The annual Alltech National Horse Show concluded with the ASPCA Maclay Finals on Sunday November 3 after six days of topnotch hunter, jumper and equitation competition. If you are a junior rider the Maclay Championship is like the holy grail for an equitation rider. Winning the first place in this class places your name among a list of some of the most esteemed equestrians throughout the ages. Well known riders such as double Olympic gold medalist Joe Fargis or Olympian and former USEF Show Jumping Chef d’Equipe George Morris are just a few of the names that grace the championship trophy.
This year joining that list was 17-year-old Lillie Keenan, a young rider who has been showing her nettle starting with the pony divisions on up through the hunters, equitation and these days has even added the jumpers to her long list of achievements.
The trainer who helped bring her to this ASPCA Maclay Championship honor is Andre Dignelli, the man she has trained with for the past 10 years. Lillie was not only thrilled for herself after winning this championship but also for Andre and the other trainers who are part of his Heritage Farm.
At the press conference the top riders, trainers and even the judges spoke about the meaning of this class and what it was that helped them shine above the rest.
“What she did was execute our test the best,” commented judge and present Show Jumping Chef d'Equipe Robert Ridland, who further explained that they created a test that demanded the riders negotiate forward and lateral movements and demonstrate extension and collection. Those tests included a lot of tight turns, a trot fence, gallop, counter canter and side pass. “The #1 thing we were trying to test was being able to control you horse forward and back and laterally and Lillie demonstrated that the best," Robert added.
While Lillie has proven herself over and over again to being an extremely talented rider, she was also on a horse that was equally as talented. This year alone that pair won both the USEF Hunter Seat Medal Finals and now the Maclay, an honor that few riders have achieved in the history of these classes. And last year Lillie was the ASPCA Maclay Reserve Champion.
When Lillie commented that she was “over the moon” about this achievement her trainer Andre nodded in agreement. “This was a top priority because you run out of time to win this class,” he commented. “We won the Medal at Harrisburg in a different way. It was more of a survival of the fittest. Here we won in a magical way. It was stunning and polished. And this is probably the best horse I’ve ever had in this division. When you put the right rider on the right horse, this is what happens.”
When asked about having a plan and then executing that plan it was Lillie who made it clear that riding isn’t always about negotiating your plan but rather “it is also about being able to negotiate it as you go. Riding is reacting to your situation."
While Lillie was thrilled with her victory, Kelli Cruciotti was equally as happy about being the reserve champion and Charlotte Jacobs was happy with her third place finish.
Ending this show with the Maclay was a good way to conclude this annual event since it is important that we look to our younger riders as the future representatives of our country. It is often those who ride to the top of this class that one day go on to compete in a future Olympics, World Equestrian Games, or World Cups.
Speaking of the World Equestrian Games, Alltech, the title sponsor of the National Horse Show is also the title sponsor of the Alltech World Equestrian Games which will take place next year September 24-October 7 in Normandy France. For sure some of the competitors who competed throughout the week will undoubtedly be representing our nation at next year's Alltech World Equestrian Games.
Yet Alltech’s involvement didn't end there. In fact what this company's staff did was a template that other sponsors should follow. Alltech took a strong role in ensuring the ANHS received the exposure it deserved. With the leadership of Alltech’s founder and president, Dr. Pearse Lyons, they took on the role of reaching out to the local community through contests and events that were geared towards Kentuckians. They called it the Kentucky Gathering and the theme was to celebrate the traditions in the Bluegrass state: horses, brews and bourbons, southern foods and Bluegrass music.
The line-up of events included:
- A free Halloween trick-or-treat on Oct. 31, which resulted in an attendance of 4,800
- Nov. 1-2 was focused on showcasing craft breweries, Kentucky Bourbon Trail® bourbons and local foods and was coined Savor Kentucky. There was also a kid's corner on the concourse which included such things as pony rides, face painting and educational exhibits.
- Barn Night was showcased on Nov. 1 and Alltech used an old fashion method to increase attendance by delivering “barn buckets” to local barns filled with goodies and free tickets to the show. In addition any kids that registered got free admission, were entered in prize drawings and one equestrian facility was awarded a golf cart and one Barn Night participant won a trip for four to the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ 2014 in Normandy. Plus winners had a photo op in the arena with some of the top riders. (Talk about smart marketing!)
- Alltech also took the lead in the ANHS Media Partnership program – the end result was increased coverage.
- Finally Alltech joined forces with the Lexington Herald-Leader on a name the ANHS mascot contest by asking local kids to write a story and suggest a name for the mascot. This was a huge success with 600 kids responding. Now the mascot is called “Tucky.”
And there was more that Alltech did all geared towards ensuring the success and visibility of this championship show.
HERITAGE FARM, INC.
New York, NY
East Aurora, NY
SAN REMO VDL
New York, NY
BACK COUNTRY FARM
HERITAGE FARM, INC.
Palm City, FL
CO CO POP