Shelly Francis On Danilo “Stepping Into Prime” to Claim Aachen Double Victory

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Shelly Francis on Danilo in the awards ceremony at Aachen Dressage Days © 2018 DigiShots

May 31, 2018


Fresh from a double victory at the Aachen, Germany Dressage Days CDI3* for the first Big Tour wins in two decades of competing in Europe, Shelly Francis said she feels the 14-year-old Danilo is “stepping into his prime now” as the American pair seek to be on The Dutta Corp. team for the World Equestrian Games.

Shelly at 59 years of age is in Europe competing along with a group of other Americans for a place on the WEG squad at Tryon, North Carolina in September that, if successful, would come 20 years after she last rode in a world championship team event, at Rome in 1998.

Shelly is based in White Fences, a sprawling equestrian preserve in Loxahatchee, Florida, adjacent to Wellington where she competes horses, including Doktor, her other Grand Prix mount, owned by Patricia Stempel at the winter-long Adequan Global Dressage Festival. Among her neighbors are Lars Petersen, a star rider for Denmark who now competes under the U.S. flag, and Heather Blitz, reserve for the U.S. team at the 2012 Olympics.

She competed Danilo at Small Tour on both sides of the Atlantic in 2013, moving up to Grand Prix the following year. The pair were on the U.S. Nations Cup teams in Florida in 2015 and at Compiègne, France and Uggerhalne, Denmark last year.

This year has been her most successful with Danilo, placing in the top three including two first places in eight starts in Wellington CDIs.

The pair captured one of the two places reserved for America at the World Cup Final, going to Paris last month with Laura Graves on Verdades, the world No. 2 combination that beat defending champion Isabell Werth on Weihegold OLD in the Grand Prix and ended up with the silver medal behind the German superstar in the Freestyle.

Shelly Francis and Danilo at the World Cup Final in Paris in April. © 2018 Ken Braddick/

After Paris, she and Danilo had been named to the U.S. Equestrian Federation’s Elite squad of the seven top scoring horses and riders and to the European WEG tour.

Shelly stayed at her summer base in Germany at the World Cup to be, she told, “really working on Danilo to stay on my aids and for both he and I to stay focused together. He and I can be distracted at times.

“He likes for me to stay in sync with his mind, body and rhythm and then we start to flow so much better.

“I feel like I’m riding a superstar! He may be 14 this year but I feel he is stepping into his prime now. He can do all the movements super and now we are having much more confidence and consistency in the tests.”

That focus led to the wins at the Aachen Dressage Days, in the Grand Prix and the Special.

“I feel so proud of Danilo and so proud for our USA national anthem to be played for our wins! It’s a very good feeling!”

She and Danilo could find themselves back at Aachen in July–at the World Equestrian Festival that along with Rotterdam in three weeks is one of the two highlight events of the selection events for United States WEG team prospects.