Thursday, January 29, 2015


by Francesca Prescott

Riding a freestyle to music is something I’ve always wanted to do. Apart from one unofficial competition years and years ago, and the hastily improvised program I did with my friend Josephine last November for our stables’ internal competition, I’ve never had the opportunity to ride one. Also, until last September I wasn’t allowed to ride an official freestyle test as I’d never passed an exam required in Switzerland to move up to a level where freestyles, aka Kürs, are offered at competition level. 

So I’ve decided that 2015 is going to be the year of the Kür for Qrac and I. I’m probably completely nuts, as choreographing a freestyle, finding the right music, and riding everything at the perfect moment has to be one of the most difficult things to do on horseback, apart from maybe…well, actually I can’t think of anything more difficult to do on horseback, but I’m sure there is something. Polo, maybe? I’m hopeless with balls and clubs and stuff like that.

I think I’ve found my music. I’ve spent hours and hours (and I seriously mean HOURS AND HOURS) going through on my computer, listening to the gazillion tracks I have on it, listening to samples of music online, buying tracks and albums that I think sound promising. I’ve watched umpteen freestyle videos of superstar riders on Youtube (oh the beauty, the perfection!), and pulled up recent videos of my horse and I during training or at shows (oh the evading quarters, the imperfection!), watching them over and over while playing various tracks.  I’ve been convinced I’ve found something perfect many times, only to change my mind because I like something else better. Also, depending on how “big” Qrac moves in trot, the tempo changes, making it hard to decide on a specific track. A friend filmed my lesson this morning, and Qrac was moving with far more scope than the previous time my lesson was filmed, so the track I thought too “big” for him last week seemed perfect today.

I guess I should aim for big, right? I mean, bigger is better. When it comes to trot, less is definitely not more.

As far as the style of music for my freestyle, I honestly thought I’d go for something poppy and Latino. When my friend and I rode our pas-de-deux to the new Ricky Martin track, Adios, late last year, I was sure I’d choose something in the same vein for my freestyle. But then I started to feel that using Latino music with a Lusitano horse was way too cliché, and that it had probably been done to death. Also, when you take the lyrics out of many top 40-type tracks they tend to sound a little bland, kind of like elevator or supermarket music. The mega high energy David Guetta/Avicii -style stuff is cool, but it’s not really Qracy and me. I tried tracks from musicals, but felt that none-Anglophone judges just wouldn’t connect with the likes of “Oklahoma!” or “Hair”, and French musicals really don’t do it for me.

Coldplay seemed like a possibility for a while; I think their riffs are great, but nothing really made me think “that’s it!”, and surely the judges are sick of Viva la Vida, and Clocks? I liked Princess of China for the canter, and also because I always feel like a princess when I’m riding Qracipoo. But I wasn’t totally convinced. And considering how often I’m going to be listening to this music, I need to be sure. I need to really love it.

And then I remembered a track I’d seen Carl Hester ride to at Olympia in London, when I went there just before Christmas with a girlfriend to watch the Grand Prix and the Freestyle. The particular track is Heart of Courage by Two Steps from Hell. Carl Hester wasn’t the only rider to feature this track in his program, and both my girlfriend and I had commented on how fabulously electrifying it was. I knew it wouldn’t work for Qrac; it's far too “big” for him, but I thought I might find something that felt similarly inspirational and epically elevating without being so overpowering.

So I bought a few Two Steps from Hell albums and had a good listen while fiddling with my training and show videos. Of course, ITunes helpfully intervened, suggesting that if I liked music by Two Steps from Hell, I might also like Audiomachine, and being a sucker for their helpful suggestions, I bought some of those to see if they were right, which they were to some extent, especially a couple of tracks on the album they composed for the movie Tree of Life. Still, Two Steps from Hell seems to work best, and after faffing around on the computer for another gazillion hours I’ve managed to narrow it down to one track for the canter, three for the trot, and one for the walk

Anyway, now I need to ride my freestyle while someone films it, see if the timing is right (not to mention whether Qracy and I can actually do what we intend to do!). Next, from what I’ve gathered, I send the video and my music choices to a professional who will lay down the tracks and edit the music according to the choreography, and then send me a CD.

And then we ride it to see if it works. If it does we ride it over and over and over again until we get it all beautiful and perfect, and we stop falling over our outside shoulder, and losing the quarters and the bend in the half passes, and the flying changes go through on cue, and the extended trot flows and we don’t fall on our nose, and we don’t mistake the wheelbarrow for a giant green fire-breathing dragon.

Will we be ready by April? All we can do is try. And it’s a fun, exciting, motivating goal to work towards.

Have you ever ridden a freestyle? If you have, or if you would like to, what type of music would you choose?


Linda Benson said...

I have not ridden Freestyle, Francesca, but you make it sound like so much fun I might want to take it up! You'll have to let us know if Qrac actually feels the music, and starts dancing to it himself.

Anonymous said...

Try Paradise, also from Coldplay, I think it´s great!

Francesca Prescott said...

Thank you Linda :) Qrac seemed to get quite into the Ricky Martin track we did the pas-de-deux to before Christmas, the tempo fit perfectly. I'll definitely keep you posted.

Anonymous: yep, Paradise was on my list too, it sort of worked for the walk. Strawberry Swing worked better though :) Love Coldplay, saw them in concert a few years ago during a thunderstorm in Bern. Was amazing!

jenj said...

I'd love to ride to Burn, by Ellie Goulding. And if I could figure out how to make I Give Up, by Elijah Bossenbroek, work, for any gait, I would totally ride to that.

And if those fail, I'm all over Nine Inch Nails. Because nobody else will ever ride a freestyle to NIN. ;)