As I wind my rental car through the labyrinth of driveways and barns at Betsy Juliano’s Florida farm, I search for anything that will direct me to where I am supposed to go. I slowly pass reserved parking signs for George Williams and Kathy Connelly as well as a stunning horse schooling piaffe in a covered arena. On any other day, in any other place, I would have stopped at all three. But during the winter season in Wellington, Florida, everyone, including me, is trying to get a week’s worth of work done in a day, and if you stop every time you see a dressage legend or world-class horse, you would never get anything done. However, even if I did have all day, I would still be hurrying. This afternoon, I have an interview with Olympian Debbie McDonald and her protégé Adrienne Lyle.
I had met them one time before—Debbie at a fundraiser, and Adrienne at Dressage at Devon. Each seemed impressive in her own right. As one of the best international competitors U.S. dressage has ever had, Debbie did not have to say anything to leave an impression. However, this petite blonde was casually friendly in a way that belied her accomplishments, and it said something that she had taken time to speak at a fundraiser in Maryland. When I met Adrienne, she also seemed reserved despite her recent win in a Grand Prix freestyle aboard Peggy and Parry Thomas’ Wizard. Though in height she is Debbie’s exact opposite, the two reminded me of each other.
So, when I finally found their stabling area at Betsy’s farm, it was no surprise that everything was impressive but humble. While the horses were groomed to perfection and the custom trunks were spotless, everything gave off the feeling of being lived in. The leather on the neatly stored tack looked broken in, and the clean wraps looked slightly worn. As I took a seat, Adrienne came in with a horse, fresh off a 30-minute handwalk.