Olympic Dressage: The Elite Freestyle

8 August 2012

I’ve never told anyone this before.?But sometimes I turn up the volume on Totilas’s freestyle soundtrack medley of Michael Jackson’s greatest hits and dance around the office. Not so long ago, the very concept of “pop dressage” was unthinkable. Now it’s a marketable and palpable concept that may transcend the boundaries of straight-laced dressage. The musical freestyle dressage at these London Olympics could be a watershed event for dressage. The scores could go through the roof–except that the event will be held in the open air, in daylight. But the musical dressage has the possibility of high scores because of the artistic vs technical scores. An artistic but precise ride to fabulous music can possibly pull high scores. Will a new record for a high score be set? Dressage could go viral. It might not even need Ann Romney–or Stephen Colbert. http://vimeo.com/46675060

Click to go to the main blog page.

Dansez Maintenant is the title for the London 2012 freestyle created by Cees Slings for Nathalie zu Sayn Wittgenstein and Digby. Slings used a saddle cam to work on syncopation of horse and music and this video puts you in the rider’s seat.

We may have the treat of some experimental uses of music in dressage. We may watch some monumental flops where technical scores will far outweigh the artistic, and–in the eyes of many–the wrong horse may end up with a medal. But I believe that we will see “Something”. Something that looks like the future. Prediction: Charlotte DuJardin’s medley of patriotic orchestral classics woven around the theme to the 1960s Steve McQueen film The Great Escape sounds like it is fit for the Queen. It has already brought home a British-record score at Hartbury last month. Will Charlotte’s music, composed and conceived by British dressage team maestro, composer Tom Hunt, ?carry through to individual gold? Charlotte is the very last rider of the day. She’s the one everyone will be waiting for, but don’t count out Adelinde Cornelissen of The Netherlands, who rides right before her. Will Adelinde have new music or will she stick with the Nutcracker? We’ll find out!


Sweden’s Tinne Vilhelmson Silfv?n & Don Aurelio are the dark horses for a medal at London. They won the?freestyle at the CHIO Rotterdam in June and the idea of using the music from the iconic 1980s British rock opera Tommy by The Who in the middle of London at the emotional end of the Games? Nothing short of brilliant. The crowd will roar for this one. Thanks to Cees Slings for his cinematic salute to Tinne’s freestyle.

While you’re watching, think about the origin of all this. The Spanish Riding School has been delicately half-passing to the waltzes and polkas of Strauss for centuries. And remember to tip your hat to Anky van Grunsven when she enters the ring. She was the pioneer of this genre. She elevated it to an artform, whether it was her James Bond medley in the late 1990s, her dressage with a live orchestra accompaniment at Aachen, or her partnership with composer/arrangers like Cees Slings that pioneered the idea of composing for an individual horse, not for a rider. The surest sign that dressage has transcended will be if you find yourself humming something from Tommy or maybe whistling that chorus from The Great Escape after the medals have gone home to wherever they’re headed. Or maybe you’ll be out shopping for a saddle cam and a composer. Congratulations. You just might be making a wise investment in the future of dressage.

What did you think of this article?

Thank you for your feedback!