Adrienne Lyle & Wizard Begin Olymics Friday
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By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
LONDON, Aug. 2–Adrienne Lyle on Friday will ride for the United States in her first Olympic Games at the age of 27, but with ancestors that entitle her to be a citizen of the Cherokee Nation.
Adrienne, who grew up on Whidbey Island in the Seattle area, is competing in the Olympics as an individual for the U.S. with Wizard, a 13-year-old Oldenburg gelding (Weltmeyer x Pica x Classiker). She now calls Ketchum, Idaho, home–near the barn at Hailey, Idaho, where Debbie McDonald, one of the most celebrated and accomplished American dressage riders and trainers is based.
For the past seven years, Debbie, the first American ever to win a World Cup title as well as Olympic, world and Pan American Amercan Games medals, has coached and been surrogate mother to Adrienne chasing “every little girl’s dream” of riding in the Olympics.
Adrienne, who claims she is slightly under six feet (1.83m) tall, has found that fulfilling her dream goes way beyond expectations.
Getting here has had all the expected and unexpected ups and downs that many high perfirmance athletes experience.
Early this year while competing on the Florida circuit for the first time, Wizard, owned by Peggy and Jane Thomas, started reacting in the show ring to back problems. Solving the problem meant canceling a possible appearance at the World Cup Final in Holland, but the treatment worked.
The pair bacme one of four combinations–three team and one individual–to qualify for the United States squad that came to England in early July to make final preparations for the Olympics.
“My journey over the past seve years working for River Grove Farm and first met Wizard has been incredible,” she said. “The Thomases and McDonalds have given me more than I ever could have hoped for.
“When I started working at River Grove, I was quite content to do stable chores, groom, and ride whatever horses I could that day. But soon that position morphed into an incredible position and gave me the opportunity to ride Wizard, who has brought me on to this international dressage scene. I have enjoyed every minute of this journey…”
The journey has included competing Wizard in Europe in 2010, including some of the major competitions such as at Munich. She remembers that experience for, among other things, sitting in the spectator stands from the first ride in the morning until the last one of the day to learn as much as possible from watching the top riders in the world.
“It has been a long journey with Wizard over the years,” she said.
“As with any horse, there were many ups and downs, but we kept believing in him and never gave up. He is a very talented horse, even if he’s not always the easiest thing to ride.
“But he has taken me places and given me opportunities that I never would have had otherwise, and I feel so honored to have the chance to ride such an incredible horse.”
As to her Cherokee heritage–she is not sure what percentage, but most likely tiny–it is something “my familyhas always been proud of .
“Obviously I am here to ride for the United States and represent my country,” she said, “and I think that having a U.S.team member who is a Cherokee citizen just exemplifies the wonderful ‘melting pot’ that is America.”
(There are three U.S. recognized Cherokee tribes–Cherokee Nation (Oklahoma), United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians (Oklahoma), and the Easter Band of Cherokee Indians (North Carolina). Adrienne is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation while the other two groups refer to them as members.)
After the Olympics, Wizard, Debbie and Adrienne will return home to Idaho which they left last November on the odyssey that took them to Los Angeles, then Florida for the winter followed by the selecion trials in New Jersey and finally to London.
“I know we will all be so happy to return to our beautiful mountain home,” Adrienne said. “But for now I am going to enjoy every moment of this Olympic experience.”