Shelly Francis Gets Ready to Travel to Europe for Final USA Dressage Olympic Team Qualification

Written by Betsy LaBelle - In Dressage - Friday, April 22, 2016

The 2014 Awards Ceremony at Aachen - Shelly Francis and Danilo Photo: Shannon Brinkman

Having applied her long-term strategies and techniques for high scores at this year’s Adequan Global Dressage Festival series and the 2016 Nations Cup for a USA Dressage Team win, Shelly Francis is currently on the U.S. Dressage Ranking List with Doktor and with Danilo on the 2016 Olympic Games USA Dressage List of Candidates.

With 15 years’ experience of skillfully training her horses to international successes, she shared this about her overall training technique, “You have to have a certain amount of basics in horsemanship, biomechanics understanding and communication skills to make it to the top. It really does take years of experience to figure out the pieces of the puzzle to make a horse eager and willing to fight for you in the ring. It’s not a sport you can count only physical; it’s extraordinarily intellectual, too.”

As one of the six riders who will be vying for a spot on the U.S. Team at the upcoming Rio 2016 summer Olympics in August, Shelly prepares for her overseas trip to compete in the three European Observation Events to qualify for the Olympic USA Dressage Team. The trio of pre-qualification competitions include the Compiegne (FRA) CDIO5*/3* May 19-22, 2016 (“I haven’t been to Compiegne, so I’m looking forward to that one”), Roosendaal (NED) CDI5* June 1-5, 2016 (“Roosendaal is less than two weeks after Compiegne. It’s a 5* Grand Prix. I’ll have to see which horse to put in that one because the time between competitions is so short. The FEI will only allow one horse to take part in a 5*, I would like to put the second horse in the 3* during the same competition”), and Rotterdam (NED) CDIO5*/3* June 22-26, 2016 (“Rotterdam will be the final and I’ve been to Rotterdam four times now and it’s a nice show. It’s in a park and it’s a CDIO 5* Nations Cup competition with a 3* competition for the second horse”). Rotterdam is the only competition listed as mandatory by the USEF for the riders.  

The training home base for the group of riders contending for the four Olympic Dressage USA Team slots will be taking their horses to the Studfarm de Begijnhoev in Retie, Belgium. “It’s really nice of the owners to accommodate us.” Shelly will be leaving from Miami Airport on April 27th and arriving in Belgium late in the evening of the 28th. She will be traveling with fellow competitor Kasey Perry-Glass through the Dutta Corp. international horse transport. Studfarm de Begijnhoev is the same facility at which riders stayed in 2014 when they prepared for that year’s World Equestrian Games. “It’s a beautiful, state-of-the-art farm with beautiful paddocks and wonderful riding rings and stalls,” declares Shelly.” It’s an absolutely lovely facility.”

Shelly’s Three Horses Traveling to Europe

With Doktor, a 13-year-old gelding (Diamond Hit x Gurena) Shelly said, “Doktor is my special little wind-up toy, piaffe and passage machine. He’s really come into his prime now in the Grand Prix.”

Danilo, a 12-year-old gelding (De Niro x Annabelle) on the squad in the seventh position, Shelly said, “Danilo is a good year behind Doktor in his actual development to be in his full prime in the international Grand Prix ring. He’s still developing and getting better and better.Shelly Francis and Danilo owned by Patricia Stempel Photo: Dressage Headlines

He’s super talented and very promising.”

Rubinio, a 10-year-old gelding (Roh Magic x Patrizia) that has also been trained by Shelly herself up to the Grand Prix continues to need focused training for the international Grand Prix ring. “Rubinio is my small tour horse schooling the Grand Prix.” She explained, “My intent is to keep training him for future championships. He’s had to stay home the last three summers and I can’t do that to him anymore. He’s just turned ten. Maybe we might show in the small tour at several competitions in Europe. My biggest concern is that he keeps training up the levels. He’s not ready to show in the big Grand Prix ring yet. Hopefully, he will be by next winter season in Florida. In the meantime, I’m hoping to take him to a show as a non-compete just to let him gain confidence at the European shows because they all have quite a lot of atmosphere. And, I’d love to ride him in the small tour (PSG/Intermediaire) classes in Aachen in July. We’ll have to see if that will happen.”

“I’m looking forward to being able to concentrate only on just my horses and working on each one in preparation to be chosen for Rio. I’ll be busy with the three horses and taking some good walks myself to concentrate on each horse and the training. I’m really looking forward to the group over there. It’s a group of really nice people."

She said, "I’m most grateful, though, to my owner, Patricia Stempel, also the Dutta Corp., USEF, USET and all those who are helping me along the way.”

Contending Participants and Olympic Games Dressage Agenda2016 Stillpoint Farms CDIO Nations Cup in Wellington, Florida - L - R Arlene "Tuny" Page, Kasey Perry-Glass, Laura Graves, Shelly Francis

The six Olympic USA Team candidates include Laura Graves and her Verdades, Steffen Peters with Legolas 92 and Rosamunde owned by Four Winds Farm, Kasey Perry-Glass and Diane Perry’s Goerklingaards Dublet, Allison Brock and Fritz and Claudine Kundrun’s Rosevelt, Shelly Francis with Patricia Stempel’s Doktor and Danilo, and Arlene “Tuny” Page and her Woodstock.

Final team selections will take place on July 1st after completion of the European Observation Event competitions. The Olympic Games schedule for Dressage includes horse inspections on August 8th, the Grand Prix test August 10th to 11th, the Grand Prix Special on August 12th and the Grand Prix Freestyle on August 15th.

2015 Triumphs and Early 2016 Scores

In 2015, Shelly spent time at the Theodorescu family farm near Warendorf, Germany to further prepare for the year’s competitions. Her most notable results in Europe last year were in Aachen with Doktor when they placed sixth in the Grand Prix 5* scoring 70.600% and earned a 73.350% in the FEI Grand Prix Freestyle. In Rotterdam, Shelly and Doktor earned a 70.078% in the CDIO 5*, a bronze medal for Team USA and a 74.100% in the FEI Grand Prix Freestyle.Shelly Francis and Danilo Photo: Dressage Headlines

This year, Shelly and her horses scored well at the 12-week 2016 AGDF in Wellington. In week #3, she and Doktor placed 6th with a 72.100% (the highest score was a 72.860%) and Danilo scored 68.760%. That Friday evening in the Freestyle, Doktor placed 3rd by scoring 73.400% and Saturday Danilo placed 3rd in the Grand Prix Special scoring 71.980%. During week #6 in the 3* FEI Grand Prix, Danilo took second place in both the 3* FEI Grand Prix with a 72.240% and in the FEI Grand Prix Freestyle with a 74.175%. Then, in the 5* Grand Prix, Doktor placed 4th with a 71.740% and 4th again with a 76.400% in the FEI Grand Prix Freestyle.

As the Festival series proceeded, Shelly and her two horses continued to receive high scores. In week #7 with 39 entries in the 3*and 30 entries in the 5* Grand Prix, they placed second and fourth, respectively, and in the FEI Grand Prix, Danilo placed 3rd scoring 72.820%; Doktor placed 5th scoring 72.280%. In the week’s Grand Prix Freestyle, Danilo placed 7th scoring 71.850% and Doktor placed 1st with a 73.373% in the Grand Prix Special.

An exciting week #10 saw Danilo place 4th in both the FEI Grand Prix with a 72.240% and the FEI Grand Prix Freestyle with a 72.350%. Doktor placed 1st in both classes with a 70.180% and a Freestyle score of 70.569%. The Nations Cup completed the 2016 AGDF and both horses exceeded expectations with a team win for the USA Dressage Team and Danilo scoring a 74.825% in the FEI Grand Prix Freestyle.