The Return of Adrienne Lyle

Adrienne Lyle and Wizard (Photo: Mary Cornelius)
Adrienne Lyle and Wizard (Photo: Mary Cornelius)

With their clean sweep of the Grand Prix classes at both the Paragon CDI*** in Estes Park, Colorado, and Dressage at DevonWood in Oregon, Adrienne Lyle and Wizard made a triumphant return to competition. Fans of Lyle may have wondered where she’s been this past year. After winning the Brentina Cup in 2008, she and Wizard made a serious leap to the big leagues when they won the Freestyle at the 2009 Collecting Gaits Farm/USEF Dressage Festival of Champions. Pretty heady stuff for a girl who grew up doing Western riding on a cattle ranch on Whidbey Island, Washington. Then, after last year’s National Dressage Championships, she all but disappeared from action. But Lyle—and Wizard, a 12-year-old Oldenburg gelding (Weltmeyer–Pica) are officially back, and they’re setting their sights on London in 2012.

Of course, Lyle, the 26-year-old former working student for dressage icon Debbie McDonald (she‘s now assistant trainer at Peggy and Parry Thomas’s River Grove Farm in Hailey, ID) never went anywhere. But in December, Wizard underwent surgery to remove the lower part of the splint bone in his left foreleg. Says Lyle, “We probably should have removed it after Gladstone. But we were trying to get it to heal naturally. He was never lame riding, just a hair sore at the palpation of it.”

“The timing is always bad for any injury,” she adds, “especially because being in Idaho, it takes a little more planning and effort to get anywhere. But I’m thankful that it was something very minor. As frustrating as it is to lose time, I’ll take that over a major soft-tissue injury.”

Adrienne Lyle and Dax (Photo: Mary Cornelius)
Adrienne Lyle and Dax (Photo: Mary Cornelius)

Wizard was due to return to the show ring at the Pebble Beach CDI in California in July, but concerns over the uneven footing led all but one of the Grand Prix riders to withdraw. “Pebble Beach was a disaster,” Lyle admits. “We hauled 15 hours down there and ended up turning around and going home.” With their late start at qualifying for this year’s National Grand Prix championships, Lyle needed the show, and the scores. “I wanted to compete at Pebble Beach — nobody had more to lose than me,” she says. “But it just wasn’t worth the risk. If Wizard took one bad step there and was out for next year, I wouldn’t have been able to live with it.”

Lyle turned her disappointment into success at her next show: Dressage at DevonWood, Oregon, in late July, where she competed four horses and won every class but one. With his scores of 68.511% in the Grand Prix and 73.583% in the Freestyle, Wizard showed he’s lost none of his power or athleticism. “We had a couple of little bobbles, mostly from being rusty,” says Lyle, “but he was back and feeling frisky!”

Lyle was also pleased with the performances of her young horses, Dax and Accolade. “This was their first horse show ever, so that was exciting. You never know that x factor until you get them in there and see how they’re going to handle it. They both did fantastic!”

The Thomases bought Dax (Don Frederico-Hauptstutbuch Georgina) as a 3-year-old at the Hanoverian auction in Verden. “He’s got an incredible mind and incredible trainability,” notes Lyle. Accolade is a 6-year-old Dutch mare with notable breeding: Her sire is Brentano II — the same as McDonald’s legendary partner Brentina — out of a Jazz mare. “She started under saddle really late, but she’s handled everything really well,” says Lyle. At DevonWood, Lyle and Accolade earned a 78.571% at Second Level. “[Judge] Cara Whitham gave me three 10's in that test, including one for gaits — I was pretty thrilled with that!”

Adrienne Lyle and Whidbey (Photo: Mary Cornelius)
Adrienne Lyle and Whidbey (Photo: Mary Cornelius)

Lyle beams when talking about Whidbey, a 10-year-old Hanoverian gelding by Waikiki. “I’ve never ridden a horse that’s that ‘on’ in the ring. He just loves to show. Whatever you get in the warm-up, he kicks it up in the ring as far as his effort. I probably only work him for 10 to 15 minutes before I go in. I’ll say to Debbie, ‘He’s just so great, I don’t know what else to do,’ and Debbie will tell me, ‘Don’t do anything then!’” Lyle hopes to move him up to Grand Prix next year. “He loves to piaffe and passage, so I think he’ll shine at that even more than in the Prix St. Georges.”

In Colorado, she and Wizard earned a 72.191% in the Grand Prix and a 72.022 in the Special. “He put in two of the most relaxed, consistent and honest tests we have ever had,” says Lyle. “Getting the ‘fire’ and brilliance from him has always been the easier part, but it has taken him a while to become more relaxed and rideable in the ring. I think he’s starting to really come into his own.” Though the duo won’t be competing at this year’s Collecting Gaits Farm/USEF Dressage Festival of Champions at Gladstone, they’re heading east to show at the CDI-Ws in Saugerties, NY, Sep. 15–18, and at Dressage at Devon (PA), Sep. 30–Oct. 2. The River Grove team is even pondering a run for the 2012 Reem Acra FEI World Cup next April. In the meantime, Lyle is working with Terry Gallo on a new Freestyle for Wizard. Quips Lyle, “There’s never a dull moment up here!”




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