Debbie McDonald had good intentions when she requested mandatory attendance from potential U.S. Olympic Games team riders at the Feb. 19-Feb. 23 CDI5*, held in Wellington, Florida, at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival. McDonald, the U.S. dressage technical advisor, wanted to see the East and West Coast athletes go head-to-head before team selection for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. But for Adrienne Lyle and Kasey Perry-Glass, their respective top Grand Prix rides, Salvino and Goerklintgaards Dublet, weren’t quite ready to compete.
“Both of these girls are incredibly careful with these horses; they know every inch of their legs,” said McDonald, 65. “In December, Adrienne brought Salvino out, and he had some filling in a leg. We jogged him; he was completely fine. We had the vet come out. everything was fine; he wasn’t lame. But we decided to back off because it wasn’t a normal situation; he normally has very tight legs.
“In being careful and knowing that the year is so tough, [Lyle] backed off,” said McDonald, who is Lyle’s longtime coach. “We backed off on some lateral and piaffe and passage work, but we kept working [Salvino] the whole time. It’s not anything that dramatic, although we wanted, and she wanted to play it very safe and careful, knowing that it’s hopefully, for her, going to be a very long year.”
Lyle, 35, will bring the 13-year-old Hanoverian stallion (Sandro Hit—Dynastie, Donnerhall) out for the first time since the 2019 CHIO Aachen CDIO5* (Germany) in the Palm Beach Dressage Derby CDI4* at AGDF, riding her Grand Prix test on Feb. 27.
After finishing fifth in the 2019 FEI World Cup Dressage Final (Sweden), Perry-Glass chose to keep “Dublet” at home for an extended break from competition.
“Dublet is in work, and he’s feeling really good,” Perry-Glass said of the 17-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding (Diamond Hit—La Costa, Ferro). “This horse really owes nothing to me, and I’ve been enjoying my time building him back up to compete, making sure that he is in the best form that he can be in. It’s a lot of pressure to come out on a high and to really keep up the standard for what we’ve already produced. I just want to be mindful of his conditioning and his mindset, so I’m just working to keep him fit and going.”
Two weeks ago, Dublet tripped and sustained a minor injury during training, which resulted in his absence from the five-star and this week’s four-star competition.
“He had a huge break during the summer,” said Perry-Glass, 32. “Being an older horse, it does take a lot of time to get them back in shape, and I probably gave him too much time off. With that, we had a couple stumbling blocks. In training, we were in the trot work, and he just stumbled in front and tweaked himself. I had to give him a little bit of time, trying to figure out if everything was OK and manage it correctly.”
Perry-Glass hopes to compete Dublet in the final week of the AGDF, and she’ll aim for Tryon, North Carolina, next.
“This horse doesn’t need to be competing at the same frequency as the other combinations,” said McDonald. “He’s proved himself over and over again for our country, so we’re trying to just be incredibly careful.”
Although the CDI5* was a mandatory outing, athletes could request a waiver from Olympic selectors. Factors to be considered for a waiver were listed in the U.S. Equestrian Federation memo regarding the competition and included combinations with proven ability and international experience as well as illness, injury or unforeseen circumstances that create a logistical nightmare.
“I don’t think I’ll ever use the word mandatory again, because it just didn’t turn out the way we wanted,” said McDonald.