Sunny Star: Hannah Francis

This week I am delighted to introduce our Sunny Star, Hannah Francis. She has been one of my dear friends since sixth grade and she is such a class act. Hannah has been riding horses since she was a little girl and she has competed for many years as a talented equestrian. I think our passions, talents, and hobbies can add so much happiness to our lives and I think Hannah can attest to that regarding her experience with horses. She says, “a world without horses isn’t a sunny one!” She is currently adding UC Santa Cruz and she hopes to become a marine biologist.
Here is Hannah’s story… 
1. Can you tell us about your passion for horse back riding and how this has added to your happiness?
HF: Like many young girls I loved horses and dreamed of riding them, so when I was seven years old I told my dad I wanted to ride. Lucky for me, one of his friend’s daughters was riding and so I was introduced to the wonderful world of horseback riding, and have been at it ever since. Horseback riding is a unique sport because it isn’t a team sport, but it isn’t quite a solitary sport either. The horse and the rider are as much a team as any basketball or soccer team. When I say “we won our show” people look at me funny, but it’s true, the rider would be nothing without the horse. This connection with the horse is what makes horseback riding such an enjoyable experience for me. Whenever I am sad I know all I have to do is head out to the barn and a horse kiss makes it all better.
2. What has been your happiest moment from your horse back riding?
HF: There are two moments that tie for happiest for two very different reasons. The first is when I was out riding one of my favorite horses bareback (for those that don’t know what that is, it means “without a saddle”). I let go of the reins and let the horse gallop around the arena at full tilt. Suddenly it started pouring rain. The spiritual feeling of the warm horse moving underneath me, and yet with me and the cold rain in my face is indescribable. Moments like that where the connection between horse and rider are so strong you can’t tell where one begins and one ends is what makes me happiest and what I ride for.
The second: When I was 11, I went to a riding camp with one of the best riding instructors on the west coast, Anne Speck. When the camp was done I asked her if she thought I was good enough to compete in higher level horse shows and her short answer was “no.” I was crushed, and stopped competing altogether for two years. Then I met my current trainer, Robb, and he got me back in the saddle. The next year we were competing at the L.A. county fair, and Anne Speck had her best rider, world champion Jacqueline Beck, there competing. As fate would have it, Jacqueline and I were in the same class and I ended up beating her. That blue ribbon was so sweet, but the look on Anne’s face was even sweeter. The thrill of victory and overcoming obstacles may not be as spiritual as a bareback ride through the rain, but it is definitely an aspect of horseback riding that gives me pleasure.
3. What has been the most challenging aspect of horse back riding and how has this affected your happiness?
HF: The most challenging aspect of horseback riding is taking direction. At least in competitive horseback riding there is always a trainer yelling at me to get my shoulders back, heels down, elbows in, chin up etc. etc. But the best riders are the ones who hush up and listen! So I may not enjoy taking direction, but the blue ribbons are nice!
 4. What is your relationship with your horse like and how has this affected your happiness? 
HF: I have been close to a few different horses over the course of my riding career, but I developed a special bond with my horse Town Cat. He was a World Champion horse, but was very badly behaved. He would shy off the rail and spin for no reason. He wouldn’t flat walk, and couldn’t stand still to save his life. I had to send him to a trainer in Temecula because no one else could handle him. As a result I had to drive 2 hours every Saturday, just so I could ride, then 2 hours back home. It took a year but my trainer and I finally got him turned around. As I mentioned above, one can develop an almost spiritual connection with a horse, and after the journey Cat and I had been through, our connection was quite strong. We began getting seconds, and then firsts, and then we were first in our competitive bracket. We even had enough show points for Cat to be named a Champion. However soon after Cat was named Champion, a tragic accident happened on his way back to the barn. I was out of town so another student was working him and on the way back to the barn Cat stepped wrong and shattered 3 bones in his foot. Horses don’t recover from broken legs or feet, so they were forced to put him down. When I got the news I was devastated. Anyone who has lost an animal that was dear to them knows the feeling. It took me a long time to recover. Six months later there was an award ceremony and Cat and I placed second in our bracket even though we didn’t finish the show season.

5. What are the benefits of equestrian vs. leisurely riding and how has each affected your happiness? 

HF: In competitive riding the joy really comes from the thrill of competition and the satisfaction of coming out on top. In leisure riding its all about the rider’s connection to the horse and enjoying nature and the time together. Both have given me equal satisfaction and happiness, just different kinds.

Keep shining,  

 The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook 

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

Keep in touch!

Receive the latest updates from The Sunny Girl, straight to your inbox.


  1. My 5 Daily Gratitudes:

    1. Bowling with my sisters: We had such a great time (in our costumes!) at Pinz Bowling Alley. I was surprised by how passable my skill was—I actually won!

    2. Not being a celebrity: We saw Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers and I’m so glad that I’m not famous. People were constantly surrounding them and they had no privacy whatsoever.

    3. Being a member of the Greek System: We had a sorority-wide meeting yesterday with over a thousand girls present. I love being a part of tradition, fellowship, and membership.

    4. Heart to hearts: I love having meaningful conversations that actually matter; it’s more than just small talk.

    5. Getting dressed up: We had so much fun getting dolled up; the theme was alter ego so I went as a crazy beauty queen.

    Posted on 9.16.10 | Reply
  2. […] I’d like to especially thank Hannah Francis for being this week’s Sunny Star. To read her full story about her love of horses, you can go here. […]

    Posted on 9.18.10
  3. Tim Nolan says:

    Hannah’s response to question number 2 is epic. It is not surprising, as her character is impeccable.
    The first part of the question is very touching and vivid. You can actually relate to it and see it in a movie. It reminds you of a scene where a couple kisses in the rain. A very intimate and special moment that really brings two people even closer together.
    Hannah is very gifted when it comes to reading people and sensing underlying emotions. She can come to know and read someone’s thoughts pretty well and this is, I think, why she has been so successful with the horseback riding. [and various other life endeavors.]
    The best part is that she didn’t cave in when she had a face off with her old trainer. She used it as motivation to go out there and take it to someone. For that, I am extremely proud of her. Her dedication and loyalty will serve her well in life.

    This is a great article. Very well done!


    Posted on 10.21.10 | Reply

Leave a Comment

Click here to book!