American dressage rider and Olympian Adrienne Lyle has been a frontrunner in the country’s top ranks of dressage for more than a decade. This talented rider also brings a unique background to her status at the upper levels.
1. Adrienne’s love of horses began on her family’s cattle farm on Whidbey Island, Washington. Although they owned a farm, the family wasn’t originally horse-oriented.
2. Adrienne didn’t take a formal lesson until she was 9 years old. When she did, she arrived in a Western saddle on a $200 pony named Salsa.
3. Adrienne’s cousin is Maya Black, an international three-day eventer who has competed at venues including the Kentucky Three-Day Event. Maya also grew up on the family’s farm on Whidbey Island. Apart from Adrienne and Maya, the family wasn’t a “horsey” family. The family was very supportive, but Adrienne and Maya were the driving forces behind all of their equestrian ambitions.
4. While Adrienne and Maya didn’t have formal lessons at young ages, they did benefit from their countless hours on horseback. “From the time we were little, we would hop on the ponies and head onto the ranch and literally ride until the sun went down,” Adrienne said. “Even then, it often wasn’t enough, and we would sneak out of the house at night and go galloping bareback across the field in the moonlight. We spent every waking moment on a horse, riding through the woods and fields and swimming them on the beaches. There is no substitute for hours in the saddle. You learn to anticipate the horse’s reactions to things, so the way they move and act becomes second nature to you. Soon you are seeing the world through the horse’s eyes, and you begin to think like a horse. If you can’t think like a horse, you will never be a good rider or trainer.”
(To read Adrienne’s full blog on this topic, please see here.)
5. Adrienne began to focus on dressage when she was 13, after dabbling in a variety of disciplines. She and Maya did everything from miniature driving horses and Arabians to foxhunting and Western gaming.
6. As she got older, she started her own training business in which she did all the mucking, grooming and bookkeeping herself.
7. Adrienne first met Debbie McDonald at River Grove Farm in Idaho. Debbie was impressed by her when she trailered in for lessons as a college student. “She rode with so much feel, amazing timing and compassion for the horse,” Debbie said. “All these qualities are what I want to see in a rider.” According to Debbie, Adrienne also has nerves of steel (Read more in “Adrienne Lyle and Salvino: A World -Class Dressage Partnership” by Nancy Jaffer.)
8. One of Adrienne’s most famous mounts was Wizard, the 1999 Oldenburg gelding by Weltmeyer. Adrienne began riding Wizard in 2006 and in 2008, they were the U-25 National “Young Adult” Grand Prix champions. They learned together and did their first real Grand Prix together, as well. Wizard was the horse who took her to the 2012 Olympics in London and 2014 World Equestrian Games in Normandy.
9. Adrienne and Debbie shared longtime sponsors, Peggy and Parry Thomas who owned River Grove Farm. The late Parry was an American banker who helped finance the development of the casino industry in Las Vegas. He donated the land on which the Thomas and Mack Center was built. This facility, ironically, is where Debbie and Brentina had top World Cup finishes and it’s where Wizard’s retirement ceremony was held.
10. Adrienne currently has two highly ranked Grand Prix horses. One is the Hanoverian stallion Salvino (Sandro Hit x Donnerhall) with whom she competed at the 2018 World Equestrian Games. He was originally named Sandronnerhall, but his name was changed to the less complicated “Salvino,” with the nickname of “Vinny.” He is currently owned by Betsy Juliano.
The other is Harmony’s Duval, who is owned by a syndicate and has been with Adrienne since before he was saddle broke. Debbie’s husband, Bob McDonald, spotted him in a field in Colorado at his breeder’s farm, Harmony Sporthorses.
11. Before Adrienne took over the ride on Salvino, he had earned 80-plus percent marks in Young Horse classes with Spanish rider Antonio Diaz Porras.
12. Adrienne describes Salvino as sweet and people-oriented. Bananas are his favorite treat!
13. In her free time, Adrienne loves spending time with friends, going to concerts and hiking and camping in the mountains of Idaho and Colorado.
14. Debbie adds that Adrienne is as gifted at teaching as she is at riding.
15. Adrienne says she loves teaching anyone who is really passionate and motivated, whether they have a fancy horse or a backyard buddy. “I wouldn’t work such long hours if I didn’t love it, and it’s hard to say ‘no’ when you have so many enthusiastic people seeking your help.”