With the “Surprising” Dominion, Shelly Frances Nabs Wins in Both Prix St. Georges and Intermediaire I at Winter Equestrian Festival Zada Dressage

When Shelly Francis and Pat Stempel went horse hunting in Europe four years ago, it was to find Francis a new horse. What they found was Dominion and when Francis tried him out, she said to Stempel, “This isn’t the horse for me but he’d be wonderful for you.” Francis felt he was the perfect horse for an adult amateur, but not for a competitive rider aiming for the international levels. At this weekend’s Winter Equestrian Festival Zada Dressage, Dominion once again proved that he is a CDI horse winning both the CDI Prix St. Georges and Intermediaire I.

“I’m an amateur rider and Shelly thought Dominion was just really, really quiet,” said Stempel, who owns Dominion. She bought him without even getting on as she hadn’t taken riding clothes with her on that European trip. “I had on leather pants and there was no way I was going to swing my leg over. So I decided to buy him and I thought I’d bring him home and if I didn’t like him, I could sell him.”

Stempel left the Hanoverian gelding by Donnerschvee in the hands of Francis for training. “And before you know it, Shelly is calling me and said, ‘You know, this horse has more of an engine than I thought.’ And the more she trained him, the more that engine came out. It just gives me chills now to see him.” Hence, Dominion no longer seemed the quiet adult amateur horse but a super horse. Stempel then made the decision to have Francis keep the ride “just to see how far he could go.”

Both Stempel and Francis figure the nine-year-old, 17.1-hand Dominion is going all the way to Grand Prix. “We’re getting him finished to Grand Prix and he’ll probably start competing Grand Prix in six months to a year. I think he’ll be a very competitive Grand Prix horse,” Francis said. Francis, who trains in Europe with Johan Hinnemann has competed on the US team in the 1998 World Equestrian Games with Pikant. Stempel said that Dominion has been “one surprise after another. It’s just been wonderful. He has the most wonderful demeanor. He’s just very, very special.” 

Dominion wasn’t the only horse the two bought during that trip to Europe years ago. They also purchased Wig Wam, an Oldenburg gelding that is now eight and really just started his FEI career this year. “That’s the one we originally picked out for me. He’ll be a Grand Prix horse for sure. He’s already doing the movements but he needs a couple more years before he can actually show at that level,” Francis said.

“Wig Wam was a little bit younger and we just feel in love with him. I told Shelly that she needs a horse that when she goes into the arena will have presence and that will get people’s attention. We thought that Wig Wam had it but I think Dominion really has it too,” Stempel said.