Photo © Nancy Jaffer
This year the winner of the 2014 National Horse Show’s Sportsmanship Award was the young and incredibly talented Lille Keenan, who finished fifth in the $250,000 Canadian Pacific Grand Prix riding Pumped-Up Kicks. Still a junior rider, despite her many appearances at the international level this year, Keenan was awarded the USEF Junior Rider of the Year Award in 2013. Highly respected rider’s such as Brazil’s Rodrigo Pessoa have praised the obvious talents of this young rider, who won the prestigious Maclay Equitation Finals as well as won Gold at the North American Young Rider Championships.
“My long term goal in this sport is to represent the United States in top international competition and compete at the World Cup Finals, World Equestrian Games, and the Olympics” said Keenan to Equestrian Magazine last year. Keenan made her Senior Furusiyya Nations Cup debut this year, competing for Team USA at the Furusiyya Nations Cup events in Ascona, Switzerland as well as Bratislava, Slovakia.
“Last year was, I think, probably the best year I’ve ever had in my riding career and it might be my best year for quite some time. I was very successful in the young rider and junior divisions, and I wanted to work my way up. I applied [for the tour] because, right now, I have two really special horses. I figured I’d take a shot” said Keenan to Laura Cardon of the Chronicle.
“I didn’t go into thinking I would get chosen. I think it’s fantastic how they want to start and plant the roots so that the younger generation can really get experience. There’s a point at which my peers will make up the Olympic team, and getting experience in international competition for a championship-type event when you’re younger is extremely beneficial.”
“I went into it thinking, “I’m going to work toward [getting chosen for a Nations Cup team].” If I made it, awesome, if not, I’d reapply next year. My main plan for the year was to try to the bigger classes and get my feet wet in international competition.”