We are just one week away from AGDF 2023! This week we had the pleasure of speaking with the highly decorated Olympian, Adrienne Lyle! Lyle recently spent a successful summer in Europe competing at the World Championships in Herning with her ride, Salvino. After spending the rest of their summer in Colorado, they are back and “fully recharged!” Continue reading to learn about their plans for 2023, more about Lyle, and her experience competing at the World Championships!
How does it feel to return to Wellington after a highly successful summer competing in Europe and spending some down time in Colorado?
We’re excited about this season! Most of my horses and staff spent all summer in Colorado; I was there briefly after the World Championships. However, it was still great to get up into the mountains for a bit, and now we’re back down, fully recharged, and ready to take on this season! We’re excited that we already got to have one World Cup qualifier in December at Global to start our season a bit sooner, and we’re looking forward to a great 2023 season!
Tell me about your World Championships experience!
Herning was an incredible show; the crowd was enthusiastic, educated, and really invested in the performances. They just had so much electricity, and it was an extremely well-run show. It was an incredible honor to ride for my country with great teammates. It was also extra special for me because my long-term student Katie Duerrhammer also made the team. It has always been a dream of mine to ride on a team and to have a student of mine make the team, so that was very exciting.
What are your goals for 2023?
Our focus with Salvino for 2023 is to try to qualify for the World Cup Finals. Having the Finals on home grounds is extra special. I have ridden at one World Cup Final in Sweden, and I think it would be an incredible experience if we could compete at a World Cup Finals on U.S. soil. In addition to Salvino, I also have a barn full of upcoming younger horses that I really enjoy working with. I have “Nexolia Feodoro,” which I hope to debut at the Grand Prix this year, the newly acquired talented “Top Gun,” and the US champion 4-year-old from last year, “Fürst Dream,” among other talented youngsters. Some I have competed already, but some I am waiting a bit longer before bringing out, such as “Fontana Lightfoot,” “Encore,” and “Deokovick.” So, it will be a well-rounded year, with Salvino leading the charge while I continue to work hard to develop the others.
How does it feel watching your long-term student Christian Simonson take the ride on Duval?
This situation I could not have been happier with! I’ve ridden Duval for ten years, so I know him inside and out and every little quirk. Christian is an incredible student and a very gifted rider. Duval is not a horse everyone could ride, but Christian does a fantastic job with him, and I’m so thankful to the owners of Duval, the Duval Partners Syndicate, that they were open to this idea of a new path for Duval. I think it’s just the best of both worlds because Duval has so much to teach Christian, and Christian does a beautiful job with Duval, and it’s just so fun for me to get cheer them on.
Who was the horse that made you fall in love with this sport?
The horse that made me fall in love with Dressage was a Thoroughbred mare named “Complete Girl,” we bought her off a video for $1000 from California. I was in Pony Club at the time, and we bought her as an Eventing prospect, but when she arrived, she was very high-strung and somewhat neurotic. (We learned some time after we purchased her that she used to be owned by a rodeo stock contractor company.) After trying Eventing for a year or two, we discovered she had more talent for the Dressage work. She taught me so much about riding super tactfully and quietly, always managing my emotions, and never letting the horse feel my stress because she was such a sensitive horse. We were able to get her up to the FEI Junior level, and I went to my first Junior Championships with her. That experience really opened my eyes to what high-performance Dressage was. Even though we didn’t place well, the whole experience was so incredible and one that I never forgot. It showed me exactly where I wanted to go on this path.
What inspires your motivation to get up and continue doing this every day?
I love this sport for the day-to-day training and work with the horses. I think we’re so lucky in this sport because you will never be bored; every day is new, and every horse you get is a new challenge. It’s a new challenge to figure out how they think, how you can get through to them, and how to communicate properly. I’m still so excited every single morning to go to the barn. I’m thinking all night about what if I could have done something a little different and how I’m going to try a different technique the next day. I love having a chance to work with the horses, watch their progression, and watch the little light bulb moments go off in their head when they figure something out. It’s also really cool to realize that you’re the one that was able to teach them that and be able to continue teaching them. I’m also so incredibly thankful to the amazing owners that I have right now. They’re so wonderful to work with and are in it for the same reasons that I am. They always put the horse first and value that above all else. I feel very fortunate to be surrounded and supported by such great owners and my long-term coach, Debbie McDonald. We’ve been training together for 15 years, and she never stops being amazing; I learn something new every lesson.
How do you see the future pipeline in young horses? Do you instantly know that they will become a top Grand Prix horse, or do you simply hope for the best?
A little of everything, it’s always a gamble with the young ones. You see something you like, grab onto it, and hope you can create something; they’re obviously not all going to be top Grand Prix horses. However, I think it’s important that we still have quality, well-trained horses, and if they don’t become a top Grand Prix horse, that doesn’t mean it was a failure. It means it’s filling a significant need in this country to have well-trained horses for Juniors, Young Riders, Amateurs, and everyone else. So, if that’s where they end up going, I’m still proud of them. Some of the young ones we bought off videos because I loved how they went; some I’ve sat on and loved the feel more than how they looked. So, it’s just been a combination of all that and trusting your gut.
What made you get into coaching?
When I was younger, I was a member of the United States Pony Club. (USPC) We would have our monthly meetings mounted and unmounted, and the USPC system is big about the older members teaching the younger members. At a very young age, we had to instruct others and bring along the younger riders. Because of that, teaching is something that I’m incredibly passionate about. I really want to create these upcoming riders and not just riders but horsemen. The people who really want to do all of it and don’t just show up and ride their horse; they are in it from the ground up and want to learn how everything works. They always put the horse first, they put the hours in, and they’re incredibly dedicated. I try hard to create a culture at the barn where everyone feels like they are genuinely supporting each other. A victory for one person is a victory for everyone. I think it makes a huge difference when you have that camaraderie and that true team spirit. I believe you can further yourself as a rider so much better in an environment where people feel comfortable sharing their struggles and their knowledge and aren’t afraid to make mistakes.
Thank you so much, Adrienne, for being this week’s rider spotlight! We wish you and Salvino the best of luck the season. Stay tuned for next week as we introduce a new series for the Rider Spotlights!