Loxahatchee, FL – March 26, 2016 – Hailing from Houlton, Maine, Rebecca Waite made the trek down South a little over a year ago, where she began working and training with fellow Mainer, Shelly Francis. The University of Maine graduate studied Business Management, but never thought she would get the opportunity to combine her passion for horses with her degree in business. Working with the internationally successful champion, Waite is learning everything from barn management to horse training. On the opening day of Welcome Back to White Fences II, with the support of Francis and Patricia Stempel, Francis’ longtime sponsor, Waite put on her shadbelly for the first time and entered the ring for her first Prix St. Georges test.
Waite rode Firlefanz, a 17-year-old Westphalian gelding owned by Stempel, to a score of 63.816 percent. Firlefanz is no stranger to the show ring, having competed in the international Stadium at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival. The massive gelding has been training with Francis since the age of 7. In 2007 he traveled with Francis to Germany to train with Johann Hinnemann. Firlefanz has been out of the show ring for a while, so Waite had to redevelop that confidence.
“Some of the highlights were the feelings and the overall flow of it,” Waite said. “He got a little excited, but maintained his mind pretty well. He’s kind of a hot horse, despite his age. A lot of the time he gets behind the aids. We’ve been working on keeping him up and in front of the aids. He knows most of this stuff; it was just getting him good on my aids so he could go through the whole test looking light.”
Working for Francis for over a year has been a dream come true for the Pony Clubber.
“I love working with Shelly,” Waite said. “She has taught me a lot: everything from basic barn management and riding the young horses to riding the upper level horses. She just knows the nature of the horses and how they can learn best. That’s really interesting for me to learn her training methods and how she does it.”
Waite, who has been riding since the age of 7, grew up working and riding at backyard barns in Maine. She has been there and done that, trying out most disciplines. Her involvement in eventing introduced her to dressage, which has been her passion ever since.
“I have stuck with dressage and followed it wherever it has taken me,” Waite said. “I just am going to keep going with this. I have a couple horses of my own, but I don’t have anything that is down here with me. I want to keep getting more show experience and working for Shelly and see where that takes me.”
It was a big change moving from Maine to Florida, but Waite sees the change as positive and the weather as a bonus for training the horses year-round. The team at Francis’ barn puts in equal work with Francis doing the majority of the training. They work hard to create a successful and positive environment for the horses.
“We do everything,” Waite said. “Shelly has her top horses that she is working to go to Rio with; I ride four or five horses a day. Days are long, but we get a lot done, and I am continuously learning and developing as a rider and as horsewomen.”
Waite added, “This is definitely what I have been working toward my whole life. This summer I will be traveling to Europe with Shelly and the horses. I didn’t get to go to Europe last year, so this year it will be a really interesting summer.”