How To Dance With Your Horse

It has been a while since Ike and I have offered up a “How To” blog.  We’ve tackled the subjects of assembling a double bridle and taking holiday photos, so it seems appropriate that we provide some advice on the subject of creating a musical freestyle.  If you recall, we discussed freestyles two years ago…and that was as far as it went.  But now we have a freestyle for next season, so I thought I’d show you how “easy” it is.

  1. Watch Andreas Helgstrand ride Blue Hors Matine at the 2006 WEG freestyle finals:
  2. Watch Juan Manuel Munoz Diaz ride Fuego XII at the 2010 WEG freestyle finals:
  3. Go to bed and dream of riding a musical freestyle with your horse.
  4. Wake up and daydream of riding a musical freestyle with your horse.
  5. Attend a Dance with your Horse clinic with Michael Matson ( ) and receive a CD of walk, trot, and canter music. We did in March 2013.
  6. Download free music editing software believing that you can edit your music and choreograph a freestyle routine.
  7. Curse at the computer when you realize the “free” software also downloaded “free” advertisements.
  8. Curse at the computer some more as you try to delete the “free” advertisements.
  9. Open music editing software and stare blankly at the computer screen. Heads up – it has as many knobs and buttons as a 747 cockpit.
  10. Mutter more curses softly under your breath as you attempt to even play your music with the software.
  11. Wish you had paid more attention in music class in elementary school as you try to recall musical terminology.
  12. Close software and drink wine.
  13. Stare at the software for another week to finally figure out how to play your music. Rejoice at this small victory.
  14. Drink wine to celebrate your cleverness.
  15. Delete software from computer when you realize you are not clever enough to edit music.
  16. Watch Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro at the 2014 London Olympics:
  17. Find a friend who wants to do a musical freestyle as much as you do.
  18. Celebrate when your friend organizes a musical freestyle clinic.  Thank friend profusely.
  19. Have Michael M. determine your horse’s beats per minute (BPM) at the walk, trot, and canter.
  20. Ride to various pieces with the correct BPM and pick the music that suits you and your horse the best. (FYI – after 2 years of training, Ike’s BPM changed and we received new music.)
  21. Stare in awe as Christine Betz ( ) choreographs a routine for you in well under an hour.
  22. Memorize your choreography.
  23. Drink wine AFTER you learn the routine.
  24. The next day, ride the routine so Christine can time each of the compulsory movements for the level.
  25. Try to hide your shock when she edits the music in under 20 minutes.  Again wish that you’d been more attentive in music class as a child.
  26. Ride your freestyle for the first time (You might need to turn up the volume to hear the music well) You will see that we will need to adjust our entry-

Second Level Freestyle Take One

27. Go home and drink wine and count the days until you can ride your new freestyle!

So, you see, it isn’t all that difficult…get out there and dance with your horse.  I promise you that you will be hooked!





The Final Hurrah of the Show Season

Ike Nov 5 2015

The 2015 show season is now in the books.  Done, finished, O-V-E-R.  We didn’t finish with any major victories; there were no victory laps.  Well, Ike may have had a gallop or two around his paddock, but I think that was more at the urging of his brother than for his show efforts this past year.  All in all, I am tickled with what we accomplished…and we are now two thirds of the way to our USDF Bronze Medal.  🙂

Our final show was a small schooling show so that I could try Second Level Test 3 in a less stressful atmosphere.  While the score was only a 59.76%, I am pleased with our overall effort in this test.  (If you remember, our Second Level goal this year was to hit the 60th percentile.)  When you look at the movement by movement scores, we are on the cusp of acceptability and we are going to work diligently over the winter to boost the low marks.  If you have a spare 6 minutes, here is a video of our ride…

So there it is, out on the internet for all the desktop judges to critique.  No need to tell me what we need to work on.  I am well aware.

Our medium trots need more oomph (I’m pretty sure this should be a dressage term defined in the USEF rulebook.)  Ike needs to engage his hind more and push.  It is a strengthening issue that we are plugging away at in our lessons.  Our goal is to always get at least a 6, and we did that with this test and even exceeded our goal with a 6.5 on our first attempt.

Our 10 meter circles are another area that we are giving away points.  We should be able to nail these, but I just can’t seem to keep Ike’s hind end from swinging out.  The 5.5 on our 10 meter circle to the left definitely didn’t help our final score.

Shoulder in and Travers are getting better and better.  Even I can tell from the video that Travers right is solid.  Travers left is a little more sticky, but it is coming.

The big surprise of the day was our Turn on the Haunches to the Right – we pulled a 6.5!  Whhhaatt?!  Yes, we are finally digging our way out of the lower end of the scoring for this movement.  The Turn on the Haunches to the Left was a bit sticky which earned us a whopping 4.5 (times 2 for the coefficient), but I have the utmost faith and confidence that we can improve it.

Most of our canter work scored 6’s and 6.5’s.  The costly mistake was on my first serpentine.  Ike decided to demonstrate “a movement not called for at this level.”  Thank you Ike for showing us your flying change skills, but since Mom was a goober and did not stop and fix it, our score reflected my failure to correct it (gotta love that 3 in the score column).  We then got a big-ole FOUR for the next simple change since we didn’t show any change.  Oops.  Lesson learned.  We also need to continue to school the simple changes.  I’m still not strong enough to support Ike in the canter-to-walk transition to eliminate the trot steps.  Occasionally I get it right, but more often than not, I am a goober and fail to do the proper prep work.

Having now ridden all the Second Level tests, I have to say that I like Test 3 the best.  I’m actually surprised at this admission since Test 2 was my favorite at Training and First levels.  That being said, if we intend to head to the Region 1 GAIGs next year at Second Level, we have our work cut out for us.  We have 10 months to practice, but we’d better get started…the 70th percentile doesn’t happen overnight.


Simple (?) Changes

Ike Nov 2015

So, just when I thought our show season was over, I got a wild hair and decided to head to a schooling show this coming weekend to try Second Level one more time.  We will continue to ride and work at home through the winter, but nothing beats an outing in front of a judge to really gage our progress. And, to up the ante, I signed up for tests 2 and 3…

Hmm, test 3.  Had not even contemplated trying that test until 7 days ago. Guess it is time to memorize the test and actually try riding it in its entirety.  Second Level Test 3 morphs pieces of Test 1 and Test 2 into one “supertest”…the reinback is there, shoulder in, travers, the simple changes, and everyone’s favorite turn on the haunches.  Let us not forget the 2 full-sized canter serpentines to showcase your countercanter skills. Oy vey. What have I done?

Our turn on the haunches still regularly resembles Frankenstein.  If I try opening my rein to help suggest the way to go, Ike somehow ends up flexed in the wrong direction (i.e., I am doing something wrong).  I try using various leg position with the whip as an aid, but Ike’s hind end still swings in the wrong direction.  I get so focused on what my hands and legs are doing that I forget to shift my weight in the saddle and there is no doubt that it ends up in the wrong place.  There are days that we get a few good steps and all we can hope is that Sunday is one of those days. 

And the designers of the tests really challenge your simple change skills by having you do your simple changes on a short diagonal.  That means you can’t use the ring to help keep your horse positioned correctly.  You have to maintain and change the proper bend on your own.  Clever, clever people.  Yes, I get that it is preparing you for doing a flying change, but no, we are not ready for THAT since I’m still challenged by simple changes…At this point, it is a crap shoot if we are going to  pull it off on Sunday.  The other day I managed to canter on the left lead, ask for the walk, and then pick up the left lead again.  Oops.  And poor Ike maintained the left lead for about three quarters of the arena and then gave me a flying change when he got off balance.  He is such a patient soul to deal with the likes of his clueless mother. 

So if you are in the area on Sunday, stop by the show.  It is bound to be an amusing 14 minutes.