California Riding Magazine • August, 2012

Horse People: Adrienne Lyle
Hard work and dedication lands West Coaster an Olympic individual spot on dressage team.

by Heidi Zorn

Adrienne Lyle was born and raised on Whidbey Island, WA, on a small cattle farm. Her love for horses goes back as far as she can remember. They were always a part of her life and her only passion. From the time she was young, and had several ponies and farm horses around, Adrienne spent her days riding around the trails and on the beaches. She remembers heading out early every morning, with a sack lunch packed and a group of friends, and riding all day long and well into the night. "Often times, even that wasn't enough," says Adrienne. "We would routinely sneak out of the house in the middle of the night and go for bareback moonlight rides up into the big hay field or down to the beach."

Adrienne and Wizard finished fifth in the USET dressage selection trials and were confirmed as the team's individual rider for the Olympic Games. (Dressage competition runs Aug. 3-9).

Adrienne & Wizard. Photo ©McCool Photography

She's come a long way since her start riding western and enjoying trail riding and western gaming. At 7, she switched to english and joined the local chapter of the United States Pony Club. She remembers showing up for her first dressage lesson with a western saddle on her "fat little pony named JI." They competed in eventing for several years, as well as Pony Club Mounted Games, but soon became fascinated with dressage. Adrienne would often get problem horses given to her to train and she found that, no matter what discipline the horses competed in, they all improved dramatically through dressage work. Adrienne began competing at lower level dressage shows around age 13.

Adrienne's first real dressage horse was a Thoroughbred mare who was very high strung. She was bought sight-unseen, and it was only after Adrienne had owned her for a while that she discovered the mare had been owned by a rodeo outfit who used her as a bucking horse. Despite the mare's history, she taught Adrienne a lot about riding with tactful feel, and taking everything in stride--whether it was wining, losing or bolting out of the dressage ring mid-test.

Adrienne at age nine with pony Salsa at Pony Club Camp on Lopez Island.

When Adrienne was 16, she got the chance to compete the mare in the North American Junior Dressage Championships at Paxton Farms, as a member of the United States Pony Club dressage team. Adrienne was able to sell her Thorougbred mare and buy a Swedish Warmblood gelding named Miguel. This pair was part of the silver medal team at the 2002 Cosequin Junior Dressage Championships, and a member of the bronze medal Region 6 team at the 2004 North American Young Riders Championships.

Life Changing Visit

As a small child, Adrienne visited River Grove Farm in Hailey, ID, to watch a horse show. Her memories of the trip to the home base of future Olympic dressage rider Debbie McDonald made a permanent impression and her subsequent experiences with Debbie have changed her life forever.

During the summer of 2005, Adrienne arrived at the Thomases' River Grove Farm. "I started off as a working student, cleaning tack and grooming horses in exchange for lessons on my horse. Soon this position grew into a full time job, as part of the River Grove Farm team," she explains. "I truly believe I have the best job in the world, and I am eternally grateful for all of the support I've received over the years. I will always be happy as long as I continue to do what I love, working with these magnificent animals."

Photo ©Pattie Newton Photography

In 2008, Adrienne and Wizard, a 1999 Oldenburg gelding, set the stage for their future success when they won the Brentina Cup Championship at the USEF National Championships. "The Brentina Cup is named after the Thomases' famous mare Brentina, who was ridden by Debbie McDonald.

As president of Premier Equestrian and one of Adrienne's sponsors, it is very exciting to be part of the amazing story that's unfolding for Adrienne. She is far more than just a great dressage rider. I am so impressed with this young woman. Adrienne inspires me and gives me hope about the next generation of young Americans. Adrienne is hard working, educated, enthusiastic and accomplished. She makes me proud to support our youth and promote our Made in America campaign.

Photo courtesy JRPR

Adrienne's coach Debbie McDonald is a two-time Olympian, Pan Am double gold medalist and is also the USEF developing dressage coach. Debbie has a reputation for inspiring, and empowering young riders and women to great heights and Adrienne is making this statement true. She is proud to be following in her coach's footsteps and is furthering her knowledge of classical training philosophies with help from Debbie and former USET chef d'equipe Klaus Balkenhol of Germany.

Adrienne didn't start at the top, but she will certainly end up there. She is an additional inspiration to young riders out there because Adrienne didn't grow up in a top show family, but has succeeded due to her dedication and work ethic.

Author Heidi Zorn is president of Premier Equestrian, the dressage arena and equipment supplier.