Shelly Francis With Three Horses for USA Championships, Seeking Olympic Team Slot

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Shelly Francis and Danilo competing in Floridail. © Ken Braddick/
Shelly Francis and Danilo competing in Floridail. © Ken Braddick/


WELLINGTON, Florida, Oct. 22, 2015–Shelly Francis for the first time will compete three horses in the U.S. Championships presented by The Dutta Corp. that she has trained pretty much by herself to a level that makes her a contender for the American team for the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro next year.

All three horses have qualified for the Festival of Champions–Doktor ranked fifth and Danilo ranked eighth in the Grand Prix championship qualifiers and Rubinio second in the rankings at Small Tour, the two divisions of the Festival of Champions that will be staged at the Global Dressage Festival grounds in Wellington, Florida Dec. 8-12.

Both championship divisions are sponsored by The Dutta Corp. as are the overall championships though the pony, junior, young rider, Under-25 and developing classes were held separately in Chicago in mid-summer in a decision by the U.S. Equestrian Federation.

The three horses trained and competed by Shelly are owned by Patricia Stempel who also owns the training center in Loxahatchee, the rural neighbor of Wellington.

That relative isolation from the intensity of Wellington suits Shelly whose first love is training horses, but she also enjoys the results of her training.

“If it ends up getting me somewhere, on a team or close to it, it will be like little cherries on the frosting,” said Shelly, whose low-key and self-deprecating humor garners a lot of respect from her peers.

Shelly made it to the top of the sport when she rode Pikant on the U.S. team at the World Equestrian Games in Rome in 1998, but did not compete internationally again for a decade.

She rode a succession of horses at national level until returning to CDI competition with Dominion in 2009 and five years later she was competing internationally three horses at premier shows on both sides of the Atlantic.

Shelly began the Big Tour career with Doktor, a 12-year-old Oldenburg gelding, (Diamond Hit x Renoir I) in early 2013 and has since been on several American Nations Cup teams in the U.S. and Europe.

Shelly Francis and Doktor at Aachen, Germany. © 2015 Ken Braddick/
Shelly Francis and Doktor at Aachen, Germany. © 2015 Ken Braddick/

Danilo. a Hanoverian (De Niro x Andiamo), is a year younger and a striking black gelding that commands attention of judges and spectators and is described by Shelly as “super talented.” Although physically ready for the Grand Prix she held Danilo back from going to Europe in 2014 so he would not be “fried” mentally, a decision that appears to have paid off as she develops him for the Grand Prix.

Rubinio. a nine-year-old Westfalen gelding (Roh Magic x Philipo), is second on the championship rankings but will likely go in as No. 1 as Sabine Schut-Kery who is at the top with Sanceo told she is moving up to Grand Prix after riding on the gold medal American team at the Pan American Games over the summer.

Throughout her career, Shelly has worked with some of the top trainers such as Johan Hinnemann and acknowledges their help. She currently gets help on the ground occasionally from Cherri Reiber, a long-time competitor and trainer who is known for long lining.

But she prefers to train alone.

“I’ve had to be on my own most of the time because I could never afford to have the training,” she told

“I love training horses. I use my own head.

“I am 56 years old. I’ve been doing this a long time.”

She did, however, stable this summer at the German training center of Monica Theodorscu, a multi-Olympic gold medalist and coach of the German team. Monica was busy but Shelly said she enjoyed being around horses being trained at the highest level.

After the national championships, Shelly will compete in at least two World Cup qualifiers and other CDIs in the Global Dressage Festival lineup of seven international events over the winter.

The goal is to fill one of the two spots reserved for North America at the World Cup Final in Gothenburg, Sweden at the end of March or to make the group of elite combinations from which the four horses and riders will be selected for the Olympic team.

This report was prepared by and presented by Cunningham & Cunningham Livestock insurance.