Gifted and Keen were the first two horses to be inducted into the Roemer Foundation/USDF Hall of Fame. They were inducted in 1997.
Gifted, 1980-1997, a 17.1 hand Hanoverian ridden by Carol Lavell, rose through the levels earning 5 USDF titles from second level through Grand Prix. He competed at two World Cups, and won team bronze medals at both the ‘92 Olympics and the ‘94 World Games.
Carol Lavell purchased Gifted in 1984 as an untrained four-year-old from a German horse dealer. Within three years, the enormous bay Hanoverian gelding (Garibaldi II out of Lola by Lornbard) was named USDF Horse of the Year at Fourth Level and Prix St. Georges. In 1988, Gifted was named USDF Horse of the Year at Intermediate I.
The following year, Lavell brought Gifted out at Grand Prix and the pair made their debut on the European dressage circuit. Shortly after completing his tour, Gifted won an individual gold medal at the North American Dressage Championships in Canada.
In 1990, Gifted placed eleventh at the World Championships, and in 1991 he was USDF Horse of the Year at Grand Prix. Lavell and Gifted were the first Americans to win the Grand Prix at the Hermes International Dressage Show in Goodwood, England. At the 1992 Volvo Dressage World Cup Final, Gifted was fourth.
One of the undisputed highlights of Gifted’s dressage career came at the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games, where he and Lavell placed sixth individually and clinched the team bronze medal, breaking a twelve-year dry spell for the U.S. Olympic dressage squad. Two years later, at the 1994 World Equestrian Games in The Hague, Gifted helped the U.S. team bring home another bronze medal.
Described as noble, light on his feet, and a dressage hero, Gifted put the U.S. firmly back on Europe’s radar as a serious dressage competitor and piaffed his way into America’s heart.
In a 1997 Dressage & CT “Salute” to her legendary partner, who died in January of 1997, Lavell described Gifted as “a volunteer, with a cooperative spirit that keeps on giving.”
Keen, 1966-1989, a 17.2 H Thoroughbred, trained by Hilda Gurney, dominated U.S. dressage in the mid-1970’s. He earned 5 USDF FEI level titles, Gold and Silver medals at two Pan Am Games, Bronze team medal at the ‘76 Olympics, and competed at age 19 at the ‘84 Olympics.
Purchased by California dressage pioneer Hilda Gurney for $1,000 from a Thoroughbred breeder in 1969 at the age of three, the gelding Keen (Money Broker – Mabel Victory) embarked on a new career: dressage. Saved from being traded for cattle (he had been laughed off the racetrack because of his large size), Keen started his training.
The chestnut gelding swiftly worked his way through the levels, dominating the U.S. dressage scene in the mid-1970s. He captured the USDF Horse of the Year title at the International levels in 1974, 1976, 1977, and 1978; and in 1979 he earned the titles at both Grand Prix and Intermediate II.
At the 1975 Pan American Games in Mexico City, Keen and Gurney won individual silver and team gold medals. At the Montreal Olympic Games in 1976, a historic moment in American dressage, the pair placed fourth individually and helped bring home the team bronze, the first U.S. Olympic medal in dressage since 1948.
Keen went on to place fourth in the Grand Prix Special in Aachen, Germany, in 1978 and seventh at the World Championships at Goodwood, England. When he and Gurney won both the Grand Prix and the Intermediate II at Dressage at Devon (PA) in 1979, Keen was largely undefeated in the U.S. That same year, at the Pan American Games, Keen won team and individual gold, with all five judges placing him first.
At the age of eighteen, at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, Keen placed fourteenth individually. At nineteen, he was second at the FEI North American Championships and won the West Coast Olympic Selection Trials. In 1985, the gelding won the U.S. Equestrian Team National Championships for the sixth time.
Gurney made a practice of stopping and giving dressage demonstrations with Keen during her frequent coast-to-coast road trips to train and compete. A true ambassador for dressage, Keen introduced dressage to many, promoted the sport, and made a major contribution to the growth of dressage in the United States.