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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

I'll Take My Mix Tape and Go Home

Back in the day, we made mix tapes for boyfriends, girlfriends, parties, and our own listening enjoyment. (Today we make playlists instead.)

A lot of early dressage freestyles probably got created the same way: with a dual cassette deck and a stack of vinyl.

My fantasies of one day creating a freestyle soundtrack armed only with the modern equivalent (my trusty iMac, GarageBand, and my cherished iTunes music library) were pretty much dashed when I saw this new video of Swedish Grand Prix-level competitor Tinne Vilhelmson Silfven and her horse, Don Auriello. Tinne's freestyle designer, the Dutch guru Cees Slings, put together this fascinating split-screen look at horse and rider performing their new freestyle (we'll see it at the London Olympic Games in a couple of weeks), and the professional recording session of their custom-arranged, custom-performed, custom-everything music. (It's a medley of songs by The Who, in case you were wondering.)


Who's Anton? - Tinne Vilhelmson Silfvén & Don Auriello's London 2012 Freestyle - from Cees Slings on Vimeo.

Now, the super-deluxe custom dressage freestyle is nothing new. The first one that I recall receiving a lot of attention was "Bonfire's Symphony," the original orchestral piece composed for Bonfire and Anky van Grunsven of the Netherlands. That performance won an individual silver medal at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

These fascinating looks at the tippy-top of our sport are reminders, however, that dressage at the Olympic level is not really the dressage that I (and possibly you, too) engage in every day. The underpinnings (the basics, as it were) are the same: good riding, good horsemanship, good care and management, and above all else a love for the horse and a commitment to his welfare. At the elite level, however, it's serious. I'm sure it's exciting and thrilling to be Tinne or Anky or Steffen or Isabell...but I'm also sure there is pressure the likes of which we hobbyists cannot imagine.

OK, I take that back. I suppose we can imagine the pressure, if we translate it to what we feel in our jobs. For at that level, being a top rider and competitor is a job. Vying for medals is serious business, and therefore it is a bona fide business investment to hire a roomful of professional session musicians to perform one's freestyle music.

This is not intended as a criticism of elite horse sport, or session musicians, or freestyle (I happen to like all three). It's a roundabout way of saying that the Olympic Games are another horse show and yet not another horse show. They are the same, and the rules are the same (more or less) as at any other FEI dressage competition; yet there is an intensity, a fierce patriotism, and a palpable feeling of pressure at Olympic Games and World Equestrian Games that just aren't there at other horse shows.

It's a crucible, these Olympic Games--wonderful, but demanding. I admire those with the mental toughness to get there. And just maybe I'll get so inspired by this year's freestyles that I'll come home and start fiddling with GarageBand. Hey, you have to start somewhere.



1 comment:

  1. Freestyle creator Cees Slings was unable to post this comment himself, so I'm posting this on his behalf:

    thanks for embedding this video on your London Eye blog and your comments about it.
    I hope you and all others enjoy it, and believe me, it's not meant to discourage you, or someone else who starts thinking about trying to make a freestyle. Like you said, you have to start somewhere!
    'Starting somewhere' was Bonfire's Symphony for us, the first freestyle we made, in 1995/1996.
    Many freestyles were produced over the years, however not in the quantity most other freestyle producers make. Even now, almost 17 years later, my team and I produce 2 or 3 freestyles a year max! Because it's a complex process, including the design of the choreography.

    We also need riders who have a mission, like us, to explore freestyle dressage beyond the horizon. Riders with passion, again like us, to bring freestyle dressage into a new era.
    These riders have a lot of courage too, because not only do they share their efforts with many dressage fans in these videos; they also take the risk in riding tailor-made freestyles, showing each mistake clearly when they ride it.

    We all really have fun in making this kind of videos and our clients too. And with each new video we try a new approach, trying to find what (freestyle) dressage fans really like to see. We will soon release a new video of Tinne, where you can join her ride during the freestyle competition in Falsterbo, in the World Dressage Masters. This was filmed with kind permission of the FEI, WDM and Falsterbo organisers. And has never been done before!
    Also Prinsess Nathalie zu Sayn Wittgenstein's new freestyle will be on vimeo soon; completely filmed with the saddle-cam I use.
    And hey, let it inspire you, to make your own freestyle, or to write a nice story about it.
    You are always welcome in our studio in Holland!
    Best wishes,
    Cees Slings

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