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  • Writer's pictureAnna Beattie

Top Tips from Brand Ambassador Fiona Skipper

Updated: Sep 19, 2020

Our talented brand ambassador, Fiona Skipper, Irish Inter I National Champion, shares her top tips for riding a successful Freestyle to music test.

"Performing to music is really special for a rider. You have the opportunity to get creative and design something that is completely unique to you and your horse. In terms of my music arrangement, I wanted something completely different. I wanted people to be transported to a special place watching and listening and that's something a musical Freestyle can achieve. With much dedication and many hours of work from Pegasus, we sourced the perfect music. As well as suiting your horse, your music should ideally be something you love as you'll be listening to it a lot! With the Pegasus edit complete, I was ready to get going: as a rider, this is where your journey really begins.

This is the hard part: perfecting your performance! Practise, practise, practise all you can - you seriously can't do it enough. You need to know your music inside out so that you know when your transitions are coming up and whether you are in time. This is where you are gaining marks for your 'interpretation of the music'. Your changes of pace should be fluent with the music and that means you really need to be completely familiar with your musical cues, able to recognise them and prepare for your transitions. Watching the video of your floor plan set to music is a really good way of learning these musical cues and you can do it from the comfort of your own home.

This leads us to riding movements effectively within a pace, for example, a medium trot or a half pass. A really good professional edit will have musical phrases which reflect these high points and generally, will repeat the musical phrasing on both reins. Again, the rider needs match these highlighted movements to the different emphases within the music so you are listening for your musical cues and riding accordingly.

What happens if things start to go wrong and you are either behind or in front of your music? Firstly, don't panic! Knowing your floor plan and music pays off here - you will know if you are out of sync and will be able to adjust accordingly. For instance, whilst rehearsing my own performance I learned to ride the movements on slightly shorter lines if needed (if i was slightly behind on my time) or indeed to make lines slightly longer (if I was in front of my music). This is where ring craft and experience comes into freestyle riding: knowing where you can adjust your ground pattern so that you are perfectly in time.

Lastly, practise keeping your horse in a consistent tempo and to the beat of the music. Actually, you will find that riding to music with a distinct percussive beat really helps you maintain a consistent rhythm and improves your overall way of going. The horses definitely listen too and you'll find that they naturally want to conform to the beat of the music (some even start to anticipate the movements when they know their arrangement really well!). Resist the urge to push your horse out its rhythm when performing movements such as medium trot or half pass so, for example, with a medium trot, you are aiming for lift and impulsion, not an increase in speed.

Above all, smile and have fun! You are aiming for an effortless and harmonious picture and you gain the appearance of effortlessness by putting in the hours of practise beforehand. This ground work allows you to respond to unexpected hiccups with calmness, and you can really start to enjoy your performance, safe in the knowledge you are totally prepared. You and your horse's enjoyment will shine through and give your performance that added sparkle!

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