Wellington, Fla.—June 9
It’s not often the country’s top dressage riders all go head-to-head in competition—the long winter seasons in Florida and California tend to split them up amongst various show options—but this week, 14 horse and rider combinations are getting to see how they stack up against each other. And in the first test of the U.S. Dressage Olympic short list mandatory event in Wellington, Florida, Adrienne Lyle and Salvino came out resoundingly on top.
The event is a final outing for potential team riders, but it’s not a selection trial or a competition with awards—other factors such as veterinary health checks, score trends over the last year and international competition experience in Europe will also help selectors pick the U.S. Olympic team by June 21.
The event is being held at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center. It isn’t a place where dressage horses normally show in Wellington—that’s across the street at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival grounds—but it gave horses and riders a chance to show under the lights and in the heat, in front of a crowd in an unfamiliar setting.
Adrienne Lyle brought both Betsy Juliano’s Salvino and Duval Partners LLC’s Harmony’s Duval to compete. She came out on top of Wednesday night’s Grand Prix test with Salvino, scoring a personal best of 82.41 percent. “Duval” scored a 72.45 percent for ninth place.
“I was absolutely thrilled with [Salvino],” Lyle said. “He makes me tear up. I have no words for him. Every time, he’s just more amazing than the time before. This was a great test for us, to be at night under the lights. I don’t think I’ve done more than maybe one night class with him, and he was fresh and a little excited, which is great because I can channel that energy, and I’m really glad we had the opportunity to do this.”
“He just feels amazing, so we’re going to try to preserve [on Thursday’s rest day],” she added. “He just tack walks and recovers, and [we’ll] try to put a repeat in on Friday night.”
Lyle showed Salvino, a 14-year-old Hanoverian stallion (Sandro Hit—Dynastie, Donnerhall), only once in 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and she got people talking when she saved the stallion for the end of the AGDF season this year. Her plan worked, though—the pair scored above 80 percent in their CDI4* Grand Prix and Grand Prix Special tests in early April before heading to the Tryon CDI4* where they won the Grand Prix and Grand Prix Special again.
Watch Lyle’s test via USEF Network.
“I plan his competition schedule very carefully,” she said. “He knows his job now, so it’s just been about tweaking the little things. I’ve been trying to get the self-carriage better in places, smooth out the transitions and just make sure it’s as polished as can possibly be. Every time he’s under the most amount of pressure, he delivers. It doesn’t matter what else is going on. When he goes down the centerline he’s all business, and it makes me look good!”
Sabine Schut-Kery almost couldn’t believe it when her score with Sanceo was announced. They earned a personal best of 78.97 percent to finish second. She started crying on her way out of the ring as soon as she heard U.S. chef d’equipe Debbie McDonald cheering for her.
“I wanted to aim for a personal best,” she said. “I’ve been told in the past there’s 80s in there, and I also believe in him, so that was definitely something I was going for. But based on what is he that day, I try to listen to him and take advantage of the 12 years we have together. That’s so valuable.”
Alice Womble’s 15-year-old Hanoverian stallion (San Remo—Rivera, Ramiro’s Son II) also had a great season at AGDF, coming from Schut-Kery’s base in California to pick up four CDI wins, including two at the CDI5* in February.
“My plan is always stay true to my training but to still show him off to reach maximum potential and scores. But he’s a stallion, and when he’s new to the venue the first day, he gets quite tense, so I tell myself, ‘Just stick with what you would do at home,’ and it paid off,” she said of her Grand Prix ride. “I just have to hold myself and trust it because I know I can always add that little extra that I do want in the ring, but I want it to come from an honest spot, so I need to be in control through my basics that get me from one movement to another.”
Steffen Peters has held a remarkable string of CDI wins with Suppenkasper; they’ve topped 22 international classes in a row since January 2020.
On Wednesday evening, they finished third with a scored of 77.69 percent—which is about where they’ve been trending recently for that test.
“I had a great feeling in the last few days. He was very calm in here,” Peters said. “I like the feeling when I can push him a bit in the changes. Usually, I have to seriously put the brakes on, but I could ride it. The first transition to the passage wasn’t as clean, but the rest of the test was super clean. I’m super happy with him. This is a really great set up for the Special and a really good set up for the team.”
Peters last rode in the international ring at PBIEC when he won the World Dressage Masters with Ravel in 2012.
“This is a wonderful atmosphere,” he said. “It’s great to see 700 people in the stands. We haven’t seen that for a year and a half. We’re excited for the Special.”
Peters has been open about his mental health struggles in recent years and about the pressure to figure out such an experienced horse as “Mopsie,” a 13-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Spielberg—Upanoeska, IPS Krack C), who’s owned by Four Winds Farm and Akiko Yamazaki.
He is aiming to be picked for his fifth Olympics.
“I tend to think with age comes a little more wisdom and truly enjoying it more,” he said ringside, as he watched Lyle’s test on Salvino. “Before it was always the pressure and delivering for the team, and of course we want to do that, and we try our very best, but it’s different. The pressure’s different. Even tonight, I enjoyed it much more than previous Olympic trials because Mopsie’s a bit more reliable now than [2016 Olympic Games partner] Legolas. With him, in the changes it was always like rolling the dice. It could be perfect in the warmup and questionable in the ring. Mopsie’s just a big teddy bear.”
Riders and horses will have a day off today, followed by the Grand Prix Special to music starting at 8 p.m. Friday.
- Adrienne Lyle and Salvino, 82.41%
- Sabine Schut-Kery and Sanceo, 78.97
- Steffen Peters and Suppenkasper, 77.69
- Nick Wagman and Don John, 75.65
- Olivia LaGoy-Weltz and Rassing’s Lonoir, 75.13
- Alice Tarjan and Candescent, 74.28
- Charlotte Jorst and Kastel’s Nintendo, 73.63
- Ben Ebeling and Illuster Van De Kampert, 72.56
- Adrienne Lyle and Harmony’s Duval, 72.45
- Jennifer Williams and Millione, 70.84
- Susan Dutta and Figeac DC, 70.00
- Susan Dutta and Don Design DC, 68.45
- Nick Wagman and Ferano, 66.67
- Jessica Howington and Cavalia, 63.41