East Dorset, Vermont — Lillie Keenan of New York, NY, and Valedictorian topped the class in the WIHS Equitation Classic held Thursday, July 8, at the Vermont Summer Festival in East Dorset, VT.
The WIHS Equitation Classic is divided into two phases, jumper and hunter. Following the jumper phase, Keenan was ranked second with 86 points behind stablemate Katherine Schmidt who earned a score of 89 points riding Drumline. However, it was Keenan who came out on top following the all-deciding hunter phase.
“Coming into the hunter phase, I just did my best to stay still, blend in with the horse, and not be noticed,” said the 13-year-old of her winning strategy. “Valedictorian is so good at allowing you to do that kind of course. It worked out for me, and I got an 89.”
Keenan has owned Valedictorian, an eight-year-old grey gelding, for two years.
“I know everyone really loves their horses, but he is something special,” said Keenan, who purchased Valedictorian from David Raposa soon after he was imported. “We actually bought him to do the junior hunters, but he will do everything asked of him. You can trust him, you can rely on him. In his time at Heritage, he has learned a lot. He also loves to play in his stall, he acts like a kid. He is so smart, but sometimes he is too smart!”
In addition to winning the WIHS Equitation Classic with Valedictorian on Thursday, Keenan also won the Reserve Championship title in the Regular Working Hunter division with C Coast Z and placed third in the High Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumper competition with Veronieque. She also won various hunter classes with C Coast Z, Valedictorian and Genuine.
“We have showed here the past two years, I love this show,” said Keenan, who is entering eighth grade at The Spence School in New York City this fall. “The location is great, and the town is lovely. My grandmother lives near here in Lyme, New Hampshire, so we get to see her. She came to watch me today.”
The sport is truly a family affair for Keenan whose mother, Pam Carmichael, also excelled as a junior competitor. The names of two of her mother’s most successful junior hunter mounts, Chance Step and Lansonette, have been combined to form Chansonette Farm LLC, the owner of Keenan’s horses.
Despite her mother’s background, Keenan says that riding was her choice.
“I have two older siblings and neither of them wanted to ride, but my mom let me try a bunch of different sports and I choose riding,” explained Keenan. “I learned how to ride at Claremont Riding Academy in New York City, which closed down. It is fun because my mom sometimes still rides at the farm, she’ll flat the horses for me, but she does not show anymore.”
Keenan has been training with Andre Dignelli and his team at Heritage Farms in Katonah, NY, for seven years. Despite her young age, Keenan is already an accomplished equestrian athlete. At the 2008 USEF Pony Finals in Lexington, KY, Keenan was named the Grand Champion, winning five out of six divisions. In 2009, in her first year competing in the equitation divisions, she placed seventh at the ASPCA Maclay National Championship in Syracuse, NY, as well as sixth in the WIHS Equitation Classic Finals, held at the Washington International Horse Show. This year, Keenan’s goal is to place at all of the equitation finals, and to do well in the Hunter Derby Finals in Lexington, KY, with her horse, Genuine.
Competition continues on Friday, July 9, featuring the $10,000 Giorgio Armani Open Welcome Stake, Presented by Manchester Designer Outlets. Top show jumping sport will be showcased in Sunday’s $30,000 Vermont Summer Festival Grand Prix, Presented by Johnson Horse Transportation, beginning at 1 p.m.
Located at Harold Beebe Farm in East Dorset, admission is $5 for adults and $3 for children Wednesday through Saturday. On Grand Prix Sunday, admission is $7 for adults and $5 for children. All gate proceeds benefit Manchester Elementary-Middle School (MEMS).
Running July 7 through August 15, 2010, the Vermont Summer Festival offers more than $750,000 in prize money, making it the richest sporting event based on purse in the state. The six-week Vermont Summer Festival culminates with the $50,000 Vermont Summer Celebration Grand Prix on Sunday, August 15. The Vermont Summer Festival is a proud member event of the Show Jumping Hall Of Fame, the Marshall & Sterling League, and the North American League (NAL). For more information about the Vermont Summer Festival, please e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.vt-summerfestival.com.
Photo-Lillie Keenan and Valedictorian won the WIHS Equitation Classic on Thursday, July 8, at the Vermont Summer Festival in East Dorset, Vermont. Photo credit - David Mullinix Photography