For Wizard, With Love and Thanks

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Adrienne Lyle and Wizard have wowed the crowds everywhere from Gladstone to the World Dressage Masters, the Olympics and the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. But this afternoon, it was announced that Wizard is going into retirement. Adrienne pays tribute to her one-of-a-kind mount in this thoughtful piece she has written for Dressage Today.

Blue ribbons, like this one in the Palm Beach Derby freestyle last year, were legion during Adrienne Lyle’s career with Wizard (photo copyright by Nancy Jaffer)

Blue ribbons, like this one in the Palm Beach Derby freestyle last year, were legion during Adrienne Lyle’s career with Wizard (photo copyright by Nancy Jaffer)

After Wizard sustained a mild strain to a suspensory while he was turned out, we decided to retire him from competition.

Trying to qualify for April's Reem Acra World Cup Dressage Finals in Las Vegas was going to be my goal this year, but it just wasn't in the stars for us.The timing was such that getting him ready for World Cup qualifiers would have been pushing the time constraints of his rehab.

Wizard in the WEG selection trials (photo copyright by Nancy Jaffer)

Wizard in the WEG selection trials (photo copyright by Nancy Jaffer)

Yes, it would have have been amazing for Wizard to finish his career in Las Vegas, home to our long-time sponsors, Peggy and Parry Thomas. The arena where the World Cup is held there is special for many reasons, but especially because it is named the "Thomas & Mack Center" after Parry and his business partner, Jerry Mack.

Adrienne on Wizard and Debbie on Felix doing their pas de deux at the 2009 World Cup Finals in Las Vegas (photo copyright by Nancy Jaffer)

Adrienne on Wizard and Debbie on Felix doing their pas de deux at the 2009 World Cup Finals in Las Vegas (photo copyright by Nancy Jaffer)

It is also the place where my mentor, Debbie McDonald, had her unforgettable, audience-rousing ride on Brentina in the 2005 World Cup Finals. And it's where Brentina was retired in an emotional ceremony in 2009. I would have so loved for Parry to be able to see one more of his horses dance in that special ring.

But Wizard, at 16, already has given us more than we ever imagined, and it is our responsibility to make sure we always put his welfare ahead of any competitive aspirations. I am so fortunate to be involved with such compassionate people in Wizard's life; everyone was in complete agreement about the decision. I am so honored to be involved with the Thomas family and Debbie and her husband, Bob.

Wizard and I started our journey together eight years ago, when I came to Debbie as a working student. I kind of stumbled into Wizard's life by chance. I had come to Debbie with my Young Rider horse, but at the end of my summer as a working student at River Grove Farm, I needed to sell my horse, since I was on a college student's budget.

Debbie McDonald on Wizard at the beginning of his training in 2006 (photo copyright by Nancy Jaffer)

Debbie McDonald on Wizard at the beginning of his training in 2006 (photo copyright by Nancy Jaffer)

One day, Debbie took a chance on me and asked if I wanted to try riding Wizard. I jumped at the opportunity. I had watched the huge, athletic and fiery Wizard work, and was awestruck by his power. The first ride on him was like nothing I had ever felt (you've seen his incredible extensions), and when Debbie declared us a good match for each other I felt as if I had just won the lottery. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would get such an opportunity.

Adrienne Lyle and Wizard at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games Horse Inspection (photo copyright by Nancy Jaffer)

Adrienne Lyle and Wizard at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games Horse Inspection (photo copyright by Nancy Jaffer)

Something about Wizard's personality clicked with mine. I loved his exuberance, fiery attitude, and even his stubborn streak. On some level, I always appreciated Wizard's "authority issues" in such a disciplined sport.

He was incredibly smart and opinionated, and he always made me laugh. People were never left wondering if Wizard liked them or not. You always knew where you stood with Wizard. Although he was slow to trust new people and didn't let just anyone work on him, he also grew rather bonded and almost jealous over "his people." He hated when we would return from a European tour (where he had been our only horse and our whole focus) and have to share our attention with the other horses in the barn.

At the World Dressage Masters (photo copyright by Nancy Jaffer)

At the World Dressage Masters (photo copyright by Nancy Jaffer)

We became the 2008 Brentina Cup champions, and went on to represent the U.S in the 2012 Olympic Games and the 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, where we were proud members of the fourth place team.

We would never have been able to make this incredible journey if the Thomas family had not taken a chance on a working student, and given me the opportunity to ride their amazing horse. They trusted Debbie's judgment when she proposed the match, and Debbie believed in me enough to give me that chance. Since then, Wizard and I have had the support of the most amazing team I could ever imagine. I am eternally grateful to all of those involved in his career.

I am so thankful that he will get to enjoy a wonderful retirement, but I know he will miss showing off his freestyle moves under the Friday Night Lights at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival, where he had a crowd of thousands to appreciate his star power.

Adrienne Lyle and Wizard: A job well-done (photo copyright by Nancy Jaffer)

Adrienne Lyle and Wizard: A job well-done (photo copyright by Nancy Jaffer)

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