You’ve probably all lost interest by now, so I’ll keep it to just a few specifics and general impressions. First of all I found the overall quality of the music to be much, much higher than I’ve ever seen in a small tour competition. Several riders, including crowd favourite Antonio Riveras from Mexico, had music that sounded as though it had been custom arranged by an ensemble.  His music was all traditional Mexican music, which of course the locals adored.

Local hero, Antonio Riveras on Naval


Here are a few points you might be curious about:

Favourite music – As for picking favourite music, I’m not an unbiased observer, having four clients in the freestyle: Tom Dvorak and Crystal Kroetch of Canada, Mauro Pereira of Brazil and Mexico’s Omar Zayrik. So I won’t talk about them or do a ranking, except to say I was really proud of all my clients. I hardly felt nervous for them at all. And it wasn’t nearly as sad to watch Tom finish fourth this time because he was behind Marisa by more than a hair (last time in Rio he was fourth by a teeny tiny margin) and because he had a wonderful result – best ever score.

Tom and Viva's Salieri - a truly pleasing couple

Most overused musical theme – Latin music of course. Even I was a bit guilty, since Tom’s music, while not quite ‘latino’, is primarily based on Spanish guitar. I heard only one musical repeat, and man was it a shocker. Omar’s music is mostly from Cirque du Soleil, and it’s from the more obscure shows – not Alegria, for example. Imagine my surprise when Heather Blitz’s freestyle (which started daringly in walk – more on that in a bit) started with the same song. At least there weren’t three versions of Pirates or Westside Story.

Paragon - a tall glass of water

Most overused choreographic move – two back to back short diagonals of extended trot. It was also one of the least successful, and I don’t think any of the horses got as high marks for those chopped up little lines as they would have for a nice diagonal. And hey folks here’s a handy hint:  if your extended trot needs to finish on the same rein, try H to D or M to D – or D to H or D to M. Even Steffen had the two short diagonals and while his transitions up and down were impeccable, I still think Magic’s extensions look better on long lines. Watching 15 small tour freestyles made me realize how hard it is to be original with choreography in an I-1 freestyle, much harder than the GP.

Most thought-provoking freestyle – Heather Blitz’s by far. I still can’t figure out exactly what I think of it, but it sure made me pay attention, and I think that was probably the point. She took a lot of risk by starting in walk and instead of blasting to the halt in one of Paragon’s Sieg Heil extended trots, she did a simple trot zig zag, then around the C end and turned quietly onto centre line for her halt. And yet, I do believe she highlighted Paragon’s strengths and used her imagination in a useful way. It wasn’t busy or confusing – just interesting. I wasn’t super keen on the lack of audible beat for his tempi changes, but I did very much like the trot music, which was from KA I believe. The more I think about it, the more I am starting to warm to the idea that Heather should have won the freestyle, but that is probably influenced more by artistic than technical matters. Magic went absolutely brilliantly and the choreography had plenty of difficulty; I just wasn’t in love with the music. It was nice, but unmemorable. I can’t say that about Heather’s program.

Steffen and Weltino’s Magic, technically flawless

Least original theme – even though the Latin was overdone, I really liked a lot of it, such as Marco Bernal’s trot music (though his canter music did nothing for the horse’s canter). But I can’t say I was a fan of Marisa’s Beatles mish mash. She had gone through three songs by the time she’d done a minute of choreography. And while a few riders had music that didn’t match the horse’s tempo, she was the worst offender when it came to using music that didn’t even suit the gait. She used trot music for part of her canter work, and more trot tempo for her walk. Technically I loved it. I love that horse and as crazy athletic as Paragon and Magic are, Big Tyme would be the horse I’d like to ride.

Worst case of grandstanding – hands down, Brazil’s Rogerio Clementino who took riding one handed into dangerous territory. There is a rule forbidding the use of hands to make gestures, and maybe if he’d been in the top someone would have asked to have him penalized. While he was doing his one handed pirouettes he made a sign with his free hand to get the crowd clapping along. I was slightly nauseated.

Most illegal move – if Rogerio could have been in the doo-doo with his gesturing, Wakana might have been eliminated for passaging. I know why Constanza did it; she was ahead of her Boney M music in a short side of trot and because Wakana passages so easily, when Constanza tried to slow down, passage was what she got. I really liked her music, which I suspect Ulla might have used for her at small tour – since Ulla used Boney M for Wakana’s GP freestyle. The only thing I didn’t get was ABBA Fernando for the walk. It was an incongruous choice of walk music.

Most generous score – Berna Pujals got the gift from the judges, except for Cara who I thought was the only one who gave her a real score. Rolex broke in two extended trots, switched leads behind in one pirouette and at the end of one extended canter. That is not the kind of performance that would earn someone 74.85%. I love her horse though, and I imagine we may see more of him in the International GP ring.

Iusa Rolex, Berna's star for the future

So there you go, the freestyle blog. Since there is no way for anyone to see the freestyles on line I don’t see any point in giving more detailed analysis. And I do think the judging was at a high standard, so I just don’t feel compelled to tear them apart. Besides, there is no rule obligating the organizers to give us the detailed movement-by-movement marks, and without those it’s pretty hard to pick the judging apart…