16 year-old Lillie Keenan of New York, NY is having an almost unbelievable year of championship wins across the country and yesterday added the USHJA/Essex Classics Hunterdon Equitation Cup Classic Champion to her list of accomplishments. Keenan bested 69 of the sport's top junior equitation riders to claim the victory.
Held during the East Coast U.S. National Junior Hunter Championships, the USHJA/Essex Classics Hunterdon Cup, is an equitation classic that combines equitation’s goal of rider perfectionwith the handy skills of the hunters. The Hunterdon Cup is open to Active USHJA junior members who have won a USEF Medal, ASPCA Maclay, USEF Show Jumping Talent Search, or WIHS Equitation Classic between July 2nd – July 1st of the qualifying year. The competition consists of three rounds over fences; the Hunter phase, the Handy ride, and the Work Off round in which returning riders change horses and repeat all or part of previous courses. Course designer Rian Beals of Saugerties, NY had the honors of creating the challenging 3’6″ tracks which included two fences with no ground lines as well as testing the competitors’ horsemanship skills. When the second round of the narrowed field of 15 concluded, judges Geoff Teall of Wellington, FL and Susie Schoellkopf of Buffalo, NY then selected the four riders for the Work Off; Lillie Keenan, Hunter Holloway, Abby Bertelson and Morgan Ward.
“I thought the course was very fitting for the class. It was a galloping hunter course that asked a variety of challenging questions. It is a meaningful classic because it takes place at the Junior Hunter Finals in the Grand Prix stadium.” Keenan said.
Keenan has competed in the Hunterdon Cup for the past three years; previously her best position was reserve champion at the 2011 event. Coaching her along the way has been Andre Dignelli of Heritage Farm, he said of his student’s performance “I thought her first round was as close to perfect as a round could be. I wasn’t sure if she’d get a 100 score, but she got a 95! She’s [Lillie] as good as it gets, from the look, the style, the position and she’s on maybe the best horse I’ve ever had – Clearway. I’m just excited I was able to put them together.”
Throughout the classic Keenan had impressed with scores of 95 and 94 in the second round, so coming into the Work Off round, she was the class leader. The final round challenged the top four riders with more than a technical layout; they were required to switch mounts. Keenan was partnered with Levkoi, the mount of Morgan Ward, and not surprisingly Keenan’s natural ability saw the pair click almost immediately. Ward enjoyed an equally good ride on Clearway, but when the final scores were tallied Keenan remained on top.
“She was a rock star again! I couldn’t be more proud of her.” Dignelli said.
Keenan added, “I can hardly believe the year I have had. I have so many people and horses to thank for my success.”
Presenting awards for the 2013 Hunterdon Cup winners were Cathy Sacher, Owner and President of Essex Classics along with 2012 winner Genevieve Zock, Val Renihan and Don Stewart members of the USHJAHunter Working Group Junior Hunter Task Force.
Title sponsor, Essex Classics, provided each of the top 10 competitors a gift certificate for an Essex Wrap Collar CoolMax® Performance Classic Show Shirt. As Champion, Keenan was awarded an array of goodies that included a custom cooler, a Charles Owen helmet, a Grand Prix riding jacket, one pair of Pikeur Breeches and Konigs tall boots provided by the official Awards Sponsors Grand Prix, Pikeur and Konigs, plus a keeper trophy to celebrate the perpetual trophy donated by Diane Carney and Lynn Jayne. Reserve Champion Hunter Holloway of Topeka, KS also collected an assortment of gifts that included a Charles Owen helmet, SG-Stretch Leather Gaite half chaps and Grand Prix Aquasport Zip paddock boots provided by Grand Prix/Pikeur/Konigs.
Keenan’s name will be inscribed on the USHJA Hunterdon Cup Equitation Class perpetual trophy. Another honor for Keenan will be the traditional invitation to return in 2014 to present awards to the next champion.
Official Top Ten Results for the 2012 USHJA-Essex Classics Hunterdon Cup:
Champion- Lillie Keenan -Trainer Andre Dignelli
Reserve Champion- Hunter Holloway – Trainer Brandie Holloway
3rd Abby Bertelson – Trainer Cookie DeSimone
4th Morgan Ward – Trainer Email Spadone
5th Michael Hughes – Trainer Andre Dignelli
6th Taylor Sutton – Trainer Bibby Hill
7th Victoria Colvin – Trainer Scott Stewart
8th Geoffrey Hesslink – Trainer Andre Dignelli
9th Kate Ross – Trainer Val Renihan
10th Caroline McLeese – Trainer Bibby Hill