Tuesday, Apr. 23, 2024

Keenan Makes Another Clean Sweep At Pennsylvania National

The pony rider notches another remarkable accomplishment.

This summer, Lillie Keenan accomplished a feat all pony riders dream of—sweeping all three divisions at the USEF Pony Finals. Little could anyone imagine that she’d do it again.

But that she did, during Pennsylvania National’s junior weekend, Oct. 18-20 in Harrisburg, Pa. Keenan rode Vanity Fair to the grand and large pony hunter tricolors, Enchanted Forest to the medium pony hunter championship and won the small pony hunter title on Pink Floyd.
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The pony rider notches another remarkable accomplishment.

This summer, Lillie Keenan accomplished a feat all pony riders dream of—sweeping all three divisions at the USEF Pony Finals. Little could anyone imagine that she’d do it again.

But that she did, during Pennsylvania National’s junior weekend, Oct. 18-20 in Harrisburg, Pa. Keenan rode Vanity Fair to the grand and large pony hunter tricolors, Enchanted Forest to the medium pony hunter championship and won the small pony hunter title on Pink Floyd.

“She’s that unique quality of raw talent, work ethic and family support. She’s a trainer’s dream,” said Andre Dignelli, who trains Keenan along with Patricia Griffith.

“I’ve had a really exciting year; I’ve had a lot of luck at the shows, and I have great ponies,” Keenan said.
She’s no stranger to winning on the veterans Vanity Fair and Emerald Forest, who both repeated their Pony Finals wins. But Keenan was truly shocked at earning the small pony championship on Peter Pletcher’s Pink Floyd.

“I never thought that Pink Floyd would be able to win. We really just came here to give him the experience, so that he can be ready to do it in the future,” she said.

Pink Floyd is just 5 and in his first year of showing. In the first class of the division, Pink Floyd looked decidedly overwhelmed by the atmosphere and was very spooky. Keenan had to ride positively and tactfully to get him around the course.

“After my first round on him, I didn’t think he’d be able to turn it around, but I just had to keep faith that he could do it,” Keenan said. “He’s not a big fan of being by himself. He’ll grow out of that, and I think he was just surprised when he went in. He came back and calmed down and was great.”

Indigo Takes The Blue

Danielle Paradyzs concluded her time showing Indigo the best way possible—with a win in the NAL Pony Jumper Finals. “This is our grand finale,” she said.
Theirs was the only clean performance in the six-horse jump-off, and they defeated last year’s winners, Wilhelmina Horzepa and Exhilaration.

“I thought everyone was going to go clear, and I figured this would be the time to bring it. Then, no one was clear!” Paradyzs said.

Paradyzs, 13, has had the veteran Indigo for 11⁄2 years.
“She’s definitely taught me most of what I know in the jumpers. She has a very fiery attitude. I’m so used to it that it doesn’t bother me,” she said. “You have to do things her way, so you have to learn her way. She has to gallop into the ring—that was one of the things I was nervous about when I first got her. It’s her eagerness to go.”

It’s time for Paradyzs, Millneck, N.Y., to move on to showing horses, however, and her trainer, Bert Mutch, began that process this summer. Before the Pennsylvania National, Paradyzs hadn’t shown Indigo since May.

“I felt that for her progression, she needed to take some time off from the pony, so we’ve mainly been learning to ride horses instead of just that one pony,” Mutch said.
“We knew Indigo would be qualified for this class, so we knew we always had a chance at it. So, in the interim, she’s been doing horses and equitation and jumpers and learning a little bit more about the finer points of jumper riding, and it paid off here when we came back to the pony again. Things looked a whole lot easier to her, and to the pony.”

Pink Floyd returned to win the second over fences class, take sixth in the under saddle and then earn fourth in the final over fences class.

“He’s been really fun,” Dignelli said of Pink Floyd, whom he spotted at the Capital Challenge (Md.) last year. “He has all the ability. He really came on as a project, and I think he’ll be a famous pony, but it’s nice that it all came together here. Lillie’s done all the work on him.”

Keenan doesn’t have to work quite so hard on her older ponies.

“Vanity Fair is very comfortable, and no matter what, he’ll leave the ground,” she said. “He does everything for you a little bit. And I’ve had Emerald Forest for two years, and he’s got everything you want a pony to have. With them, I’ve learned that I just have to stay calm, and that’s helped me relax on the green pony.”
Keenan also earned the coveted best child rider on a pony award.

 Dignelli and Griffith may have found Keenan top-notch ponies, but there’s more to it than that.

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“She’s got a naturally good eye and naturally good feel,” Dignelli said. “Her mother was a very competitive rider, so they understand competition. They understand that it takes more than just good horses. It takes understanding about the pony—the care and the practice. They really do practice a lot. She puts a lot into it, and they’re getting a lot out of it.”


Making The Most Of It

Taylor Ann Adams has made a name for herself riding ponies, and guided Mokoo Jumbee to the large pony hunter reserve championship behind Keenan and Vanity Fair.

But at the Pennsylvania National, she also made her presence known in a big way in the junior hunter divisions. She guided Stephanie Keen’s Lyle to the grand junior and small junior, 15 and under, championships.

“I’m very lucky to ride him,” Adams said of the veteran Lyle. “He’s taught me everything; he teaches me every time I get on him. I get anxious when I’m nervous, and he always makes sure that I’m not doing anything ridiculous.”

Lyle won a title at the 2002 Junior Hunter Finals with trainer Don Stewart Jr.’s daughter Erin and has been a prolific winner ever since with riders such as Jane Eberhardt and Megan Massaro. Stewart offered the reins to Adams this year, and she jumped at the chance.

She and Lyle took second in the first over fences class, won the handy class and then won the stakes class. They also topped the junior hunter winner’s stake with a 90. All of the accolades were a dream come true for Adams, 13.

“I just wanted to go around nicely. I had plenty of confidence in him, but not so much in myself,” she said. “For a horse to be able to put in a 90 with someone like me on their back, who’s just hanging on with no idea what they’re doing, that’s a pretty good horse.”

Adams, of Eads, Tenn., grew up riding and showing locally, then hit the A-rated circuit with her small pony Gayfield’s Steamy Windows.

She caught trainer Bill Schaub’s eye last year, and he quickly put her to work showing ponies for him. And then, this year, Stewart and Bibby Farmer Hill offered her the chance to ride horses and Sassafras Creek, who is currently leading the U.S. Equestrian Federation national standings in the medium and medium green pony divisions.

For Adams, who has no pony or horse of her own now to show, the opportunities are tremendous.

“It means a lot; I don’t think I’ll ever be able to give them what they’ve given me. Bill did a lot for me. And for Don to let me, in my first year showing in the juniors, ride a horse like Lyle and trust me not to do something completely ridiculous, is very flattering,” she said.

Adams has also been a force in the equitation divisions this year with victories in the USEF Pony Medal Final (Ky.), the Show Circuit National Children’s Medal Finals (Md.) and the WIHS Pony Equitation Championship (D.C.).

Maria Schaub rode E.L. Raymond to the small junior, 16-17, championship and tied with Adams and Lyle for the grand championship with 26 points. But since Lyle earned all of his points over fences, the grand junior hunter tricolor was his.

Addison Phillips took the reserve title to E.L. Raymond in the small junior, 16-17, division aboard Castle, and then rode Morocco to the large junior, 16-17, championship. Lucy Davis continued her winning ways on Harmony, with the large junior, 15 and under, tricolor.

Ever After Retires With A Win

Lauren Wentworth made one of her last trips on Ever After really count—she and the elegant, bay gelding clinched the win in the NAL Children’s Hunter Finals.

“It was a big goal for me. I’ve been trying to qualify all year and just found at the beginning of October that I qualified,” Wentworth said.
 
The week after the Pennsylvania National, Wentworth showed Ever After at the Zone 2 Finals (Pa.) and then retired him.

“He’s one of those been-there, done-that horses. He’s a good boy,” Wentworth said of the 18-year-old, Thoroughbred gelding owned by Janet Jones.

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Wentworth has had the ride on “Dion” for two years. Her mother showed him in the adult amateur classes the year before that, and he has a long history in the children’s and adult rings.

“He taught me a lot; he really helped develop my riding,” said Wentworth, Skaneateles, N.Y. “He’s very long, and he’s got a big stride. He’s got a very funny personality. He’s a big flirt.”

Dion and Wentworth returned for Round 2 in third place with a score of 84.

“I think if I’d been in first, I would have been more nervous,” she said. But they laid down a solid round for another score of 84 and the class win.
 
Wentworth, 15, plans to move up to the junior hunters and the equitation classes next year. She rides with Mike McGowan.

Wilton James Porter, Dallas, Texas, rode Benvolio to a blisteringly fast jump-off round to top the NAL Children’s Jumper Finals.

When 16 riders qualified for the jump-off, it was obvious that speed would be the name of the game, and Porter stopped the timers just fractions faster than Marque Cincotta on Chappie for the win.

California Gold

The USEF Zone 10 riders traveled the farthest to get to the Pennsylvania National, and at the end of the Adequan/USEF Prix des States Junior Jumper Championships, they were miles out in front of the competition as well.

Zone 10 finished the team competition with just 4 faults to their name, even without their fourth rider jumping the second round. They topped Zone 4, which finished with 16 faults. And Zone 10’s Aurora Griffin conquered the individual championship over her teammate Karl Cook.

Griffin, 16, who also earned the junior jumper style award, was the pathfinder for Zone 10 in the team competition and turned in double-clear rounds on Tucker.

“I felt there was a lot of pressure to set the tone for the team and to give everybody a confidence boost. I was so glad to be able to do that,” she said.

Paris Sellon turned in her own pair of clear rounds for Zone 10 aboard Cordelia B, and Tina DiLandri rode Chanel 292 to two four-fault trips. Cook and Notories Utopia jumped clean in Round 1 and didn’t have to return for Round 2 because the win was theirs.

“We were feeling pretty good. We had a great group. We were all confident in each other, and it really brought our team together,” Cook, 16, said. “It’s nice because everyone talks about the East Coast
is where all the riding is. For us to come over here and show that we can ride as well as anyone is very nice.”

Cook, Woodside, Calif., led the individual competition until the last round when he had his only rail of the week.

Griffin, Westlake Village, Calif., jumped clean all of the way through aboard Tucker for the gold. Earlier in the summer, the two had anchored the Zone 10 team gold medal at the CN North American Junior and Young Riders Championships (Va.), where Cook took individual gold (on a different horse) and Griffin individual bronze.

Griffin was pleasantly shocked when Cook’s rail fell.

“That was a little surprise. Karl rides very consistently, and he has great horses. I was expecting him to be clean. But a Zone 10 victory is a Zone 10 victory!

“There was a lot of pressure, but my horse jumped incredible,” she added. “I went first [in the team competition], and that was also a lot of pressure. Sometimes I have the tendency to get a little overexcited by the end of the course, especially when we’re going clean, so I was happy that I was able to keep my cool and get it done tonight.”

Molly Sorge

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