Ketchum's Lyle is Going for the Old

Adrienne Lyle Olympics 2012

Ketchum’s Adrienne Lyle, here aboard her horse Wizard at the U.S. dressage team headquarters at Layham Hall in Hadleigh, England, will compete in individual dressage at the Summer Olympics. A virtual unknown in the sport just three years ago, the 27-year-old Lyle is front-and-center over an infusion of youth in the sport.

In a sport dominated by athletes often twice her age, Adrienne Lyle is a young buck in that 'other' animal sport

When it comes to sports and animals of the four-legged variety, the first sport that comes to mind in these parts is rodeo, with its cowboy hats, boots, belt buckles and bodacious bovines.

On the other end of the spectrum are your elegant equines found in equestrian, with its nattily attired riders dressed in their gloves, breeches and riding coats.

The latter is where Ketchum’s Adrienne Lyle fits in.

Equestrian is also taking her to a venue where rodeo isn’t to be found, namely, the Summer Olympics in London.

“It took a while to sink in and it seemed all surreal at first with the excitement and commotion,” Lyle said from Hadleigh, about two hours north of London, where she arrived on July 13 and will be competing in dressage. “Then there was a little bit of a lull … but now that we’re over here with the whole dressage team, it’s starting to build excitement.”

Like any other sport, equestrian has its Olympic trials and Lyle, riding Wizard, a 13-year Oldenberg gelding, qualified June 16 in Gladsboro, N.J., along with dressage team members Steffen Peters, Tina Konyot and Jan Ebeling.

The latter will carry some interest to fans of the political arena as Ebeling will be riding Rafalca, who is owned by Ann Romney, wife of presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

Dressage is one of three disciplines within equestrian, the others being eventing and jumping. Along with sailing, it is the only Olympic sport in which men and women compete directly against each other, although tennis and badminton have mixed doubles events.

Lyle is “trying to get a little bit of sight-seeing in when we can” before the Games officially begin with the opening ceremonies on July 27.

“That’s one of the things I’m most excited about,” Lyle said. “That’s going to be amazing.”

And while a swimmer needs to maintain one’s endurance, or a basketball team needs to establish chemistry, preparation in equestrian is fundamentally different than any other sport.

“The thing about our sport is we have a live animal we’re caring for,” Lyle said. “That has to be attended to around the clock, so that kind of keeps your attention where it needs to be.”

Lyle’s day begins with a short bike ride to the barn every morning at about 7:30, with meetings and training designed to get the riders and horses ready for their tests — the equestrian term for a game in team sports.

After breaking for lunch, the riders will go over video of the morning sessions and take the horses out to walk or graze in the afternoon. After dinner, the team will go back to the barn for a last check on their horses before calling it a day.

Lyle’s mentor in the sport is Debbie McDonald, who won bronze at the 2004 Games in Athens in team dressage. Now living in Hailey, McDonald was selected in 2010 as the U.S. Equestrian Federation’s Developing Dressage coach, a role in which she identifies and develops emerging talent in the sport.

Although she has been on the road for about the last nine months chasing her spot in the world rankings and a spot on the Olympic team, Lyle typically spends about nine months out of the year training in Hailey, under McDonald’s watch at River Grove Farm. The farm is owned by Parry Thomas of Las Vegas banking fame — college basketball fans recognize him as the Thomas in UNLV’s Thomas and Mack Center — and his wife, Peggy, owns Wizard.

“She’s invaluable,” Lyle said of McDonald. “Not only in the training of the horse, but with everything else that goes along with the Olympics. She’s been a wealth of information.”

Can Lyle come back home with a medal? Individual dressage has been dominated in recent Olympiads by Germany and the Netherlands, with the last American to medal coming in 1932. Although the U.S. is second all-time to Germany in equestrian medals, most of those have come in eventing and jumping.

At 27, yet competing in a sport where it is not uncommon to find participants twice her age, Lyle is the young pup on the U.S. team and future Olympic trips could be in the cards. But for her first Games, Lyle’s goals are modest.

“My personal goal is to qualify for the second round and ride twice at the Olympics,” Lyle said.

That would mean being qualifying for the Grand Prix special event, held Aug. 7, which is when team medals will be earned. Lyle is guaranteed to ride once, on either Aug. 2 or 3, along with her U.S. team members, but she is riding in effect as an individual and is not listed on the three-deep team to earn medals.

The top seven teams, and any individuals in the top 11 not attached to a qualifying team, advance to the special. The top 18 scores in the special advance to the freestyle round on Aug. 9, which is where individual medals are earned.

From News Article Times-News