Lillie Keenan & Fibonacci for the GCL Paris Panthers, at GCL Cascais. Ph. ©Stefano Grasso/LGCT
On April 5, 2017, 20-year-old rider Lillie Keenan of the United States shared a video of herself riding a familiar grey mount to her official Facebook page. As the duo catapulted over a vertical in the middle of a large, sanded arena, a chuckle followed by a, “you better fasten your seat belt” could be heard over the audio. The voice belonged to Keenan’s coach of two years, Cian O’Connor, and the horse was Fibonacci 17, Meredith Michael’s-Beerbaum’s partner of three years whom she piloted to countless victories and appearances at the sport’s most elite shows and venues in the world. The video was attached with a note which confirmed that the reins of Fibonacci had been passed from Beerbaum to Keenan.
The 12-year-old Swedish Warmblood (For Feeling x VDL Corlando) known as Nacho would be a dream horse for anyone, and the opportunity to ride the flashy grey with the massive jump is not lost on Keenan, who has been dedicating herself to getting to know her new partner this season. With hopes that their combined talents will help propel her to the next level in her career, Keenan stepped up to the CSI5* level with Fibonacci in June, where she placed 5th in the ranking class at CSIO5* Sopot, and this past weekend at the Longines Global Champions Tour of Estoril. The pair represented their Global Champions League team of the Paris Panthers, jumping a clear round in the Friday CSI5* class to help earn a second place finish. Keenan tells us more about Nacho’s past, present, and her cautious hopes for the future.
- In 2014, “Nacho” was sold to Artemis Equestrian Farms, Beerbaum’s sponsors.
- Beerbaum and Fibonacci produced double clear rounds in the 2016 FEI Nations Cup at CHIO Aachen, helping Germany to a 1st place finish.
- They traveled to Rio de Janeiro last August as alternates for the German Olympic Team, but when Marcus Enhing had to withdraw from the team, Beerbaum and Nacho found themselves competing. They ended up earning Olympic team bronze for Germany.
- The circumstances were extremely fortunate for me and the fact that I ended up with Fibonacci was just really great timing, and a little bit of luck. I already have Super Sox and Skyhorse who are fully capable and very talented CSI5* horses. I was not really looking for a horse at the time, but Cian came to my family and said we had a great opportunity to buy this special horse. He felt very certain Fibonacci and I would be a match. I’m fortunate to have been offered a spot on the GCL team this year, and to have a chance at being competitive at those high leveled events, you really need two grand prix horses. I’m lucky to have been given the opportunity, especially because I think I have one of the best strings in the world right now. I’m trying to make the most of that and Fibonacci plays a critical role.
- He’s extremely talented and he definitely has his own personality. He’s incredibly intelligent, and he’s a horse that’s eager to please and he gives me an unbelievable feeling. We’re still developing our partnership, so when working with a horse that’s already so proven, it’s critical that I remain patient with myself and take it a day at a time. I’ve got high hopes with Nacho and I continue to study videos of him with Meredith. She is definitely one of my idols and I can learn a lot from not only her riding, but also from riding one of her own horses.
- When he first came to the stable, his former groom sent him with a stuffed unicorn that’s been with him for as long as they’ve had him, and now it’s always with him. He didn’t really show his personality at first but he has definitely blossomed. I spoil my horses and treat them like they’re my family, and he gets a lot of treats and TLC. Since the day I got him, I’ve been trying to develop a partnership. I think that’s critical with every horse, especially when you’re competing at the top sport. The horse has to want to do it for you, and the only way you can develop that relationship is by spending time with them.
- He’s a very smart horse and he understands when he’s working and when it’s time to relax. He relishes the time when he goes out for grass or goes in the paddock, but once he’s working and he’s under saddle, he really gets down to business and doesn’t mess around. His daily routine is simple. The horses are checked in the morning and then they get breakfast. He gets out of the stall at least three times a day and he knows when I’m taking him for grass, when he’s going for a hand walk, or when he’s going to get ridden or lunged. My horses get quite a bit of exercise and it’s important to me that they get out of their stalls; that they not only work because they’re performance horses, but also that they get a chance to enjoy their lives and relax. He’s a horse that I think really benefits from that, and he likes to be given a bit of freedom to have his “zen” time.
- Nacho’s daily routine consists of hacking or lunging, and a session under saddle with either myself or Cian. We normally do not jump very big at home. Cian often gives me a lesson on the flat to reiterate the correct pace and to ensure the horse is supple and carrying himself. We use poles on the ground to alter the stride length which improves ride ability, and once a week we will do a gymnastic exercise. Sometimes after a show, Cian will build specific lines again at home for me. Nacho himself doesn’t need to practice courses.
- He’s a school master and he knows his job, but it’s important that I put in the work and develop my partnership with him. He’s jumped the biggest courses in the world and when he gets to a show there is nothing he hasn’t seen. There are high expectations, but it’s very important that I keep a clear head and focus having my own relationship and career with him. I’m extremely lucky to have the opportunity to work with him, but I’m still learning myself and I think he has a lot to teach me.
- Nations Cup shows are the most important to me right now and that’s something that I’m working towards.
- It’s premature for me to say that I’m going to the WEG with any horse, but everything is a possibility.
- Championships are a central focus and goal for myself and my career, and it’s something you plan for because so many things have to align and work out. I couldn’t tell you when thats going to be, but I can say that I’m very motivated to form a strong partnership with Fibonacci, just as I continue to do so with my other horses.
- I first want to focus on 2017 to see what I’m able to accomplish and go from there, but my most important short and long term goal is to represent my country at the biggest events and to do so as well as I can.