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Posted by Equestrian Australia on 03/04/2024.

'Hollands Bend Francis' - A Champion's Story

Dressage and Jumping with the Stars has been a highlight on the Australian performance horse calendar for more than two decades.  The concept has expanded from the event’s roots in Dressage to include young jumping horses, eventers and ponies in a spectacular that recognises the breeding, early training, great rideability and aptitude to train on, in age groups from 4 to 6 or 7, depending on the discipline.

Equestrian Victoria hosted the 2024 event from 21-24 March, and Werribee Park looked a picture bathed in glorious Autumn sunshine that made for a perfect four days. Sincere thanks and congratulations to the DJWTS Event Team, it is clear that they worked well together to deliver an international quality event, greatly helped by the continued support of the main name sponsor Performance Sales International (PSI), who lent expertise in many ways that contributed to success. 

The standard of all competitors was outstanding and connections were acknowledged for the work that went into the preparation and presentation of their horses and ponies, congratulations to the winners of each age group in all disciplines.

Australia welcomed international guest riding judges Felix and Lena Hassmann.  Felix officiated in the classes for young Jumping horses and Lena was part of the judging panel and the guest riding judge to decide the Young Dressage Horse Champion of Champions.  The winners of the 4, 5, 6 and 7-year-old classes came together late afternoon Saturday when Lena rode the class winners and gave her opinion of each horse as she handed back to the regular riders.  Lena named her overall champion Hollands Bend Francis (by Franklin from Rasta by Stedinger), explaining the basis of her decision to the horse’s connections and spectators.

Equestrian Australia spoke with Elliot Patterson, the rider and trainer of the Champion of Champions for Young Dressage Horses and he told us about this horse and the work that has gone into their win.

Elliot said, “This win with Francis has been a rewarding step in a long journey for me as a professional in the sport and confirms the successful strategies that I have adopted in the training of young horses that are destined for a bright future in the sport.  I have been involved with horses for most of my life and since leaving school I have focused on Dressage.   

“For the past 15 years, I have run a training and sales business known as the Pines Performance Centre in Queensland, with my fiancé Alexis Hellyer. Alexis and I have had many successes both at home and internationally, training and competing on a variety of horses. Special highlights have been Alexis representing Australia at the 2018 World Equestrian Games, and for me, riding the back-to-back Champion of Champions (Elliot rode Selected at the 2023 event) at the Australian Young Horse Championships, this success has rewarded the hours of training and preparation that goes into a winning performance. International success is very special, so winning the Grand Prix at the 2022 Kranichsteiner Summer Festival on Emma and Paul Weel’s ‘Santiago’ was a career highlight.

“I cannot speak of my success without acknowledging the people who have influenced my career. Firstly, my greatest supporter and source of encouragement has been my mum, Angie.  I would not be where I am today without her efforts in carting me around to horse shows when I was a kid. I am very grateful to my parents for allowing me to participate, we spent many happy hours together with horses and this has been valuable grounding for a career in the sport.

“I have many people to thank for my development as a rider. Tor Van den Berge was probably why I kept riding after school as he showed me there was a pathway as a professional in the horse industry. Two very influential people in my riding and training philosophy (apart from Alexis, of course) would be Tessa Frank, a very good friend of ours now and a highly successful young horse rider from Germany and Matthew Dowsley. Both Matthew and Tessa have taught myself and Alexis a clear system of training that follows the German training scale. 

“In the day-to-day work with horses, my greatest influence is Alexis, as we work closely supporting each other. She is the eyes on the ground and my sounding board, we talk about the special requirements for each horse in our barn and work as a team to bring out their best. 

Francis is a funny character, there wasn’t a plan other than to see if we could get him to Dressage with the Stars. Following his breaking in, I started riding Francis but was not too sure what sort of horse he would become.  In the beginning, there were legs flying everywhere and he lacked confidence in his ability to remain balanced and this scared him a lot. Knowing him as I do, I recognise that when I teach him something new, I have to be clear and give him lots of time to process the lessons as nothing comes quickly. This patient and progressive style of training has allowed Francis to trust me and gain confidence in his ability.”

Equestrian Australia was able to catch the Champion of Champions round and commends all finalists, as the standard was exceptional.  Guest rider Lena Hassmann mounted each horse following a warm up by the regular rider.  The 4-year-old class winner, Hollands Bend Francis was first to go in the final round. This young horse gave Lena a lovely soft, attentive ride and worked to perfection, making the most of opportunities to show his expressive movement.  When Lena dismounted and handed back to Elliot, she said, “I am lost for words, amazing horse! We don’t feel such a horse so often, it was a pleasure to ride such a horse.” 

Elliot added, “In terms of the horse’s future, Samantha would like to see how he goes coming into his 5-year-old year and ideally, she would like to ride him as her 3rd competition horse.

For me, the goal is looking to find more work/life balance. Alexis and I have both ridden overseas and had great experiences, however, we love being home. We remain open-minded and if opportunities to compete or train internationally arise, then we would like to consider these as part of our personal development.  I am focused on training to produce horses in a correct manner that allows each horse to be the best that their ability allows.  My own and Alexis’ goals coincide with ambitions to represent Australia at the World Championships or Olympics, and if this happens, it would be the icing on the cake.

“I would like to thank the D&JWTS team for another wonderful show and Equestrian Australia for allowing me to share with members and friends the story of Hollands Bends Francis’ great result in the Australian Young Dressage Horse Championships at D&JWTS.   Alexis and I wish the breeders, owners and riders of equine stars of the future, all the best in their training and preparation for the 2025 event.”  

For 2024 PSI Dressage and Jumping with the Stars results visit:

Photography by Berni Saunders.

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