Whidbey Island native Adrienne Lyle is riding her way to her second Olympic games.
Lyle participates in dressage, an equestrian sport derived from old military horse training.
The sport’s objective, she said, is “teaching the horse to listen to the rider’s smallest signals so that the rider can control the horse with seemingly invisible cues and in perfect harmony.”
She and her horse Salvino gave outstanding performances in their Olympic qualifying events. The pair won first place in both competitions and set two new American records.
At the Olympic trial in Wellington, Fla., held June 9, Lyle and Salvino earned a Grand Prix score of 82.413 percent to beat the previous American record of 81.537 percent.
Two days later at the Grand Prix Special trial, they earned a score of 81.830 percent, just surpassing the previous American record of 81.824 percent for that event.
Lyle has been a horse lover her whole life. The athlete was born in Coupeville and grew up in Maxwelton in South Whidbey, where she began riding horses on her family’s farm.
“We always had horses in the fields that we would trail ride on,” she recalled in an email to the Whidbey News-Times. “From the earliest time I can remember, I wanted to be on horseback.”
Her father, Gregory Lyle, said her long-standing passion for horses came completely from within.
“I have no horse background at all. Neither does her mother,” he said. So, when Adrienne first expressed her determination to be an equestrian, “we got that little barnyard pony, and she went from there and did it all on her own.”
Lyle joined the local chapter of the United States Pony Club when she was 8 years old and participated in her first dressage competition at the Whidbey Equestrian Center when she was 13 years old.
She also participated in other equestrian sports, including western riding and eventing, which combines dressage, cross country and show jumping.
Lyle’s father said she even took her horse with her to college at Washington State.
Lyle, now 36, has been hugely successful throughout her career. She participated in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, which she described as “a tremendous honor” and “one of the most incredible experiences of my life.”
She also competed with Team USA at the 2014 World Equestrian Games in France and the 2018 World Equestrian Games in North Carolina, where they won the silver medal.
Lyle also represented the U.S. at the World Cup Finals in Sweden.
“One of the greatest parts of being on a team are the people you meet and the connections you make around the world,” she said of the international event. “It is fun to be with like-minded people who share the same passion for the sport that you do.”
Her equine partner, Salvino, is a 13-year-old Hanoverian stallion owned by U.S. dressage supporter Betsy Juliano. Lyle has been working with Salvino since he was 8 years old.
“He has a very kind and gentle character when you are around him, but he is a fierce competitor in the ring and always gives 110 percent of himself,” she said, adding how proud she was of his performance at their Olympic trials.
Lyle and Salvino are currently training — and quarantining — in Germany in preparation for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics, which open July 23.
She said she is excited for the games and expects the competition to be fierce, with one of the strongest fields of international competitors she has ever seen.