Lillie Keenan Sweeps Three Divisions in the 2007 Wild Horsefeathers/USEF National Hunter Pony Championship
RELEASE: August 20, 2007
AUTHOR/ADMINISTRATOR: By Stacey Meier
Lillie Keenan aboard Enchanted Forest (PhelpsPhotos.com )
Lexington, KY—In the 40-year history of the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) Pony Finals Championships, no one can recall a year when one rider dominated the small, medium and large divisions to sweep all three titles in the 2007 Wild Horsefeathers/USEF National Hunter Pony Championship. But the third time was a charm for 10-year-old Lillie Keenan who made history at the Pony Finals by besting a total of 257 competitors in the largest and most competitive championship.
In the small pony division, Keenan, of New York, NY, came from behind to boast top scores in the over fences division and then a winning final score of 1,009 aboard Heritage Farm's 13-year-old mare Blackberry. Continuing her lead from Saturday, Keenan rode Enchanted Forest to sweep the medium division with an impressive total score of 1058—Keenan's highest score of the day. Enchanted Forest, a 12-year-old New Forest gelding, is owned by Chansonette Farm, LLC. Finally, in the large pony division, Keenan rode the 10-year-old Dutch bay gelding Vanity Fair to victory with a total score of 1045.5. Vanity Fair is owned by Adrienne Sternlicht.
After her triple win, Keenan said that the best part was the build-up of excitement and how the pressure dissipated quickly afterward.
"The pressure just falls off," she said. "When it was over, it just worked out for me. I was really, really happy."
Keenan's trainer, Patricia Griffith, had nothing but smiles and praise for her pupil (one of six competing at Pony Finals).
"She's one of the best students I've ever had. She hangs on every word,” said Griffith. “She knows her ponies; she knows what bridles they go in, what they eat. She spends time with them. It couldn't happen to a better kid. She just loves them. She'll spend all day at the barn. She'll ride eight ponies, and she'll still be there afterward, cleaning tack and cleaning stalls. She's incredible."
Any kid would be forgiven for having a favorite, but not Keenan. She appreciates all her ponies for their different attributes.
"I don't have a favorite," said Keenan. "They all have big strides, but every animal has its own personality. I really, really love them all. They are all a nice size so hopefully I will get to ride them as long as possible."
Keenan started riding at the age of six and her love for horses seems to run in the family.
"My mom rode when she was younger, and there are pictures in our house of her. One day, I just asked her if I could ride," Keen continued. "I loved it so much…the first day that I got on a pony that was it."
Though she rides up to eight or nine ponies each time she's at the barn, which is five to six days a week, Keenan finds time to attend Spence School and has interests outside of horses including ballet, piano and gymnastics. She even finds time to read mystery novels.
"Riding is definitely my biggest thing," said Keenan. "I love it more than anything. I do a little gymnastics and a little ballet. Mostly I just ride. I go to the barn a lot, and I just love animals so much so it really works out."
Next steps for Keenan include switching to new mounts and traveling to the Monmouth Horse Show. All the ponies that helped her win three divisions at the 2007 Finals have earned a well-deserved break.
For more information about Pony Finals, please contact Marion Maybank, USEF Director of Hunter and Collegiate Activities at (859) 225-2033 or via e-mail at email@example.com.
Additional reporting by Joanie Morris