August 23, 2008 -- Last year, Lillie Keenan made history by being the first young rider to sweep the small, medium and large divisions of the 2007 Wild Horsefeathers/U.S. Equestrian Federation (USEF) National Pony Hunter Finals. Keenan almost repeated history again this year by winning the medium and large pony divisions, securing her the champion and reserve titles. Keenan bested 292 competitors with a top score of 1077 aboard Dogwood Hill's German Warmblood gelding Neverland to win the champion title.
Saturday was the final phase of the Pony Hunter Finals, which included the jumping portion of the championship--the model and under saddle portion (small, medium, large) were held the day before. Keenan had strong scores going into the final phase of competition with both Neverland and Vanity Fair.
Keenan claimed reserve champion on Vanity Fair with the second best score of 1064.5 in the large pony division. Vanity Fair, owned by Dr. Betsee Parker, is an 11-year-old bay Dutch Pony gelding.
Keenan swept another championship earlier this week aboard Sparkle Plenty, winning the 2008 Wild Horsefeathers/USEF Green Hunter Pony Finals. Keenan said she was focused on the Green Hunter Pony Championship since she had three new mounts that she had not ridden for very long. Going into the Pony Hunter Finals, Keenan said she just wanted to try her best.
"The Medium [Neverland] is a great pony-- he's just really awesome and really easy," said Keenan. "He has a great rhythm and he is really smooth."
With both ponies, Keenan said that she has to be careful to not override Neverland and Vanity Fair.
"They do so much by themselves that if you override them, it's not going to work and that's what makes them so hard," said Keenan. "But if you just relax, they are really easy."
This is supposed to be her last year riding ponies as she steps towards junior hunters and graduating up to horses.
"If there is a pony that someone wants me to ride for them, then I will happily do that," said Keenan.
Keenan will take a shot at another championship title by competing in the USEF Pony Medal Final.