USA’s Adrienne Lyle & Wizard Take Second Straight World Cup Qualifier

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Adrienne Lyle and Wizard. © 2011 STACYLYNNEPHOTO.com
By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

Adrienne Lyle and Wizard captured their second straight World Cup qualifier Saturday nght that vaulted the pair to the top of the World Cup North American League standings.

In heavy rain under lights on Saturday night at Devon, Pennsylvania, the pair scored 74.275 per cent. Their personal best of 74.925 per cent came two weeks ago at the World Cup qualifier at Saugerties, New York.

At both competitions, the 26-year-old assistant trainer to Debbie McDonald and the 12-year-old Oldenburg gelding by Weltmeyer, beat the German-based American Catherine Haddad Staller on Winyamaro who placed second on 73.950 per cent Saturday night. James Koford on Pharaoh was third on 72.775 per cent. Jennifer Baumert of Raleigh, North Caolina and Don Principe were fourth on 71.125 per cent and Canada’s Cheryl Meisner on Paganini fifth on 70.775 per cent. Catherine Haddad and Winyamaro won the Devon compettion a year ago

Adrienne and Wizard, owned by Peggy Thomas who also owned Brentina that Debbie rode to Olympic and world championship medals and a World Cup title, have notched three straight victories at Grand Prix in Colorado, New York and Pennsylvania since returning to competition less than two months ago after an injury to Wizard last year that kept the combination out of top sport for most of 2011.

The string of victories has elevated the partnership to the top group of contenders for the U.S. team for the 2012 London Olympics.

Devon was the first competition for the duo at night under lights. They won the Grand Prix Friday night with a score of 70.660 per cent with Catherine Haddad Staller of Vechta, Germany, and Winyamaro second on 67.532 per cent and James Koford of Raleigh, North Carolia, and Pharaoh third on 65.404 per cent. The Grand Prix for the Special was won by James Koford on Rhett with 65.979 per cent with Canadians Nancy MacLachlan on Deniros Tyme second on 65.234 per cent and Cheryl Meisner and Tango third on 62.979 per cent.

The London Games are the top priority for Adrienne and Wizard, although the success at qualifying competitions for the World Cup at ‘s-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands, April 18-22 has raised the possibility of seeking one of two places reserved for North America. There are 12 World Cup qualifiers in the U.S. and Canada to qualify for the 2012 Fnal.

They return to Idaho after this first swing of East Coast competitions where the Wizard team of Debbie, her husband, Bob, and the Thomases will work out the 2012 schedule. Adrienne is a fulltime employee of the Thomases, training horses and teaching at their River Grove Farm in Hailey, just a few minutes from where she lives in Ketchum in her parents’ condominium that they bought several years ago for skiing.

Debbie McDonald was not at Devon because of a previous commitment to give a clinic, Adrienne was coached by Anne Gribbons, the U.S. team coach.

“I’m so thrilled with the way things have gone,” said Adrienne, who is 5 ft. 11 ins. (1.8m) and Wizard 17.1 hands (175cm). “I honestly did not know what to expect going into the ring under lights for the first time.”

Adrienne shares a characteristic with another rising 26-year-old rider, Great Britain’s Charlotte Dujardin–a lack of show nerves.

“I sure don’t feel like I get that nervous,” Adrienne told dressage-news.com. “Bob (McDonald) once told me, ‘You have too many other things to think about that you won’t have time to get nervous.’ Once I get in the saddle I just focus on what I need to do. Debbie has also been great in keeping the pressure off me.

“I’m sure it gets harder and harder the more successful you become as the pressure increases.

“I don’t ever go into the ring expecting to win, though. I go in to do our best.”

Adrienne said she “is still taking it all in” the success she is now enoying.

“To be close, pounding on the door, it is great to be coming together,” said Adrienne who competed Wizard in Germany in spring, 2010. “I had never competed on the East Coast before, so to go head-to-head against names I’d only ever seen before in print or on the Internet… I’m very happy with how it has gone.”

Adrienne knew when growing up on Whidbey Island near Seattle she wanted to be a horse trainer. Although her mother grew up on a cattle ranch and rode casually, there was no other horse interest in her immediate family.

She went to college for business management and pre-med animal science but wanted only to become a horse trainer.

While at the family condominium six years ago, she showed up on Debbie McDonald’s doorstep hoping to get a lesson.

That led to her being offered a job and eventually the ride on Wizard.

“My parents were going to sell the condo,” she said, “but I talked them into hanging on to it for one more summer. That was six summers ago.”