Mar 24, 2023

Keane’s First FEI Win Propels the Veterinarian to Capital Square USEA Adult Amateur of the Year Title

By Jonathan Horowitz - USEA Staff
Kevin Keane and Sportsfield Candy. Photo Lindsay Berreth courtesy of Chronicle of the Horse

Being spontaneous has paid off for Kevin Keane and Sportsfield Candy.

“I bought him on a Wednesday and showed him on a Thursday,” Keane recalls about his first event with his Irish Sport Horse gelding, then 9 years old, at Plantation Field Horse Trials (Unionville, Pennsylvania) in September 2016. “I owned him for part of a day, and the next morning I showed up at a CCI and jogged him up for a two-star, and we went clean and clean and clean.”

They jumped clear and finished 14th of 55 in the CIC* (now CCI2*-S). Keane and “Candy” then won their first event at the Pine Top Advanced H.T. (Thomson, Georgia) at Intermediate in February 2018. That was their lone blue ribbon together until November 2022 when they won the CCI2*-L at the Tryon International 3-Day Event (Mill Spring, North Carolina) as part of a large field of 54. It was Keane’s first FEI victory, and it ultimately earned him the title of Capital Square USEA Adult Amateur of the Year on the USEA Leaderboard for 2022.

However, the decision to enter at Tryon was spontaneous and wasn’t initially on Keane’s show schedule for last year. They initially planned to wrap up their 2022 campaign at the CCI2*-S at the Morven Park Fall International (Leesburg, Virginia). However, things didn’t go to plan.

“He basically went solidly, except I made a mistake in the show jumping and cut a corner,” Keane said. “I thought I could prevail and be in the top-three, and that ended up not happening.”

Keane and Candy were 15th, still a solid result in a field of 43. However, Keane said he didn’t want to “throw the towel in” and finish the season on that note.

“I called my coach, Phillip Dutton, who’s also like my best friend, which is very convenient, and I said, ‘Phillip, I’m really just disappointed. I cut this corner on the show jumping and ended up not being in the top-three there. I’m going to do another one and stretch the year out and go to Tryon,’” he recalled.

At Tryon, Keane and Candy went double clear on cross-country and in show jumping to finish on their dressage score of 25.7, their lowest finishing score in more than three years.

“[Morven] didn’t go to plan, so we rerouted and finished the year, and it was really fun to get a win,” Keane said. “So many of my friends were there, who were as equally happy for me as I was for my horse.”

Kevin Keane and Sportsfield Candy. Lindsay Berreth photo

When Keane’s not being a successful eventer himself, he’s helping other event horses and their riders succeed in his role as a veterinarian based in southern Chester County, Pennsylvania, where he runs Sports Medicine Associates of Chester County. Keane’s expertise is diagnosing and managing musculoskeletal injuries in racehorses and sport horses, including many upper-level event horses.

“My clinic, I call it a tenth of a mile from Phillip [Dutton], but it’s actually less than that because we’re just across a country road, which is where I keep my horses,” he said. “I live about two miles from there. I’m about a mile and a half from Boyd Martin, about half a mile from Erin Sylvester,” and he proceeds to list more “people that form a combination of highly respected eventing colleagues, good friends, and most of them are clients.”

“What has happened with me as an event rider is that it has made me a much more astute veterinarian to understand the client’s description of their concern,” Keane said.

Frequently, clients become competitors—in the friendliest sense of the word—and after finishing second to Boyd Martin in the CCI3*-S at Bromont (Quebec, Canada) in June 2019 for his highest placing in an FEI event before Tryon, it was Martin whom he defeated to win the CCI2*-L at Tryon.

Kevin Keane and Sportsfield Candy. Lindsay Berreth photo

Back in March 2018, one month after the previous blue ribbon Keane and Candy earned, he suffered open fractures of his tibia and fibula while working with a young horse. That kept Keane out of competition for almost a year.

Earning the title of Capital Square USEA Adult Amateur of the Year returns him to the achievement he also had in 2011 and 2012. That was when Keane was campaigning another bay Irish Sport Horse gelding, Fernhill Flutter, who took him all the way up to the four-star (now five-star) level, finishing in the top-half of the field at the 2014 Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event.

Keane said he looks to continue to perfect his craft as a rider and as a vet.

“The next thing I want to do is to be able to do it in the best position, form, and style,” he said about eventing. As a veterinarian, Keane said, “After all this time, I still absolutely love my job, and I am anxious to get to work in the morning, which I feel very fortunate about. I’m a lucky guy.”

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