Adrienne Lyle and Wizard 

Saddling up for the ride of their lives

When Adrienne Lyle, 27, was growing up on Whidbey Island, Wash., she would listen to her classmates talk about being a doctor, lawyer or actress. All she ever wanted to do was work with horses.

"As far back as I can remember, I wanted to ride a horse," she remembered.

Today, she's far from home--in the United Kingdom town of Hadleigh--but she's living her dream. She'll be riding her horse Wizard on the planet's grandest stage for equestrians--the Summer Olympics, which officially get under way in London Friday, July 27.

When they're not traveling the globe, Lyle and Wizard call Ketchum home, training at River Grove Farm with former Olympian Debbie McDonald, who won the bronze medal at the 2004 Athens Summer Olympics.

Boise Weekly spoke with Lyle--already settled in across the pond--about the Olympics, the psychology of riding and how Wizard is a little homesick.

It's my understanding Wizard flew across the Atlantic. Is it fair to assume that he would experience jet lag like the rest of us?

I think so. He was a little wired for the first few days, a little crazy and excited to be here. The third or fourth day, he tends to crash, so you plan for all of that and get back on your training schedule.

Has Wizard ever bucked you?

I don't remember him ever throwing me off. He's definitely tried other shenanigans.

I've heard you call Wizard an emotionally complex horse.

If he was a human being, he'd be the kind of person whose emotions are right below the surface. He can come off as being a bit aggressive or strong-headed, when in fact, he may be nervous or not confident. You really have to understand him.

So much of what you do is technical, but how much of the competition is psychological?

You're dealing with another live animal. In any other sport, if you get nervous or tense, you deal with it. Here, if you get nervous or tense, your horse picks that up right away. Then both of you are in a bad situation. You really have to handle your emotions, your anxiety and your fears so that you pass your confidence on to your horse.

Does Wizard have a sense of the days and hours leading up to a big competition?

From the second we get the equipment out, he gets real excited. When a groomsman braids his hair, he really knows something special is coming. He loves to be in the spotlight, loves to compete.

What should we be looking for when your competition begins on Thursday, Aug. 2?

The grand prix begins with a test of about 30 movements, judged on a scale of 1 to 10 on correctness, accuracy, quality and brilliance of the movement. The top 30-40 percent of those riders get to compete in the next class, grand prix special, which is run along the same guidelines. Then the top 50 percent of those riders go to the grand prix freestyle, which is a lot like figure skating freestyle. And it's set to music.

What music will you compete with?

Wizard has a fun mix of music from the '70s. It fits both of our personalities, something more fun and upbeat.

Great Britain has such a rich history of horsemanship and the royal family adores horses. Your sport is destined to gain quite a bit of attention during these Olympics.

The equestrian competition has been sold out for months and months. It's nearly impossible to get a ticket. Plus, we'll be competing in Greenwich Park right in front of a palace.

How will you not be overwhelmed by all of this?

It's definitely going to be overwhelming, and I hope I can soak it all in. But when it comes time for me to get on my horse and swing my leg over, I promise we'll be ready.

When do you come home?

A couple of days after the competition is over. We'll fly to the West Coast and haul Wizard back to Idaho. It will be the first time that Wizard will be back home since November 2011. We'll be ready for some rest and those beautiful Idaho mountains.

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