Around Wednesday of last week, I got a rather unexpected phone call asking if I would participate in a musical freestyle clinic at Stanford (with the added bonus of only having to pay a fraction of the original cost). Though I haven't made a musical freestyle since I was 12 years old (when I made a sick Training level kur for Pony Club nationals using music from The Royal Tenenbaums soundtrack--not going to lie, it was boss) and don't really have any plans of doing one in the near future, I think the process of making a freestyle is both interesting and daunting without outside help, so I decided to give it a go.
(Ringo and I waiting to start)
The general layout of the weekend was, Day One: Select Music, and Day Two: Make Choreography. Cynthia from Luna Tunes, the person giving the clinic, had a simply massive store of music to choose from, organized by beats per minute and hooked up to a speaker so she could shuffle through while I rode and find what worked best.
(Cynthia sketches out some choreography)
I told her to start that I liked older folk/western music, and thought that might be a good match to go with Ringo's 'cow horse' coloring. Cynthia thought that was a great idea and promptly pulled out around a dozen songs that she shuffled through as I trotted around. It was really interesting to feel how some pieces 'clicked' better than others. I've heard many times that the horses pick the music and respond to some songs better than others, but had never really believed it until I could actually feel Ringo's relaxation and cadence change from song to song.
Remarkably, we found music for all three gaits really quickly (whereas in comparison another rider in the clinic spent all day Saturday and 80% of her time on Sunday trying to find the right music). The next step was choreography, and it was really interesting to hear Cynthia's insights. When I told her I was riding at 3rd level but would like a freestyle (if I was going to make one) that could work at either 3rd or 4th, she had some really interesting strategies to make a test that could be used identically for either level, including building in some places to add in things like pirouettes and tempis that can't be done at 3rd but are required at 4th.
(Good boy, Ray!)
I had never thought of being able to combine the two levels into one freestyle, and in a way it helped to clarify what exactly the differentiations and overlaps between the two levels are for me. It also gave me hope that 4th level maybe isn't too far away!
Ringo was a total champ all day, despite the fact that it probably wasn't the most interesting two hours of riding he had ever experienced, since most of the music selection was just spent trotting endlessly around the arena. He got tons of compliments (how could he not??) and I think enjoyed being more in the center of attention even than usual.
(Sharing a quiet moment at the end of the day - geez I love this horse)
The only sort of wakeup call of the weekend, which has been building for a while now, is that we have been running into some sketchiness in our changes recently. Namely, we can do single changes fine, but anything more quickly becomes a massive struggle. I think this is partially mental block on my part, but also partially some stiffness on Ringo's part as I'm asking him to step up the work (especially since his old owner told me explicitly that disunited changes are Ringo's calling card for hock stiffness). I've decided, as a result, to get his hocks injected for the first time in over two years in a few weeks. I fee pretty ambivalent about injections, honestly, but in this case feel pretty confident that it's the right choice. Hopefully that will having him feeling fit and feisty for Galway in just under three weeks!