A Ris­ing STAR

Quinn Iver­son caught the eye of Deb­bie McDon­ald at age 15 and three years later is fol­low­ing in the foot­steps of pre­de­ces­sor Adrienne Lyle.

Dressage Today - - The Clinic - By Nancy Jaf­fer

C ould dres­sage his­tory re­peat it­self for young rider Quinn Iver­son? The Ore­go­nian be­came a work­ing stu­dent for dres­sage leg­end Deb­bie McDon­ald last year, bring­ing to mind mem­o­ries of how Adrienne Lyle started her in­ter­na­tional ca­reer.

In 2005, Lyle came to McDon­ald’s sta­ble at River Grove Farm in Idaho as a work­ing stu­dent. Aside from a brief col­lege stint, she never left, ris­ing through the ranks to ride for the U.S. at both the 2012 Olympics and the 2014 FEI World Eques­trian Games (WEG).

Iver­son’s story, which is just be­gin­ning, is slightly dif­fer­ent in that she was dis­cov­ered by McDon­ald in a clinic where she was rid­ing at First Level. “The horse was very green,” re­called McDon­ald. “He wasn’t com­pletely on the bit. But there was some­thing about the way she han­dled the sit­u­a­tion when he wasn’t be­ing so po­lite. There were glimpses of what I thought to be tal­ent in both the horse and the rider,” noted U.S. Eques­trian’s dres­sage de­vel­op­ment coach, who knows po­ten­tial when she sees it.

For her part, Iver­son says, “Be­ing with Deb­bie and Adrienne, I couldn’t ask for more. They are the most spec­tac­u­lar peo­ple I’ve ever had a chance to work with. They both can get so much out of you. They re­ally make you want to try for them.”

At the clinic where she spot­ted Iver­son, McDon­ald had asked the teen if she were home-schooled. When Iver­son said she wasn’t, Iver­son re­mem­bers that the trainer replied, “You should get on that and come train with me.” It wasn’t long be­fore McDon­ald re­ceived word that Iver­son had started tak­ing classes on­line. After be­ing told that the only way a work­ing-stu­dent ar­range­ment could pan out was that she would have to keep up with her school­work, Iver­son ar­rived at River Grove on her 16th birth­day to take ad­van­tage of the op­por­tu­nity of a life­time. It was sup­posed to be a trial at first to see how it would go. It went well. “We were fall­ing in love with the kid. She kept prov­ing that un­der our kind of a sys­tem, things were mov­ing along in a good way. It just keeps evolv­ing,” said McDon­ald. Echo­ing Lyle’s ex­pe­ri­ence, Iver­son com­mented, “I ended up never leav­ing. It was a dream come true.”

Fit for the Role

Iver­son, now 18, and Lyle shared a barn apart­ment when McDon­ald’s op­er­a­tion was based in Welling­ton, Florida, for the win­ter. “She’s like my lit­tle sis­ter now,” said Lyle. “She re­minds me a lot of my­self when I was young. We were talk­ing about all of our pony sto­ries. She’s just another horse-crazy girl who grew up lov­ing it. So we hope we can give her the op­por­tu­ni­ties she de­serves.”

Lyle is paying for­ward the help she re­ceived from McDon­ald and her hus­band, Bob, as well as Peggy Thomas and her late hus­band, Parry. The Thomases, McDon­ald’s great pa­trons, gave Lyle the op­por­tu­nity to de­velop and com­pete Wizard, her WEG and Olympic mount.

“It’s great to be able to pass it [the op­por­tu­nity] on and be kind of step­ping into that role that Bob and Deb­bie and the Thomases made for me,” said Lyle. “Quinn is cut out for this, in my opin­ion. She does it be­cause she loves the horses. She is in­cred­i­bly pa­tient with them and works her butt off. She moved away from her par­ents and fin­ished high

school on­line. It’s a huge change in your life. She never looked back.”

Com­par­ing her two pro­tégés, McDon­ald said, “I think Adrienne was fur­ther along be­cause she had been through the Pony Club sys­tem and had pur­chased a horse in Europe and trained it al­ready. The horse was be­yond Third Level when she came to me. She’d been in some Young Rider clin­ics, such as with Con­rad Schu­macher.”

Iver­son had a dif­fer­ent back­ground, and didn’t have her own dres­sage horse. “Quinn did a lit­tle bit of ev­ery­thing,” McDon­ald com­mented about her new stu­dent’s rid­ing back­ground. Iver­son was shy at first when she as­sumed her new role, so McDon­ald had to urge her to com­mu­ni­cate. Fi­nally, Iver­son got up the courage to ask, “Do you think I have it in me to be a trainer?” McDon­ald replied, “Why do you think I want you to com­mu­ni­cate? Of course I do. One of the rea­sons you’re here is be­cause there’s some­thing I see in you.”

Added McDon­ald on Iver­son’s wish to be a trainer, “She knows this is years down the line. I’d love for her to be able to sit by ring­side and watch more, but there’s a part of it for both sides to get what they need out of the deal. She has to work.”

Not only does that in­volve the usual groom­ing chores, but it also means tack­clean­ing and keep­ing the barn tidy, right down to the bath­rooms, and do­ing it all

From left: Iver­son with McDon­ald and Adrienne Lyle from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., six days a week. But the ad­van­tages of her po­si­tion mean Iver­son gets lessons from McDon­ald and Lyle and has a chance to min­gle with McDon­ald’s elite-level stu­dents, who in­clude Laura Graves and Kasey Per­ryGlass, half of the 2016 bronze-medal Olympic team.

Com­par­ing Lyle to Iver­son re­veals an in­ter­est­ing co­in­ci­dence. McDon­ald men­tioned, “Not that it means a darn bit of any­thing,” but both women have Na­tive Amer­i­can blood and are reg­is­tered with their re­spec­tive tribes. Maybe there’s some­thing to it, though—after all, the Na­tive Amer­i­cans were famed for their prow­ess as horse­men.

The Right In­stincts

Orig­i­nally, Iver­son was a jumper rider who also did a bit of event­ing and only com­peted in dres­sage three times a year—twice to qual­ify for the re­gional cham­pi­onships and once at the cham­pi­onships. She had taken some dres­sage lessons at Wish­ing Well Farm in Ten­mile, Ore­gon, where she had been rid­ing since she was 4 and be­came the one who got put on all the buck­ing ponies.

Wish­ing Well trainer Cindy San­ders, who started her ca­reer as a work­ing stu­dent for another Ore­gon res­i­dent, Olympic event­ing multi-medal­ist Kevin Free­man, said she knew what be­ing a work­ing stu­dent for an Olympian was all about and helped pre­pare Iver­son for the chal­lenge.

San­ders told Iver­son’s par­ents that their daugh­ter came from the womb in rid­ing po­si­tion. “She al­ways had the right in­stincts,” said San­ders. “On a dif­fi­cult pony, she never was afraid, she al­ways just rode for­ward. Her bal­ance and co­or­di­na­tion were good. She was pretty well-grounded in the ba­sics, but of course, I could never take her to this level my­self, so it’s kind of a dream for all of us. For a kid who doesn’t own her equip­ment or own a horse, to go out and be dis­cov­ered by some­one like Deb­bie is pretty amaz­ing.”

It was at Wish­ing Well where Iver­son met Bille David­son, a dres­sage rider who be­came her spon­sor and let Iver­son use her horse, Black Diamond, in the clinic that would change the young wo­man’s life.

“She’s been amaz­ing, so sup­port­ive,

and she al­lowed me to take her boy on this jour­ney with me,” said Iver­son, who also wound up bring­ing the son of Painted Black to River Grove.

David­son had al­ways watched the kids at Wish­ing Well and knew that Iver­son out­grew her pony at the same time she was ready to buy a new horse for her­self. The idea was that she would share him with Iver­son. “And then Deb­bie saw them as a pair and that was the end of that,” chuck­led David­son, who got her­self a Ger­man Rid­ing Pony, as Black Diamond is too big for her any­way.

“She’s a very good rider and she loves it,” said David­son, “and ev­ery­body loves her and she is will­ing to do ev­ery­thing that is needed to get there. She has re­ally grown in the last year and be­come so re­spon­si­ble. She’s not a child any­more.”

Hav­ing McDon­ald se­lect Iver­son was a very proud mo­ment for Black Diamond’s owner. “This has not been an easy horse. But Quinn has trained him to be quite bril­liant in mo­ments,” McDon­ald men­tioned about Black Diamond. “I’m so proud of her. She’s tak­ing ev­ery­thing—fit­ness and health— into con­sid­er­a­tion, think­ing like a pro­fes­sional has to. She treats the clients amaz­ingly, al­ways mak­ing sure they have what they want, mak­ing sure ev­ery­thing is the way they like it.”

Asked why she had switched dis­ci­plines to fo­cus on dres­sage, Iver­son ex­plained, “It’s such a chal­leng­ing thing, it’s al­ways chang­ing, the whole thing is just amaz­ing. Be­ing with Deb­bie and Adrienne, I couldn’t ask for more.”

Iver­son did a bit of show­ing suc­cess­fully at Prix St. Ge­orges in na­tional shows in Welling­ton in 2017, but her rou­tine was al­tered when she went back to Idaho for the sum­mer. While McDon­ald and Lyle were busy at the Dutta Corp. U.S. Na­tional Dres­sage Cham­pi­onships in Glad­stone, New Jersey, dur­ing May, for in­stance, it was up to Iver­son to ride all the horses who re­mained at River Grove and keep them go­ing.

“Quinn is a very, very hard worker and she never takes short cuts,” said Jane Thomas, the daugh­ter of Peggy and Parry Thomas. Thomas let Iver­son ride her horse, Why Not, not­ing she saw a dif­fer­ence after the teen worked with him. “I felt how light and won­der­ful he was,” she said. “Quinn has a real nat­u­ral feel on a horse and she al­ways is try­ing to work with them, not against them. For me, that is the key to a nat­u­ral rider. I think the best rid­ers in the world are the ones who learn to work with the horses’ as­sets and make them like to do the sport.”

The Road Ahead

Iver­son is nat­u­rally think­ing about the fu­ture and how she would like to be in­volved with horses. “My main goal is to be able to do this as a liv­ing and hope­fully some­day do in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tion,” she said, not­ing that her par­ents are sup­port­ive of her am­bi­tion.

“I’m so blessed to be here,” said Iver­son, who loves be­ing part of the River Grove fam­ily. “It’s such a fan­tas­tic group of peo­ple.”

Quinn Iver­son and the 11-year-old Dutch Warm­blood, Black Diamond (by Painted Black), owned by Bille David­son

“There were glimpses of what I thought to be tal­ent in both the horse and the rider,” said McDon­ald, who knows po­ten­tial when she sees it.

Quinn Iver­son was dis­cov­ered by Deb­bie McDon­ald in a clinic rid­ing at First Level.

“Quinn has a real nat­u­ral feel on a horse and she al­ways is try­ing to work with them, not against them,” said Jane Thomas.

ABOVE RIGHT: Iver­son in the tack room in Welling­ton with her dog, Koda

ABOVE LEFT: In 2005, Lyle came to McDon­ald’s sta­ble at River Grove Farm in Idaho as a work­ing stu­dent. Aside from a brief col­lege stint, she never left.

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