizations while continuing to compete and train. In 2014, Emily married equine veterinarian, Mark Donaldson, and relocated to eastern Pennsylvania to live with Mark and her stepdaughter, Lucy, in Unionville, Pennsylvania. It was at that time that Emily also decided to establish her business as an LLC and officially launched Emily Donaldson Dressage LLC. After spending more than three years at John and Lea Reynolds Fox Mill Farm in Oxford, Pennsylvania, Emily and Mark Donaldson made the decision to purchase their own farm located in Parkesburg, Pennsylvania. Emily relocated her business to Sewickley Farm in June 2018.

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Emily has been fortunate to learn from the best in the sport. She has trained with Kathy Adams, Scott Hassler, Courtney King Dye, Jennifer Baumert, George Williams and Jessica Ransehousen, and credits them with playing an important role in her education as a professional trainer. Emily currently participates in frequent clinics with Lars Petersen and will be training with him at his Legacy Farms in Loxahatchee, FL during the winter of 2019.

Emily has participated in lessons and clinics with Charlotte Bredahl-Baker, Ulf Möller, Joan L. Simmons, Lars Petersen, Morten Thomsen, Conrad Schumacher, Boyd Martin, Silva Martin, Kathy Adams, Michael Bragdell, Debbie McDonald, Felicitas Von Neumann-Cosel, Jimmy Wofford, Michael Kierkegaard, George Williams, Claudio Oliveira, Richard Lamb, Robin Walker, Jessica Jo Tate, Leif Sørensen, Alfredo Hernandez, Richard Picken, Jane Savoie, Lilo Fore, Charles DeKunffy and Bent Jensen.