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Sunday, February 3, 2013


     So it is that time of the show season where thoughts turn to freestyles.  Like most riders this gives me a moment of smiles and a sick feeling in my stomach.  We all love freestyles.  In fact, for the non-initiated they are often the only thing we can get non-dressage people to watch and appreciate.  So this is our chance to hook them in.  This is a chance to divert from the standard test and show a little personality. 

     I like to think of my freestyle as a way to show people a bit more not only of me, but of Sjapoer.  I want them to know him how I see him.  The finished test product is the end of hard work.  The finished test is only a glimpse into his attitude.  You can tell a horse has power, agility and grace in a standard test but you don’t know if he is innately outgoing, or curious, or a bit of a joker.  Freestyles are a chance to bring people into the music, the tempo of your understanding of him.

     I think one of the major ways to communicate your knowledge of your horse’s personality is through music choice.  Last year in Juniors I used a mix of Blues Brother’s tunes in the freestyle.  I did this because I wanted people to know that Sjapoer has a big sauciness in him.  He has the soul of a blues musician.  He is sensitive yet full of deep emotion.  I wanted to portray that sassiness in the music.  I also wanted people to see him as unique, like the music choice.  Finally, I wanted a powerful music that fit is powerful motion. 

     So how do you go about selecting music?  First, you have to time the beats.  I take a video of the movements I am going to be riding.  I redo it every year.  DO NOT assume the beats don’t change.  As your horse gets more collected the timing will be different!  As I watch back the video I pick one leg and count each time that one leg hits the ground in each gait (walk, trot, and canter).  Once you have the count you get to start the long search for music.  Just because you like a song or a type of music, it doesn’t mean it will fit your horses gait count.  I suggest going to your tv instead of itunes.  I know this might sound weird but on the tv there are all these ‘radio’ channels that have types of music you will NEVER listen to normally.  They have classical, blues, jazz, modern, rock and dozens of other types of channels.  Listen for a few songs and expose yourself to some new stuff.  As you listen close your eyes and ask yourself if the music reminds you of your horse or feels like riding him.  If not move on to the next new style; last year I found at least 20 new ‘old’ songs that I now love.  I discovered Etta James, Keb Mo and a bunch of great musicians.  Once you select a style it is just a matter of hours of listening to music to find something that fits the style and the gaits.

     I have got my music selections ready for my lesson Wednesday with Jeremy.  You should always get your selections ‘approved’ before moving on to the next step…just in case!  So next week I will have to let you know how it went and what he said.  We can go from there to laying out the patterns for the show.  I’ll let you know if he gives me any new hints.


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