Tamara Williamson is a singer/composer/producer and freestyle designer from Toronto. She works with Canada’s biggest dressage stars through her company Kürboom, and the HJU bloggers had the chance to pick her brain about the job.
1. How can you be creative with choreography with the lower level freestyles?
Try not to think about the test being made up of walk-trot-canter and try thinking of all the elements that are allowed at your level.
Think about the halt as another element, and the stretchy circles, and the lengthenings. Think of the judge as the audience and do something unexpected. It’s all SHOWBIZ!
2. Is my song allowed to have words? Sometimes the words can really emphasize what you’re doing.
Yes, there are no rules to say you cannot use words. The judges seem to be getting more used to it as more people are bringing them in to their freestyles.
3. How important is it to pick a song that matches the tempo of your horse’s gaits, and how much leeway do you have in speeding up or slowing down songs (and horses)?
It’s fairly important, although sometimes it just doesn’t work out that way. If the music is in rhythm with the horse it will make your horse look better. That’s the most important thing. If your horse has bad rhythm, it can actually accentuate that… So sometimes it’s better to not use music with a really defining beat. You can slow/speed up to about 5%, then it starts to sound bad.
4. What makes you hear a song and think that it would make a good freestyle?
I like very strong thematic music but I have to be careful and not use the same type of music all the time. Or else all my clients would sound the same. I just try and pick good music; sometimes the best moments are because of the clever editing, not the music itself.
5. Why are some freestyle songs boring and don’t seem to match the horse that well?
Well…It’s really hard sometimes to find good music, and maybe the person next to you thinks its the best music in the world. Music is taste, one should please themselves first. We all like to listen to different music.
6. How would you space the more difficult elements of a freestyle routine? Spread them out to give the horse time to recover? Or put them together?
That is up to the rider and the coach. I can help with designing the pattern but its better for the rider to design it with the knowledge of the horse’s strengths and weaknesses.
7. Do you drive along in your car imagining freestyles to songs you hear on the radio?
Sometimes. I usually listen to crappy radio so nothing grabs me, but when I’m watching movies it I think, “Ooooh, must get that music…”
8. If you have to switch music to fit the gaits, how important is it that the change to new music be smooth? Sometimes the transitions in the music are quite jarring, but do judges care?
I like to think judges notice. I try and make transitions in the music seamless; that’s my job. You can make transitions easier to ride if it is not too abrupt.
9. If your horse responds to certain music, how much weight should you give that?
I think horses are like us – they get into their music the more they listen to it.
10. Is there a specific genre that judges prefer? Like classical vs. rap?
I think most of the judges are taking break dancing lessons these days…hah! I think the judges prefer some things to others. Remember, its a small fraction of the marks. If its not abrasive and makes you smile it doesn’t matter what the actual music is. Just the way it’s been used.
11. Would you choose popular, well-known music or something custom and unique that may not be mainstream?
I prefer to build music from scratch like the music I have done for Jacqueline Brooks but this takes time and is expensive. I search for music and sometimes it takes me hours and then the client doesn’t like it. It’s really the hardest part of the process. I encourage the client to find at least one element of their music so I can know what they want. There is a lot of music out there but it was not specifically designed for this job. Sometimes it’s just really hard to work with.
12. Is it okay to throw in some non-dressage type moves to add some flair? For instance – a horse that stomps a foot or something?
Maybe at the Pony club level, but dressage can be a little more serious!
Thank you, Tamara for taking the time to answer our questions!