Adrienne Lyle Reports Wizard “Best Ever” After Nine-Month Journey To World Games
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Aug. 20, 2014
By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
The journey for Adrienne Lyle and Wizard to the World Equestrian Games has been long, starting in the mountains of Idaho last November and peaking in France nine months later after months of training and competition on the East Coast of the United States and throughout western Europe along the way.
Despite the miles on the 15-year-old gelding, Wizard feels to Adrienne, “better than he’s ever felt” since the pair teamed up in 2007 and heading to Normandy for the start of world championship dressage next Monday.
“I think we’ve reached peak energy,” said the 29-year-old Adrienne from the Belgium base of the American dressage squad since arriving in Europe two months ago. “The goal is to keep him healthy, happy and fit.
“He knows his job now and we don’t need to keep drilling him. He doesn’t have to learn anything. It’s a good place for him to be. Now, it’s about working on the things that pick up a half point here and there.”
Adrienne of Ketchum, Idaho has spent the past nine years as a partner with the Oldenburg gelding (Weltmeyer x Classiker) working with Debbie McDonald at River Grove Farm owned by Peggy and Parry Thomas. Peggy owns Wizard while the Thomases, for whom the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas is named to honor Parry’s contribution to the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, also owned Brentina. Brentina’s competition career with Debbie spanned the 2004 and 2008 Olympics earning a team bronze, the 2002 and 2006 World Games for team silver and bronze, 1999 team and individual Pan American Games gold and the first American combination to claim the World Cup, in 2003.
Adrienne’s first Grand Prix with Wizard was in February, 2009, and the pair competed in Europe in 2010. There, the rider would sit beside the warmup and competition arenas all day, her eyes glued on the best riders in the world as they put their horses through their movements.
Then came 2012 and their first winter on the intense Florida circuit that included some impressive performances including victory in both the CDI5* Grand Prix and Freestyle. A fourth place finish at the U.S. national championships gave the pair a start as an individual at the Olympics in London (teams were limited to three combinations but nations could qualify an additional pair to ride as an individual entry).
Adrienne and Wizard returned to Florida the next winter, but the horse was injured and out of competition for most of 2013.
Then, a fully recovered Wizard was trucked from their Idaho mountain getaway last November and pointed toward Wellington 2,700 miles (4,350km) away knowing that all eyes would be on them and any other prospects for the American team in this WEG year.
By the end of the three months of the Global Dressage Festival, the pair had started in 11 CDI classes for seven victories and three second places, including wins in all three Nations Cup classes and both the CDI5* Grand Prix and Freestyle–their most successful Florida circuit. Just as importantly, they qualified among the top 16 horses and riders for the U.S. national championships at Gladstone, New Jersey in mid-June, the first stage of WEG selection.
Steffen Peters of San Diego, California on Legolas and Laura Graves of Geneva, Florida on Verdades were first and second in the championships pretty much guaranteeing themselves two of the four team spots.
Adrienne and Wizard’s fourth place finish put them into the lineup with five other combinations in another step on the two-month-long, multi-continent contest for the other two places on the team.
After mandatory competitions at the Schindlhof CDI4* at Fritzens, Austria and the World Equestrian Festival CDO5*/CDI4* in July, and a CDI3* at Verden, Germany earlier this month, Adrienne and Wizard along with the WEG and Olympic veteran combination of Tina Konyot of Palm City, Florida and her Calecto V were named to the team for Normandy.
As lengthy as the process has been, Adrienne describes as “pretty incredible” the fulfillment of a dream to “take us all the way to the top.”
The pair came to Europe on a “really good note,” and the training and competition schedule has been the most time she’s ever had to stay and ride against the big names in the sport. Both the scores and confidence in the show ring have been getting higher.
After a shaky start at Fritzens, their average for three Grand Prix–vital as it is the competition that decides the Nations Cup–is at 70.240 against their Florida five-show average of 71.488 while their European Grand Prix Special average is at 72.245 compared with 71.887 in Florida.
Robert Dover, the leader of U.S. effort as Technical Advisor/Chef d’Equipe, or Debbie have been at the competitions as well as the training center to keep an eye on the riders.
“I’m learning something new,” said Adrienne, “”that’s pretty special after nine years working with Wizard.”
And she is enthusiastic about the amount of time she’s been able to focus on treaining in Europe as a result of fund raising efforts (no taxpayer/lottery money goes to pro sports in the U.S.).
“I can see what a difference it makes. It really ups your game..
Deciding on the team a a week ago, she said, created “different dynamics. Everyone is working their hardest to do our best, to be a strong team player, to squeak out every point.”
She agrees with Steffen Peters’ belief that the chance of America being on the medals podum is slim, but the attitude is of a gold medal team.
“You train like anything can happen,” Adrienne said, “you train with the attitude you’re a contender. You train as hard as everyone else every day. It’s not just about you, it’s all about the team, to make it as perfect as it can be, to build cameraderie, to help each other.”
Robert, as he is known to do, conducted a full dress rehearsal for the team before leaving for Normandy, riders fully dressed in tails, horses braided and groomed and a judge brought in with a critiquing session afterward.
Although the next short while is one day at a time, Adrienne is looking beyond the WEG.
She plans to go back to Florida for the 2015 winter circuit–Debbie McDonald and her husband, Bob, have settled there for winters–to focus on qualifying for the World Cup Final in Las Vegas next April–in the Thomas & Mack Arena.
Adrienne and Wizard have qualified previously in the World Cup North American League but have been sidetracked by other events.
She’s already tweaking her Freestyle to make it more difficult, thus create the potential for higher scores.