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Lillie Keenan Wins North American Junior Equitation Championship at Capital Challenge Equitation Weekend

October 01, 2012 By: janwest Category: General

Upper Marlboro, MD – September 30, 2012 – The Capital Challenge Equitation Championship Weekend, presented by, hosted three equitation finals today, starting with the North American Junior Equitation Championship, in which Lillie Keenan took home the big win on Clearway, owned by Heritage Farm. Sydney Hutchins was victorious in the Taylor Harris Insurance Services (THIS) National Children’s Medal Finals, while Annie Finch won the blue ribbon in the North American Adult Amateur Equitation Finals. The Capital Challenge Horse Show runs through Sunday, October 7, at the Show Place Arena in Upper Marlboro, MD.

There were 75 entries in the North American Junior Equitation Championship, and the top 20 from the first round returned for the second round. Keenan, of New York, NY, sat in second place going into the second round with a total average of 92, and she executed a beautiful trip with a score of 93.40 and a total of 184.40 to move into the lead. Victoria Colvin on VIP Z was close behind with a total score of 183.60 after receiving an identical score to Keenan in the second round.

Keenan said, “I think after the first round, I realized that I needed to be a little bit softer. By the second round, I’d softened, been in the ring, and jumped some of the lines in the second course, so I knew where I was going.”



Lillie Keenan and Clearway. © Shawn McMillen Photography

With just .8 of a point separating the two, Keenan and Colvin had to return for a work-off. The judges – Jeff Ayers, Rob Bielefield, Cynthia Hankins, Bobbie Reber, and Jim Toon – set a challenging test that included a counter canter, hand gallop, trot jump, and halt, all without stirrups. The two riders had to face outside the ring and could not watch the other rider’s test.

Colvin went first and had a fantastic trip, and Keenan followed with another smooth ride. It was incredibly close as their test scores were less than a half point apart. Keenan received a 90.6, while Colvin was scored at 90.2. Keenan won with a slight edge in a total of 275, while Colvin was second with a 273.8.

Watch an interview with Lillie Keenan!
“I didn’t know about the testing,” Keenan admitted. “I learned about that before I went, and I was hoping that I’d get into (the test). I liked the test. I thought it was very fitting for the event. When they said no stirrups, for a moment I was like, ‘Oh my goodness. I better start squeezing.’ But with that horse, he didn’t even notice. When you don’t have your stirrups, obviously it takes a toll on your position. I tried really hard to keep that together. He’s great at all of those tests – the counter canter, the halt, the hand gallop. He’s so game and so adjustable. He’s really great to do in a test.”

Talking about not being able to see Colvin’s test, Keenan said, “I have done maybe three other tests where I had to face out of the ring. It definitely made me nervous, not being able to see her go, but I knew the numbers and had reviewed it a hundred times to make sure that I really knew where I was going. Before we started, I knew what my plan was going to be. When you go to a test and you’re within such a close range – the points are so close together – it’s good to even the playing field and make it so that no one has an advantage.”



Megan MacPherson and Great Expectations. © Shawn McMillen Photography

Third place went to Megan MacPherson on Great Expectations, who finished with a two-round total of 178.41. Alison Cooney was fourth (175.8) on Wittewa, while Ashley Foster placed fifth with a score of 175.26 riding Raindance.

Keenan has ridden Clearway, who is owned by Heritage Farm, since April. She described, “I have to say, this horse is really special. He’s really a once in a lifetime horse. I’m really lucky to get to ride him. He’s one of those horses where you just know that he wants to win and he isn’t going to let you down. He does everything in his power to make it work. He manages to be unfazed but he has that look to him; he’s not boring, he’s still interested. He wants to win and you can tell that from the feeling he gives you.”



© Jennifer Wood Media, Inc.

Keenan heads into the indoor finals season as one of the strongest contenders in the country. “I think this gives me a lot of confidence going into the finals, with the [USEF Talent Search Finals] next week and then indoors,” she remarked. “It’s nice to be here because it’s a really nice event, and it’s not the same kind of pressure that you have going into a final that you qualified for, but it’s a lot of fun.”

For her big win, Keenan was awarded the George H. Morris Equitation Championship Trophy donated by Frank and Stacia Madden and Beacon Hill Show Stables. Clearway’s groom, Raoul Gomez, won the North American Equitation Champion Groom’s Award sponsored by Holly Hill Farm. Keenan won the Best Equitation Rider Award sponsored by Karen Healey and Karen Healey Stables. Keenan’s trainers, Andre Dignelli, Patricia Griffith, Laena Romond, and Brady Mitchell, won the Leading Equitation Trainer Award.



Victoria Colvin and VIP Z. © Shawn McMillen Photography

The EMO Equitation Trip of the Show sponsored by EMO Insurance Services went to Victoria Colvin, who scored a 92.

A Start-to-Finish Lead in the THIS National Children’s Medal Finals

Forty-one qualifiers contested this year’s THIS National Children’s Medal Finals. After the initial round, the top 10 returned for a second round. Thirteen-year-old Sydney Hutchins of Westlake Village, CA, led from start to finish on Gaudi, owned by Taylor Harris (who, coincidentally, is not related to the sponsor). She scored a 90.5 in the first round and an 86.7 in the second round for a winning total of 177.2.



Sydney Hutchins and Gaudi. © Shawn McMillen Photography

Hutchins said of the courses, “The courses were great. They were a lot of fun. The previous medal finals (in California) have been great practice for this. These (courses) were challenging. The lines were set a little long, so I needed to make sure I landed and got up to the next fence.”

Coming back in first place for the second round was daunting, but Hutchins handled it with aplomb. “I just needed to make sure the nerves didn’t get to me,” she recalled. “My trainers told me that it’s just another round, forget about the first one. Ride as if nothing happened before.”



Savannah Dukes and Alicante. © Shawn McMillen Photography

Second place went to fellow West Coaster Savannah Dukes on Alicante. They had an overall score of 172.85. Alexandra Worthington and Romina 58 were third in 169.3, while Madison Goetzmann rode Sirius Black to a total of 168.5 for fourth place. Morgan Ward and Broadway were fifth with a total score of 166.65.

Hutchins has been riding Gaudi for just over a month, but has known the horse for years as owner Taylor Harris is her barnmate. “He’s just been amazing,” she said. “I had another horse who unfortunately couldn’t make it to some of my medal finals, so we got him to take his place and he’s been fabulous for the past few shows.”



© Jennifer Wood Media, Inc.

Hutchins has been riding with Jim Hagman and Katie Gardner at Elvenstar for 10 years. Although she has competed hunters at Capital Challenge twice before, this was her first time at Equitation Weekend. She said of her win, “It feels amazing! I’m so excited and happy for my horse and trainers. They’re amazing and so supportive. They’re with me every show and very helpful.”

Annie Finch Receives Birthday Present of Win in NA Adult Amateur Equitation Finals

The North American Adult Amateur Equitation Finals saw 37 entries, and the top 10 from the first round were back for a second round to find the winner. Annie Finch came back on top of the class and kept her lead for the perfect birthday present, a win in the finals.

Finch, of Rancho Santa Fe, CA, rode W.C. Swing to a final score of 176.75. Nicole Lyvere and Drumline were second with 170.2 points. Raven Weinlein and La Vita finished third with 169.5 points, while fourth place went to Quinn Traendly on Parcheesi (167.85). Kristen Russomanno and Starbuck were fifth with 166.6 points.



Annie Finch and W.C. Swing. © Shawn McMillen Photography

Finch, who celebrates her birthday tomorrow, was at Capital Challenge as a birthday present thanks to her mother. This is her first time competing here. “It’s my version of the Olympics!” she laughed. “It was amazing. I had the best time just lessoning, I hadn’t even shown! It’s everything you think it is. It could be scary when you go in there, but it’s not intimidating when everyone is so nice.”

Having owned W.C. Swing for two years, she has come to know her horse and what she needs to do to accomplish her goals. She admitted, “If you don’t win, it’s basically your fault! Swing is mine for life. Everyone wants to lease or buy him, but I’m like oh no! He knows what to do. I can just be really soft. Basically my trainers tell me no leg and no hand and I go around.”

Finch took time to acknowledge the trainers that have helped her get to this point. After a 20-year break from riding, she has been on the show circuit for 10 years, starting out with Tara Metzner. When she moved to New York, she rode with Andre Dignelli at Heritage Farm, and after moving back to California two years ago, she started working with Chance Arkelian. “He’s amazing and very patient with all the adults. He takes it so seriously and works so hard,” she said.



© Jennifer Wood Media, Inc.

The Groom’s Award sponsored by Holly Hill Farm went to W.C. Swing’s groom, Efrain Ramirez.

Tomorrow’s schedule marks the start of professional competition in the hunters at Capital Challenge with the rated divisions along with five sections of the Future Hunters.

For full results and more information, please visit If you can’t attend the Capital Challenge Horse Show, remember you can log on to to see all the action live.

Highlights of the Capital Challenge Horse Show will include the World Champion Hunter Rider (WCHR) Emerging Pro Challenge (Oct. 3), Added Future Hunter North American Championship (Oct. 3), the North American Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumper Challenge Cup (two rounds held on Oct. 5-6), the ARIAT National Adult Medal Finals (Oct. 5), and the WCHR Professional Finals (Oct. 5).