Adrienne Lyle & Salvino: Making of USA Championship Team Partnership
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Sept. 8, 2018
By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
When Adrienne Lyle saw the stallion with the tongue-twisting name Sandronnerhall on first arrival in the United States 3 1/2 years ago she glimpsed the potential but saw a long road ahead to develop an international Grand Prix mount.
Aside from the name that was a conglomeration of the breeding of Sandro Hit by a Donnerhall mare, the horse had been spoken to in German in his birth country and Spanish where he had competed in young horse classes and some less than distinguished performances in national events.
In an unusual arrangement in the United States that often acquired made Big Tour horses for talented riders sometimes just months ahead of Olympics or championships, a group of owners banded together in a syndicate with a big helping hand from Akiko Yamazaki and Jerry Yang that have supported Steffen Peters with top mounts to buy the horse as a U.S. team prospect for Adrienne.
Debbie McDonald, for whom Adrienne had worked for a decade at that time, explained that her protégé “felt something in him that she thought she could bring out. He was too old to geld, but was standing like a gentleman in the stall.”
When the horse arrived in Wellington, Florida as Sandronnerhall at the age of eight, the mantle of a team horse was not immediately obvious.
Adrienne knew what it was like to compete at top sport, having ridden Wizard for the United States at the 2012 Olympics in London and the 2014 Normandy World Games. With Debbie as her coach, they dropped off the radar for more than a year to go to the remote training center in Hailey in Idaho’s Sun Valley winter playground.
“I don’t think you ever really know with a horse if you train at home and you hope you’re getting quality movements until you start to put him in a real show environment and then you know for sure whether they have the mentality to be a team horse,” said Adrienne recalling the training. “Having the talent is one thing, having the mentality is another.
“You have to have a horse that’s not going to sell you out when it counts or you’re fighting an uphill battle. Consistency and reliability are so important.”
“We resisted enormous pressure,” said Debbie, one of America’s most successful dressage riders with Brentina, leading the American team to silver at the 2002 World Games; team bronze at the Athens Olympics in 2004, the first American combination to become World Cup champion. “Some people were afraid if it didn’t work out it could kill future opportunities.”
Meantime, the horse’s name was changed to Salvino. And Elizabeth “Betsy” Juliano, a highly successful self-made businesswoman with a passion for dressage that had seen her acquire some top young horses in Germany and become a financial supporter of Laura Graves on Verdades and other riders, would later start negotiations that led to her eventually becoming sole owner of Salvino.
Pressure was on Adrienne, now 33 years old, too, who was seeking to live her dream of riding at top sport.
“It was always a dream,” she said, “but honestly I was very realistic. I come from a family that’s very realisic about what it takes in this business to be at this level. I wsn’t sure I was ever going to be able to find a way to have these kind of horses and this kind of support team.
“I’d always dreamed of going to the Olympics, going to the World Games, being on teams. But I was also very happy if I could make a living with horses.”
Does she make a living?
“I do,” she laughs. “I can feed myself.” And points to the stables at TyL farm, Kylee Lourie’s beautiful and practical “Thank You, Lord” training center in Wellington where she is based and helps her make ends meet.
On his return to Wellington, Salvino appeared to an outside observer to be a much different horse than arrived in 2015.
But he still hadn’t been in a show ring in the United States, and the rumor mill in hypersensitive and hypercritical Wellington was buzzing at a high pitch.
The debut of Salvino ridden by Adrienne was a success in a national level Intermediate II.
The new duo placed first in the Intermediate II,
Four months later, Adrienne and Salvino were in the CDI arena at the Global Dressage Festival–the Florida winter circuit that has become a premier event in the world and revolutionized dressage in the United States with unprecedented high levels of competition and prize money.
In early 2017, Adrienne and Salvino made their international debut at the Global circuit but this time in the centerpiece CDI arena.
The CDI was not only the first for the partnership but was the first time Adrienne competed at top sport since Wizard’s last international ride at the WEG in 2014.
As is often the case, owner Betsy Juliano was there for the defining moments–3rd place in the Nations Cup Grand Prix and first place in the Grand Prix Special.
Adrienne and Salvino were selected to compete with a group of other American horses at premier shows in Europe over the summer in 2017, a year in which there were no international team championships for the United States–no Olympics, no WEG and no Pan American Games.
But they showed the promise hoped for–riding on the American team that took silver in the Nations Cup at the World Equestrian Festival CDIO5* in Aachen, Germany.
And the relationship between Adrienne and Salvino was now so close it was seen in their training.
“If he makes a mistake or has a hard time figuring out the movement,” Adrienne explaied, “if he misses changes a couple of times and then we get the changes and I stop to give him sugar he won’t take it. But if he gets it right the first time and I offer sugar he takes it.”
“He takes things very personally,” she said. “He has a soft side, and as a stallion you don’t really expect that. A lot of it is his confidence that has to be nurtured a little because he does get worried when he thinks he can’t do it. That’s why it took a year before I showed him.”
Winter in Wellington this year was a success for the pair–seven victories in 10 starts and two second places.
Earning a place on the American squad to go back to Europe to fight for selection for the World Equestrian Gameas at home in Tryon, North Carolina was assured, especially with Salvino’s self-confidence.
The pair competed on U.S. teams at the top two European Nations Cup events–Rotterdam and Aachen, the German show being the biggest test in the electric atmosphere before about 6,000 spectators, probably the most knowledgeable in the sport, in the Deutsche Bank Stadium.
“Salvino does not seem to have show nerves at all,” Adrienne said. “He walks into Aachen with everyone clapping and he couldn’t care less. In that respect, he’s the first horse I’ve ever had that has been that confident in the ring, who’s not worried about stuff like that and I can just focus on the riding.”
That attitude was on full display at Rotterdam where Salvino’s noseband broke as he was being ridden into the arena for the nightime Grand Prix Freestyle before a packed stadium. Thanks to the preparedness of groom Morgan Klingensmith who seems to have spares of everything and team mates rushing to help, Salvino went on to complete their ride.
“What’s most exciting about Salvino is, I think, he’s still just coming into the horse he’s going to be,” said Adrienne, “there’s still a ton of potential in there. He’s by no means topped out in any of his work yet.
“I think he’s got a phenomenal talent for piaffe and passage. What’s exciting is that if you take the top score we’ve gotten in every movement there are huge scores in there… super walk, good extensions, pirouettes, changes; everything is capable of really good scores.
“Right now he’s still kind of green at 11 years old. There’s not one movement where I say this is going to be hard for him or this is probably the best we can get if we get a seven. A lot of horss you find the range in which they’re happy. I haven’t found that with him yet—where there’s one movement where I think this is hard for him and we’ll settle for this.”
Salvino to Adrienne is a “total gentleman.”
“If he was a human he’d be the one you’d take home to mom. He’s a very honest, sweet guy. He does not have a mean bone in his body.”