On day 1, Francis & Easy Target (Smokey), produced a personal best & Francis described the ride as “amazing” crediting his trainer Ian Woodhead for warming the pair up and for their training over the winter. The combination was focused & relaxed and performed a stunning test which Francis described as “beyond my wildest expectations”.
Francis had been training with Ian over the winter focusing on the technical elements of his dressage riding, and this proved evident in his score. Francis commented, “I knew it was a good test, but I hadn’t actually looked at the score board until Ian pointed to it, and that’s when I realised just how good it was”.
Francis went on to lead the dressage with 36.2 until Paul Tapner just knocked him off the top spot by 0.02 penalties at the end of the first day.
The rain over the Friday night created some heavy going for the cross country, and with a technical, windy course, “accuracy”, Francis described, was crucial. He went on to describe his tactics, which were to keep Smokey “straight & true” and to be as effective and efficient as possible given the ground conditions.
Francis continued, “Smokey jumped his heart out, ears forward, he didn’t touch a fence”. On describing the ground conditions, “with every gallop stride, his hooves were sinking into the ground up to at least 3 inches deep, so much energy was expelled just through galloping, and this took its toll”.
What was becoming one of the course’s most stylish rounds, Francis then had to make a decision close to half way around the course, “Smokey threw EVERYTHING into that cross country course, but as I approached the Huntsmen’s Close, I knew he was tiring. I quickly had a decision to make, and as I came into the first log, I knew he was not in a position to jump another. My concern wasn’t that he would stop; it’s that he’s such an honest horse, he would just keep on jumping. My position in the rankings was a fantastic start to our Badminton campaign, but it wasn’t worth pushing Smoke on and risking anything. He is such an exciting horse for the future”
On being questioned about how he felt having made the decision to retire, Francis said “I made the only decision”…
Francis went on to describe how ‘hindsight is a wonderful thing’ and with it, he would have approached the course differently. “I would have approached it in a way that conserved more energy; with a view that I would have been a minute over the time… hindsight is a wonderful thing”.
On looking back at Badminton, Francis identified the riders that stood out, “without a shadow of a doubt, Izzy Taylor for making it home on both her rides, Harry Meade for his fantastic result after a horrific accident only 9 months ago & of course, Sam Griffiths”.
Francis competed in Saumur CCI*** with Hasty Imp recently and came 13th
From all the team at Saracen Horse Feeds, we are incredibly proud of Francis and his team.