Wellington, Fla.—Jan. 11-13
Shelly Francis got the Adequan® Global Dressage Festival off to a good start as she logged wins in the Grand Prix for the Special and the Grand Prix Special with Doktor and placing second in the Grand Prix freestyle with Danilo.
Aboard Doktor—Patricia Stempel’s seasoned 15-year-old Diamond Hit gelding—Francis added the MTICA Farm-sponsored FEI Grand Prix Special CDI*** to her Grand Prix title from two days previously. The pair scored 70.40 percent despite being penalized for an error of course.
“Everybody says I’m just getting old, but I used to go off course when I was young too,” said the 59-year-old. “I had a few bobbles in my rides, which you don’t want, but I feel I’m coming out a little stronger than last year.”
Doktor has made huge progress since Francis found him as a spooky 5-year-old: “He was very nervous if you moved on him,” she said. “He had this fear-running thing, and it took me a long time to be able to wear a tailcoat. I try not to let him get afraid; for example I put ear plugs in for the awards, and today he was OK. But in the tests he’s really focused.”
Francis’ major aims for the year include the FEI World Equestrian Games in Tryon, North Carolina, and World Cup classes with Doktor and Danilo. She has been on a health kick to boost her performance.
“I lost 40 pounds of weight in five months and I think the whole picture probably looks a lot nicer,” added the 5’2” rider. “I feel I can sit better, too. It’s the second time I’ve lost weight; I’m one of those women who can swell and shrink.”
Francis finished 1.68 percent clear of second-placed Jill Irving of Canada and her Jazz gelding Arthur, with the USA’s Megan Gardner (Zaffier) filling third.
Blue in the Grand Prix freestyle with a show-stopping performance went to Tinne Vilhelmson Silfvén of Sweden on Lövsta Stuteri’s Paridon Magi. The Swedish warmblood Paridon Magi had never scored over 79 percent before, so his winning 81.15 percent represented a huge new record for the 15-year-old gelding by Don Primero.
“It’s really nice to be back here again,” said Vilhelmson Silfvén, who rode to a Queen medley by Cees Slings. “I like to start the season like this—and then keep going like this; that would be nice.
“I’m extremely happy,” added the seven-time Olympian, who is enjoying her eighth consecutive winter season in Wellington. “This is the perfect place to compete, with all the different details for the horses worked out.”
Francis filled the runner-up spot on Patricia Stempel’s 14-year-old Hanoverian gelding Danilo (77.72%). It was the first time the pair had performed under lights.
“He was a bit edgy as it was at night and he got hot, so there were little mistakes, but it was really fun and I could actually smile while riding. He keeps getting better; he’s nice and fit; a little more tuned up,” added Francis, who rode to a compilation of music put together by Marlene Whitaker.
The 20-year-old Spaniard Juan Matute Guimon filled third after a rousing performance on his father’s 12-year-old Quantico Ymas, whom he has been riding since the horse was 7. His expressive test included one-handed pirouettes that earned whistles from the appreciative crowd, and 75.27 percent from the judges.
“I felt like a gladiator out there! It was a challenging ride, but I earned all my points,” said Matute, who rode to music made by his mother and a floorplan designed by his father.