Freestyles for 2014

I am trying to decide if I can fit a freestyle into the schedule for this year.

The show season – the one where I ride, not the one where I judge, which is year-round – is starting to call to me. I have the new Carolina Omnibus, and shows here have already started. Since my mare is still in Florida, I won’t be entering anything before April, but a girl can dream.

The USDF added Training Level freestyles last year.

With a limited number of available weekends when I can show, I have to plan ahead. I really want to enter Int. 1 freestyles this year, but I may have to choose between freestyles and straight tests once I really know which shows I can enter, if I can’t fit in all my goals to qualify for year-end awards and regionals.

I also have to decide if I am going to resurrect my successful lower-level freestyle music or come up with something new – a time-consuming (and potentially expensive) prospect. In olden times, I did my own freestyles on cassettes, but professional editing makes such a difference that I always turn to good help there now.

Watching the Olympic skating last month also whetted my appetite for riding my horse to music again. I have always been interested in the music that skaters choose, since in some ways its similar to music selected for dressage freestyles. However, with horses we have greater limitations because there are only three rhythm options (walk, trot and canter for a specific horse’s gaits), while skaters can set their own rhythm. If the music doesn’t match the horse’s gaits closely, it’s disconcerting to the judge (not to mention the horse!). The ice dancers stuck very close to the rhythm and tempo of their music, of course, but the singles and pairs not so much – however, when the choreography precisely underscored a jump or spin it seemed to me the whole artistic effect was enhanced.

That’s a problem with dressage freestyle choreography, as well. Even when riders chose the right tempos for their horse, and perhaps also music with dramatic phrasing, they don’t always clearly ride to the music, more as if they are riding to the letters of the arena than listening to the music at all. They may be technically proficient, but the artistic score suffers. But, since it’s obviously harder to hit a musical “mark” at the same time the rider is correctly performing a difficult movement, the technical score goes up when that happens, a win/win for both sides of the score sheet.

While I was watching (and listening) to the skaters, I couldn’t help thinking what I might be doing with my horse if I was riding to that music: a flying change in place of a double axel, or a pirouette in place of a twirl. Okay, done with winter and time to dig out the iPod again. I also have a copy of my freestyle on CD that I play in the car. Changing lanes in time with the music is sorta like a half-pass, right?

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