WELLINGTON, Fla.--Shelly Francis rode Danilo to a personal best score of 73.979 percent to win the Grand Prix Special CDI4* on March 17 during week 10 of the Global Dressage Festival.
Francis and Danilo are ranked 42nd in the world.
“When you’re really riding and pushing a bit and trying to make everything perfect, you kind of feel it’s not your best ride because you’re sweating more than the horse,” said Francis, who is based in Loxahatchee, Fla., and was contending with a pair of stiff new riding boots. “But he did feel good; I just have to relax a little and trust him. We had a little mistake at C when he thought halt and rein-back, like in the grand prix, when I was trying to make passage. Other than that, he felt straight up.”
FRANCIS HAS been riding Patricia Stempel’s 14-year-old gelding since he was 8.
“Patricia was riding him and doing a nice job, but then she suggested I show him a bit, which was her mistake, because now he’s mine!” said Francis. “He kept getting better and better, though I did have to take it a little slow. He has a funny little edge in there that can come alive at the snap of a finger, so I’ve been trying to figure out how I can use a bit of that edge without getting too much. It’s really starting to come together this year. He used to get nervous in the ring about being by himself, but now he’s starting to enjoy it and he feels happier.”
Francis partially attributes Danilo’s improved performances to his well-rounded regime, which includes a broad variety of work, such as hacking and playing games.
“I get them fit enough, and then I don’t work them all the time, because I feel they get mentally bored,” said Francis, who does not have a regular trainer. “I train with myself mostly, which works pretty good so far. Once in a while I have to kick myself around, but I’m a visual learner and I watch all the top riders. I’m a bit of an odd biscuit that way, but I did a lot of training in past years with great people like Johann Hinnemann, and now I have my own methods of training. I’m 59, not 20 any more, so I train my horses from all the things I’ve learned.”
On April 1, Francis will make the journey over to Europe with her two top horses, Danilo and Doktor. She will be based in Warendorf, Germany for the summer, her sixth consecutive summer in Europe.
“I have good friends there, I love that little town and area, and I get my own nice little apartment so I can do all my own cooking and not gain weight, like when living in hotels,” she said. “This year, Danilo gets to do the World Cup Final in Paris, which I’m really excited about. I’ve never been to Paris, so I’ll get perfume, croissants, brie, pate and some really good wine.”
The winner of the grand prix, Canada’s Brittany Fraser on All In, had to settle for second in the Special, while her fellow Canadian Jill Irving was third on Degas 12, who is by De Niro, the same sire as Danilo.