Wellington, Fla. - Feb. 21
Adrienne Lyle had to hold onto her hat as she performed her final salute with Wizard in the Wellington Nations Cup CDIO*** Grand Prix freestyle.
As the crowd went wild, Wizard, who’d held in his enthusiasm long enough, bolted forward, but it was all in good fun as her score of 75.80% gave her the individual gold medal and completed a sweep of the Grand Prix classes in the Nations Cup.
“I was thrilled with my freestyle,” said Lyle, 29. “He’s very spicy and kind of hot-headed, especially in the freestyle, so we’ve kind of made a plan on how to build up to this, got him out, walked, got him out again, trying to ease him into it, and I think it really worked. He felt super rideable, probably the most rideable he’s felt in a freestyle. He felt powerful and expressive, but he still stayed with me.”
Lyle’s freestyle was clearly a crowd favorite and her upbeat music matched Wizard’s lofty gaits. She featured a piaffe and passage tour right out of halt, and also included double pirouettes and flying changes on a circle for maximum effect.
“I love my music,” she said. “It’s fun, it’s exciting, it gets the crowd going and I think he’s got a lot of personality when he gets out there. The crowd’s always into it, hooping and hollering and he builds on that and feeds on that and I do too.”
For Spain’s Juan Matute Jr., his Intermediaire I freestyle was the first test he’s performed under the lights, but Don Diego Ymas and the 16-year-old sensation handled the pressure well to finish in second place on 75.32 percent (all freestyle scores in the Intermediaire I and Grand Prix freestyles counted towards individual medals and Grand Prix riders were given 1.5 percentage points on top of their raw score).
“I trusted him and he trusted me, so it was a smooth ride,” he said. “He actually likes it. I think he likes the people looking at him and the pressure of everyone watching. I think we both liked it.”
Mature Jr. rode a freestyle choreographed by his father, Juan Matute Sr., and with music compiled by his mother, Maria. “I think I pulled it off pretty good,” he said. “It was our cleanest and I pushed to the limit. I think it was our best freestyle so far. The one-handed pirouette was our highlight.”
Tina Konyot was happy to be in third place with Calecto V, riding her well-established Grand Prix freestyle to score 75.20 percent.
“I think it’s the first time that I’m thrilled to be third,” she joked. “I always want to win, but I’m so excited and so happy for [Juan.] Just watching him ride, and his family, the entire feeling of it made me so happy.
“I had a great feeling this evening,” she continued. “We’re just trying to get back up to par again. I love Calecto. The music is so appropriate for the horse. People love it and associate it with [him.] He’s 16 years old and I’m 52 and I don’t think I’m changing anything!”
U.S. chef d’equipe Robert Dover was thrilled with the U.S. riders throughout the weekend, including the winning USA I team, and said the future is bright.
“I’ve been unbelievably proud of all of our riders throughout the Nations Cup,” he said. “Debbie McDonald is the best coach a group of people can have. She and I together make a really strong team. This country is ready to move forward and we’re going to move forward no matter what. We are determined to move this country not just to a medal podium, but to the highest one.”