Shelly Francis (USA) and Danilo went one better than in the grand prix to clinch the Grand Prix Special CDI4*, presented by Mission Control. She and Danilo scored 73.979%, a new personal best in this test for the pair, who are ranked 42nd in the world. Week 10 of the 2018 Adequan® Global Dressage Festival (AGDF) at Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC) in Wellington, Florida, is the largest dressage show ever held outside Western Europe. AGDF continues through March 31.
“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, Florida, 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 eight. “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!” laughed 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,” added 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 added. “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, paté and some really good wine.”
Winner of the grand prix, Canada’s Brittany Fraser (All In) had to settle for second in the Special, while her fellow Canadian Jill Irving filled third on Degas 12, who is by De Niro, the same sire as Danilo.
Megan Lane (CAN) finished fifth in the four-star special on San D’Or, but sat atop the leaderboard in the Grand Prix Special CDI3* riding her own 17-year-old Caravella to 71.617%.
It was the first win in a year for the KWPN Contango x Riverman mare, who was bred by Jill Irving. Caravella and Lane have progressed up the ranks together, starting out at under-25 grand prix in 2012, and encompassing the 2015 Pan American Games and the Rio Olympics in their extensive career accolades.
Belinda Trussell (CAN) was second on Tattoo 15, her own 15-year-old Westfalian gelding by Tuareg, with 70.34%. Third was home rider Anna Marek on Diane Morrison’s Dee Clair who, at 10 years old, was the equal youngest horse in the class. Their 69.34% was the Sir Sinclair mare’s best score sine starting international grand prix in early 2017.
Action in week 10 of the 2018 AGDF continues on Sunday with a full schedule of nine international classes, including pony, junior and young rider divisions as part of the sixth annual Florida International Youth Dressage Championships, as well as young horse and amateur classes, and the Intermediate I Freestyle CDI3*, with 15 entries. For more information and results, visit www.globaldressagefestival.com.
FEI Grand Prix Special CDI4*
1. Shelly Francis (USA) on Danilo 73.979%.
2. Brittany Fraser (CAN) on All In 70.17%.
3. Jill Irving (CAN) on Degas 12 69.106%.
4. Juan Matute Guimon (ESP) on Quantico Ymas 68.872%.
5. Megan Lane (CAN) on San D’Or 68.766%.