Freestyle to music

The Freestyle to Music is the pinnacle of dressage for it's artistry and mastery, not to mention entertainment value! Choreographing the music to suit a particular horse and show him off to best advantage is a blend of art and science, as we found out when we filmed the making of Laura Bechtolshiemer's Kur with Dutch Kur maker, Cees Slings. We also filmed a fascinating series on the creation of Michael Eilberg's Kur with composer Tom Hunt. Watching the Grand Prix Kur performed at a top show is such a special experience. Wouldn't it be amazing if you could also know more about the horse and share the rider's experience before and after the test? Horse Hero offers just that! We've made unique 'video stories' of some of the best riders in the world performing the Grand Prix Kur at shows such as Olympia, Hickstead Masters (where we filmed members of the Dutch team, including Edward Gal and Totilas breaking their first world record) and the National Dressage Championships. So put your feet up and enjoy some wonderful performances, plus insight into the warm-ups, the riders' hopes and aspirations and what they thought afterwards!

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The making of Laura Bechtolsheimer's new Kur! The making of Laura Bechtolsheimer's new Kur!
Laura Bechtolsheimer is making a new Kur for Mistral Hojris (Alf)! She has enlisted the help of Dutch 'dressage to music' master Cees Slings to choreograph and compose a Kur for her Olympic partner Alf, who is not known for his appreciation of music! We see Laura, Cees and Dr B working at home on the project. We eavesdrop on their conversations, watch Alf warm up and get a sneak preview of some of the moves in the new test, which we've set to music of our choosing as the real thing hasn't yet been composed! Once the Kur is performed in public, we'll publish the full item in training but we don't want to steal Laura's thunder!

Laura Bechtolsheimer performs her new Kur Laura Bechtolsheimer performs her new Kur
The making of Laura's new Kur for music-shy Alf has been a work in progress for the last few months. Dutch music expert Cees Slings and Laura developed a new floor plan to show Alf at his best and Cees came up with a story-line for the music. Their efforts seem to have paid off! Clearly Alf likes Cliff and the Shadows and performed a fabulous test in the Kur at the World Dressage Masters, Hickstead '09 to finish 3rd. Fiona Price meets Laura (after Alf's siesta) before they perform and gets an interview with her trainer Klaus Balkenhol. We watch Alf warm up (alongside Edward Gal and Totilas), see the test and get her reaction afterwards!

Michael Eilberg creates a Kur with composer Tom Hunt: Part 1 Michael Eilberg creates a Kur with composer Tom Hunt: Part 1
Up and coming composer Tom Hunt begins work with rising dressage star Mike Eilberg, on an original score for Mike's new Kur. 15 year old Monty (owned by the Bechtolsheimers) is a powerful horse with a big presence. Mike shows Tom footage of Monty's current Kur and talks about what he wants to achieve with the new one. Mike then rides Monty for Tom to highlight his strong points including piaffe, passage, extended canter and changes. They decide on an inspirational or emotional score to maximise transitions and the strong beat of Monty's step. Next, Tom needs to write some musical ideas for Mike to try, while Mike creates a new floor plan.

Michael Eilberg creates a Kur with composer Tom Hunt: Part 2 Michael Eilberg creates a Kur with composer Tom Hunt: Part 2
In Part 2, composer Tom Hunt revisits Mike Eilberg and Monty to see how they have been getting on with his musical ideas for each of the basic gaits. The aim is to establish what Mike likes and what suits Monty in walk, trot and canter so that Tom can develop the theme for variations such as half pass, extensions and changes. Helped by father and trainer Ferdi Eilberg, Mike and Monty test the music out before spending time working on more difficult new moves they are planning to introduce to the floor plan. Mike says, "it's all about calculated risk!" Now Mike and Ferdi must complete the choreography so that Tom can write the entire score. More to follow!

Michael Eilberg creates a Kur with composer Tom Hunt: Part 3 Michael Eilberg creates a Kur with composer Tom Hunt: Part 3
Having tested choreography ideas with some of Tom Hunt's music in Part 2, Mike tells Fiona Price about the challenges he faced in completing the floor-plan for his new Kur. Monty (brother to Laura B's Mistral Hojris) is more lively at a show which created problems in gauging timing at home. After shortening the original freestyle, Mike took Monty to a show environment to run through the test and film the routine for Tom to finalise the music. Mike talks us through the changes he made in the final version, and we get a sneak preview of his test with Tom's music superimposed. Wow! Mike will debut the Kur at the National Champs' 2010.

The debut of Michael Eilberg's new Kur, Nationals 2010 The debut of Michael Eilberg's new Kur, Nationals 2010
In the final part of the series on making Mike's new Kur, Mike is at the Nationals for his debut performance. But disaster strikes when Monty tweaks himself in the stable and isn’t able to compete. Mike’s second string (who is new at top level, but finished 2nd in the Grand Prix the day before) is the last minute substitute. Never having ridden Marco to Monty’s tailor-made score by Tom Hunt, the pair rise to the occasion, and the music is simply stunning! Fiona Price interviews Mike before the competition and finds out about Marco's unusual origins. Afterwards, Mike is delighted with their performance. What a hero! All’s well that ends well!

Edward Gal and Totilas, dressage superstars! Edward Gal and Totilas, dressage superstars!

This has 'wow' factor! Edward Gal and the astonishing Totilas set a new world record in the Kur at the Hickstead Dressage Masters '09. Edward is the golden boy of dressage having won the Dutch National Championships, beating his trainer Anky to the number 1 position in Holland. Having triumphed in the Grand Prix the day before, Edward talks to Fiona Price about Toto's amazing movement and temperament (he's known as the "horse from another planet!"), riding his father Gribaldi and selling World Cup winner Ravel to America. We are privy to Edward's warm-up, glimpse his test, and Fiona gets his reaction afterwards as well!


Adelinde Cornelissen & the fabulous Parzival at Hickstead '09 Adelinde Cornelissen & the fabulous Parzival at Hickstead '09

Adelinde finished second on a score of 82% in the Kur which normally would have been considered a remarkable achievement. However, she was eclipsed by team mate Edward Gal who set a new world record of nearly 90% on Totilas! Fiona Price spoke to Adelinde before her test about her decision to quit teaching to ride full time. She also talked to her about training with Sjef and found out how she has managed to get the best out of the 'super spooking' but fabulous Parzival. Her rise to the top has been meteoric. In the last three years Adelinde has been Dutch national champion twice and had numerous Grand Prix successes.


Imke Schellekens-Bartels & Sunrise at Hickstead '09 Imke Schellekens-Bartels & Sunrise at Hickstead '09

Imke comes from an esteemed Dutch equestrian family where her mother rode for Holland and her father introduced the Freestyle into dressage. She says she was 'born in the stable' and riding and teaching are her life. Imke produced Lancet, then lost the ride and she still misses him! Sunrise, her Beijing team silver horse, is a 'real girl' and different every time she's ridden but gives 300% in the ring. Imke also talks about the Global Dressage Forum which her family runs. She tells Fiona Price about her mistake in the GP the day before and, later, about not being able to hear the music in the Kur. Despite this, she finished 4th on both days!


Laura Bechtolsheimer, National Dressage Champion 2010 Laura Bechtolsheimer, National Dressage Champion 2010

World number three, Laura Bechtolsheimer talks to Fiona Price about the difference between riding at the Nationals and at an international competition. 15 year old thoroughbred Andy, Laura's second string, won the Grand Prix the day before by a large margin. Laura talks about the difference between her warmblood Alf (her WEG ride in a couple of weeks) and Andy. She also explains how she has won Andy over, as when she got him two years ago as a mature horse, he was not the easiest. We observe Laura's warm-up, watch her full Kur and Fiona gets a reaction afterwards. Despite Laura's concerns, she takes the title on an impressive 78.55%!


Anna Ross Davies pulls out the stops in the Kur, Nationals '10 Anna Ross Davies pulls out the stops in the Kur, Nationals '10
Pegasus MK is relatively new to Grand Prix level but since Horse Hero filming over a year ago, he has represented GB in the Nations Cup and been placed in a World Cup Qualifier. Anna (10th at the European Champs' '07 on Liebling) talks to Fiona Price about teaching reactions in horses and the experience of her formative years in Germany training with Ulla Salzgeber. Known for her stylish riding, Anna says "we owe it to our horse to take full responsibility for our position, and thus avoid getting into a negative cycle of adjustments". We watch Anna's warm-up and see highlights of her test. Anna is delighted that her high risk strategy pays off!

Richard Davison & Artemis contest the Kur, Nationals 2010 Richard Davison & Artemis contest the Kur, Nationals 2010
Artemis has progressed from an inexperienced Grand Prix horse at Olympia '08 where Richard made the debut of his Elton John Kur, to a polished performer. Richard talks to Fiona Price about their progress and why he is saving the horse for the Olympics in 2012. He goes on to explain his role as dressage team captain and why this doesn't present a conflict of interest as a potential team member. We also find out about Artemis' unusual stable name! We are then privy to Richard's elegant warm up where Artemis looks every bit the athlete. The Freestyle goes according to plan and the pair finish in second place to Laura Bechtolsheimer.

Carl Hester, British National Dressage Champion '09 Carl Hester, British National Dressage Champion '09
Carl is the golden boy of British dressage having won 51 national titles! Just weeks after winning team silver at the European Champs' '09 (his career high) we watch him win the British National Champion title for the 6th time. Fiona Price talks to Carl before his fabulous test on Liebling (previously ridden to 10th place at the '07 Europeans by Anna Ross Davies) and finds out why he almost gave up two years ago, his preference for training in Holland, the advantages of riding horses of the same bloodline, his stars for the future and why music tests aren't his favourite! We watch Carl warm up, see his Kur and get his surprise reaction afterwards.

Maria Eilberg defends her title at the Nationals Maria Eilberg defends her title at the Nationals
Maria Eilberg and Two Sox had a great 2009, the highlight being team silver at the Eureopean Dressage Championships. A few weeks later, Maria is defending her National Champion title at the British Dressage Champs'. Ed tries his heart out for Maria and they finish second to team mate Carl Hester in the Grand Prix and the Freestyle. Fiona Price talks to Maria before the Kur and finds out how she prepares for the test, also why it's Ed's favourite event. Maria talks about the values she had inherited from her father and trainer Ferdi. We are a fly-on-the-wall of her warm up with Ferdi, watch the test and find out later why Ed was so eager!

Amateur star Stephanie Croxford at the Dressage Nationals ‘09 Amateur star Stephanie Croxford at the Dressage Nationals ‘09
Amateur’s heroine Stephanie and Mr President (Rimmer), who was bred to drive and bought by Stephanie to jump, make an unconventional duo, yet they often bring the house down with their Kur. A pioneering geochemist by day, Stephanie gave the professionals a run for their money at Saumur '09 winning the Grand Prix Kur which marked a return to form after injury. Stephanie tells Fiona Price about living in the wilds, her special partnership with Rimmer and being a working mum. Third in the Grand Prix the previous day, Stephanie finished 4th in the Kur on 71%. We watch her work in with Richard Davison and see the test highlights.

Nicola McGivern and her Grand Prix boys! Nicola McGivern and her Grand Prix boys!
Nicola had two rides in the Kur at the Nationals '09. One on her Athens Olympics partner Active Walero (now 18) and an unexpected ride on her wild card, Active Private Dancer for whom an emergency Kur was put together the day before! Nicola talks to Fiona Price before the tests about her two boys and their different characters. She credits new trainer David Hunt with the recent breakthough on Private Dancer and talks fondly about the fabulous Walero. We watch Nicola work in Dancer with help from David, see extracts from her test and find out later about his mini 'blip'. We also follow her through the Kur on (7th placed) Walero.

Charlie Hutton's National Champs' Grand Prix debut Charlie Hutton's National Champs' Grand Prix debut
Coming from the 'Talland' equestrian dynasty, it seemed logical Charlie would go into the 'family business'. But it almost didn't happen. He disliked horses and his mum, Pammy Hutton, had to pay him to ride! However, something changed and after proving himself on GB junior and young rider teams, Charlie moved up to Grand Prix. Fiona Price talks to Charlie before his debut Kur at the Nationals, finds out about rivalry with his mum and sister and meets the giant Aljano III. She also discovers Charlie's last thoughts before his test! We watch the warm up and the Kur, then catch up with Charlie and Pammy for a 'post mortem' afterwards!

Selector turned Grand Prix competitor, Judy Harvey Selector turned Grand Prix competitor, Judy Harvey
Judy Harvey is an unusual Grand Prix dressage rider. One of the few BHS Fellows, she is a List 1 judge and until recently, was also a selector for the senior GB dressage team. She stepped to down to be considered herself on her lovely young horse Fitzcerraldo who is establishing himself at Grand Prix level. Judy talks to Fiona Price about her career and the challenges of being a selector at a high point in British dressage. She tells Fitzcerraldo's story, talks about her aspirations for him and the possibility of returning to her role as a selector later on. We watch Judy's warmup, see her test and catch up with her after.

Laura Bechtolsheimer's Grand Prix story, Nationals '08 Laura Bechtolsheimer's Grand Prix story, Nationals '08
The National Dressage Championships was a roller-coaster experience for Olympic rider, Laura Bechtolsheimer. Riding her second string, Andretti, the Grand Prix didn't quite go according to plan. Find out what happened! This video tracks her story and provides a superb insight into Laura's preparation (including her initial thoughts), the warm up with her father and trainer, Dr Bechtolsheimer, the test itself and her reaction afterwards.

Anne-Marie Perry at the National Dressage Championships '08 Anne-Marie Perry at the National Dressage Championships '08
Anne-Marie Perry prepares for her first Inter 1 Freestyle to Music at the National Dressage Championships '08 with her new ride, the magnificent stallion Aristo. Emile Faurie helps her to work in and we capture all of her super test which earned her 4th place. Her reaction afterwards is delightful and we love the comment in her blog, "4th is brilliant but I feel the placing didn't matter, as my heart swelled with fondness and affection for Aristo. I'm hugely excited about what the future will bring."

Gemma Green at the National Dressage Championships '08 Gemma Green at the National Dressage Championships '08
We were lucky enough to catch a sizeable chunk of Gemma's warmup with dressage legend, Jennie Loriston-Clarke, before her test in the Inter 1 Freestyle to Music. Jennie certainly didn't mince her words and Gemma rose to the occassion to finish a well-deserved 6th with her lovely horse Showtime. It's fascinating to watch the test with Jennie's words in mind! The ones that especially stick are about Gemma's bottom, "If you are not sitting on it, it doesn't help you!". Words of wisdom indeed! We also caught up with Gemma afterwards.

Hannah Biggs at the National Dressage Championships '08 Hannah Biggs at the National Dressage Championships '08
We meet Hannah at the stables with her fabulous chestnut stallion, Weltzin, before she sets off to compete in the Inter 1 Freestyle to Music. Hannah shows us how she prepares Weltzin before she even tacks up. We film her working in and follow her through her test, which holds a surprise for Hannah. We get her shocked reaction afterwards but inspite of everything, she finishes 8th in a strong field. A great result!

Laura Bechtolsheimer's Kur at Olympia '08 Laura Bechtolsheimer's Kur at Olympia '08
Since the Olympics '08, Laura has been on terrific form, winning the Grand Prix at the National Championships and finishing 2nd and 3rd at Stuttgart in November. Having set a British record and produced a personal best in the Grand Prix at Olympia '07 (on a score of 75.33), Laura set out to repeat the performance and she nearly did, scoring 74.80 in the same class this year finishing 2nd! We followed her through the Freestyle to Music (Kur), where she finished 4th on 75.3. Her two brothers joined in the celebrations afterwards adding some Bechtolsheimer humour to the occasion! Laura talks to Fiona Price.

Carl Hester and Liebling at Olympia '08 Carl Hester and Liebling at Olympia '08
Carl Hester has been at the top of British dressage for 20 years. He's been National Champion numerous times, ridden at 2 Olympics and had some truly great horses such as Escapado, on whom he finished best of the Brits in Athens. In fact, Carl began his dressage career at the Bechtolsheimer's! A few months ago he gained the ride on Liebling (who was 10th at the European Champs' '07 with Anna Ross Davies). Lenny, prone to 'electric' moments, excelled himself with Carl on their first outing, winning the Grand Prix at Saumur. We watch the Kur where the pair finished 6th on 72.5% and Fiona Price catches up with Carl afterwards.

Richard Davison's Kur is a hit at Olympia '08! Richard Davison's Kur is a hit at Olympia '08!
Richard has been a member of the British dressage team in three Olympic Games and a leading light in the UK for over 20 years. He was also dressage team manager at Hong Kong this year. Fiona Price bumps into Richard at Olympia '08 in the dressage stables and takes the opportunity to do an impromptu interview with him! He tells us how he got Elton John's music and plays down his chances in the Kur with youngster, Artemis. We get to see his test and what a 'dark horse' he is! Richard took the field by storm to finish 6th!

Pippa Hutton prepares for the Young Rider European Championships Pippa Hutton prepares for the Young Rider European Championships
Pippa Hutton and Duella prepare for the Young Rider Europeans Champs' 2013, which are just a few weeks away, with mother and trainer Pammy. Duella has had a few days off, so in the warm-up Pippa focuses on getting her responsive to her aids and supple, before she rides her Freestyle. Pammy is pleased with the test though there is homework to do in nailing the tempi changes and also lengthening the walk sequence to ensure Pippa finishes in time with the music. The pair discuss whether to run through the test again but favour ‘reverse psychology’, ie. by not correcting the errors, Pippa won't repeat them at the European Champs'!

Gaynor Colbourn demonstrates how to choose music for a Novice Freestyle Gaynor Colbourn demonstrates how to choose music for a Novice Freestyle
Grand Prix dressage rider and musician Gaynor Colbourn works with Young Rider Charlotte Ward and her 4 year old mare Eva, ridden by 4* eventer Dan Sibley. First Gaynor establishes Eva's tempo with a metronome. Checking with Charlotte that all three gaits are Eva's 'competition paces', she explains that at Novice level the beat is likely to fluctuate so it's advisable to choose the lowest option. Having checked both reins, Gaynor uses drums as the baseline and asks Dan to ride to the beat to ensure a consistent rhythm. She improvises music connected with Eva's name for walk and trot and the music for canter matches her personality.

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