Advice from Olympian Adrienne Lyle on Negotiating the Highs and Lows of Equestrian Life

Life with horses is a unique, beautiful experience, and while it can come with many obstacles, each experience is an opportunity to grow and learn. 

We sat down with US Olympic Dressage Rider Adrienne Lyle to get her perspective on failure, set backs, and how to preserve through the difficult times to reach her riding goals. This is what she had to say:  

There is no doubt that a life with horses requires an incredible amount of dedication and determination to persevere when things get hard. I think it’s important to remember to enjoy the highs, the wins, and those rare moments when the stars align and everything goes your way, but it’s also equally important to remember that setbacks and disappointments are an expected part of the process and of life with horses. The longer I’ve been in my career, the less devastated I get when things go wrong. You come to realize it’s normal, and it doesn’t mean you’re a failure, it’s just part of the process that you have to accept. 

You also need to keep an eye on your goals and know that it’s ok to readjust your course if you find the path you were trying may not be the path that is ultimately successful. This can be something as small and simple as the way you approach a training exercise with a horse. Don’t ever let your ego get in the way of keeping an open mind! Training horses requires a lot of humbleness and willingness to admit that what you thought would work may not work for this particular horse, and it’s now your job to adjust your approach and try again. That’s not failure, that’s learning to listen to your horse and become a better horseman. 

In the big picture, I think it’s most important to make sure you enjoy the day-to-day work and appreciate the journey. The good times and the wins are few and far between, and in between are a lot of days of hard work, sweat, and tears. But if you truly enjoy the process, you learn that the joy comes from the day-to-day work you put in. To me, that is what ultimately gives me the most satisfaction and feeling of accomplishment.  

I am most proud of the progress I've made with horses and the things I've been able to teach them, knowing I have done it in a kind and respectful manner. The ribbons and medals are great, but it’s the relationships you build with the horses that is ultimately the most rewarding thing to me. So, be sure to define what success actually means to you. You may find you are more successful than you initially thought, if you define success by what truly means the most to yourself. 

So, we challenge you to ask yourself: What does success with your horse truly mean to you? 

Photo by: Annan Hepner