The United States Equestrian Team Foundation has announced that this year’s recipient of the Maxine Beard Show Jumping Rider Award is Lillie Keenan.
The Maxine Beard award is presented to young riders who are talented in the sport of showjumping and also show great potential to represent this country in Nations Cup competitions and international championships. At just 19 years old, Keenan turned professional in 2015 while also furthering her education as a freshman at the prestigious Harvard University. Under the tutelage of Ireland’s Olympic bronze medalist Cian O’Connor, Keenan adapted to a new training regime for herself and her horses.
“I really needed to challenge myself, and I always knew that I had a lot to learn, but now I feel like I’ve come a long way,” said Keenan. “I feel much more confident in myself than I did last year at this time, simply because I had new experiences, and I’m excited for continued change and trying new things, and trying to establish myself as a professional.”
One of Keenan’s most exciting opportunities this past year was beginning her training with O’Connor and spending the summer in Europe at O’Connor’s Karlswood Stables. Through her work with the Irish Olympian Keenan achieved top results in 2016, including third place finishes in the $380,000 Douglas Elliman CSI5* Grand Prix at the Winter Equestrian Festival and the HITS Great American $1 Million Grand Prix with her Super Sox, a 10-year-old Hanoverian gelding.
“I’ve taken a lot of time with that horse,” noted Keenan. “He’s a horse that I’ve always believed in. Three months ago, the team at Karlswood said, ‘You’ve put in all this work with this horse, and you’re going to place in a night class in Florida.’ The fact that it came together is just a testament to the program, and also to how important it is to invest in the learning process and be patient with it. When you follow the steps and you put in the work to learn and have a special moment like that, it is really exciting.”
Along with the trophy, the award also offers the recipient the opportunity to travel to a Nations Cup competition to shadow the American team. In 2016, the Nations Cup events will have added importance, as the U.S. squad will be preparing for the Olympic Games in Rio later this summer. Keenan will observe the stabling area and veterinary inspection, and she will also be able to walk the courses with Chef d’Equipe Robert Ridland and the team.
“Our sport is not always team based, but at the highest level, you’re representing your country as a team, and that’s what I enjoy,” said Keenan. “To have the opportunity to shadow a team and get the experience of working with Robert Ridland and understanding the best American riders and their programs, and just being able to watch them ride and watch the work they do, is fantastic.”
Keenan concluded, “It’s exciting for me to receive this award because it’s an honor but also it’s a nice confidence boost at the end of season and now that I’m going to Europe. I especially want to thank the team behind Karlswood, and of course my family.”
The United States Equestrian Team Foundation (www.uset.org) is the non-profit organization that supports the competition, training, coaching, travel and educational needs of America’s elite and developing international, high-performance horses and athletes in partnership with the United States Equestrian Federation.
Previous recipients of the Maxine Beard Award:
2015 – Michael Hughes
2014 - Jessica Springsteen
2013 – Saer Coulter
2012 – Katie Dinan
2011 – Ali Wolff
2010 – Nick Dello Joio
2009 – Ashlee Bond and Michelle Spadone
2008 - Hillary Dobbs
2007 - Brianne Goutal
2006 - Charlie Jayne
2005 - Cayce Harrison
2004 - Georgina Bloomberg
2003 - Michael Morrissey and Paige Johnson
2002 - Molly Warmington
2001 - Kent Farrington and Richard Rinehart
2000 - Kate Levy and Marilyn Little
1999 - Kate Levy and Emily Williams
1998 - Jamie Schmidt and Heather Caristo
Source: Press release from USEF // Picture © Rebecca Walton / Phelps Media Group
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