Interview with Lillie Keenan

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Lillie Keenan has been one to watch since the pony days, and her intense focus and dedication has not waned. Commuting from Harvard to Europe and around the world for horse shows, she is a model of how hard work and organization pay off. Lillie has been competing with top horses throughout her career, but this year took the reins aboard Fibonacci (Meredith Michaels Beerbaum’s Olympic mount). She spoke with UEA about the unique pressures she faces and how she maintains excellence in multiple domains.  


Upper Echelon Academy: How did you choose Harvard? In which ways have they been accommodating to your equestrian dedications?

Lillie: As a high school junior, I visited a variety of colleges, some I liked and some I could not envision myself attending. Harvard, however, was the only school that upon my visit, I felt at home.  At Harvard I am an undergraduate student, and my academics are my priority. It is my responsibility to organize my classes and work around my training and competitions, but the school is very supportive of their students extra curricular pursuits.

Upper Echelon Academy: What has been for you the biggest challenge in balancing the sport with academics? Which tips have you picked up over the last four years to overcome this difficulty?

Lillie: I have learned to find balance since I began middle school, but entering college added new challenges. As a rising junior, I am still learning but I have found that planning ahead is critical. I introduce myself to all of my professors before the semester and make sure there is clear communication before classes even start. I plan ahead for all of my assignments, and when it is possible I complete them ahead of time.  But I am still developing these management skills!

Upper Echelon Academy: Did you consider taking a year off before University? What about time to study abroad?
Lillie: I never strongly considered taking a year off before starting University because it never felt like the right choice for me. I do, however, strongly consider taking a semester abroad to study while I train and compete in Europe.

Upper Echelon Academy: Knowing what you know now, if you were to start college in the fall all over again, would you do it differently? Is there any advice you can give young riders beginning their University life?

Lillie: If I was starting over, I think I would start college in the same way. Like all freshmen, I was very nervous entering University, but I made sure I took time to get involved in student life. I would advise young riders entering college to make sure they allow themselves to enjoy school: attend the orientation events, get your class choices ahead of time, reach out to professors, and bring shower shoes! There is never a day that goes by at school that I don’t wish I was riding, but I am glad I have balance in my life.

Upper Echelon Academy: You recently acquired the acclaimed mount Fibonacci, and this is a partnership we are all thrilled to watch develop. In only a few weeks you have already taken top placings at impressive competitions. Did you feel a lot of pressure when you took the reins on a well known horse? How did you manage your own–and other people’s–expectations?

Lillie: I am very lucky to have purchased Fibonacci and to have the opportunity to ride this talented horse. I am focusing on learning as much as I can from Nacho, rather than trying to produce specific results before we have even developed a partnership. I had prepared myself for the attention and pressure that came along with taking over the reins of such a famous horse. Meredith produced the horse, and Lillie learned from it.

Upper Echelon Academy: I understand that fitness has been an integral aspect of your lifestyle for years. How has working out and making healthy choices helped as you travel around the world and jump in and out of classrooms, airplanes, and arenas?

Lillie: I treat my horses as five star athletes, so I believe it is only correct to expect the same from myself. It helps with my stamina and recovery.