Goncalo Carvalho and Rubi Danced with the Stars at 2012 Olympic Games

 
Sun, 09/30/2012 - 09:00
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Gonçalo Carvalho and Rubi in the kur to music at the 2012 Olympic Games
Photo © Astrid Appels
2012 Olympic Games

Every now and then in the world of dressage, we witness something truly spectacular, something that lifts us from our seats, making our hearts race and our bodies dance in time to the music. The 2012 London Olympic Kur experience was filled with rhythm and flavour and medalists proving their musical prowess. Amongst the 18 Kür finalists, there were several other outstanding performances that drew that sense of release, that raw emotion, from the London crowd and one of them was Portuguese Gonçalo Carvalho on the Lusitano stallion Rubi.

“When I left the arena, the crowds were just so fantastic, I felt like I was the winner,” said Portuguese individual Gonçalo Carvalho Conchinhas.

Representing his nation,and the Lusitano horse at the 2012 Olympics, Gonçalo rode a Kür which brought the crowds alive as he presented that true sense of unity between horse and rider.

Scoring 77.607% in the Grand Prix Kür Gonçalo will never forget the way Rubi “danced” in front of the London audience and he knows he was part of something truly special.

“It was such a unique experience, in a fantastic atmosphere, with a fabulous public. They made me feel supported right from my test's beginning to its end. The audience was really fantastic!!”

Gonçalo's only regret about his Kur was having to “leave the arena” and leave behind that moment of pure ecstasy. “That's the only bad part," he joked. "I left the arena with the strong desire to return because we knew that that was our last London test. It’s only when you look back on these experiences that you see their true significance. I loved the experience so much, each event that passed I felt more confident and more relaxed and I left without any desire to go. It was the happiest day of my life.”

With a love of innovative and modern music, Gonçalo chose the style of his freestyle primarily to suit his horse, but also to match his difficult choreography.

“I was the one that planned my choreography. It took quite some time to design, but that is normal. The Kur is our chance to give our best ever, and right now I'm designing a new one to present more of our best in the future.”

Gonçalo explained that he practised his kur on several occasions by deliberately riding the freestyle tour at CDI shows. He also spent many hours practicing the test in his head!

“I cannot say for sure how many times I have ridden my Kür from beginning to end, but I can tell you that the first time I presented it was at a CDI in Spain, and after finishing in top place I felt sure that the music worked! Aside from in competition I practiced it in the car, on the radio, but more importantly for me was practice through imagination. Closing my eyes and pretending that I was actually doing the dance with Rubi.”

Gonçalo recalled that in London he began to feel the audience's reaction to his freestyle and this pushed him and Rubi to even greater heights.

“As the test continued I would feel, hear the reactions of the public. When I completed my one handed one times changes, I heard a great “UAHHHHHHHH” and at that point I felt completely sure the audience was enjoying it . When I finished the test, it was such a unique feeling that I had, the affection of the public was huge, I will never forget it!!”

Carvalho believes that the secret to his freestyle success was the suitability of the music to the horse's gaits and expression. One of the very few riders who uses current-day pop and dance music by artists such as David Guetta and Black Eyes Peas, Carvalho's performance appealed especially to a young crowd.

"I think the music was very well suited to the horse and my technical difficulty was quite high. We do complete pirouettes in piaffe with a cadence and regularity that is very good and our transitions from piaffe to passage are solid. When Rubi is going well, I think this is one very cool kur, that also enthuses people who love to dance. I have had many people sending me messages saying just that!"

Knowing Rubi's strengths and talents more than anyone, owner Christine Jacoberger was the one who choose Gonçalo's music for London.

"It was a great pleasure for me to select Rubi's music," said Christine. "Now every time I listen to any kind of music I cannot stop myself from thinking, this is good for piaffe, or this would suit well for passage. I asked Ms Claudia Müller to arrange and mix the tracks and she did a perfect job, adding some percussion on the flying changes, and the pirouettes. She has all the technical knowledge I do not have! I thought that the Black Eyed Peas and David Guetta would suit well with our powerful stallion and his young rider, and we decided to take the risk, and I think this quite modern Kur was well accepted by the judges. I think that no matter the type of music, classical, soundtracks, pop, rock or even dance music, it will always be well received if it suits the design and the gaits of the horse."

Jacoberger is a strong believer that the crowds should response more enthusiastically during a freestyle, like they did with Juan Manuel Munoz Diaz and Fuego at the 2010 World Equestrian Games. The audience couldn not control its emotions and started to clap and cheer during the freestyle, making Munoz Diaz' WEG performance historical.

"I would have really liked if the public had clapped their hands and tapped their feet in time to the beat. Rubi adores this and is never annoyed by noise and loves public applause.
I think the Dressage public is still a little too shy to do it though, and afraid to bother the horse," she said. 

Granted Christine gave him his “chance to dance” with Rubi, Gonçalo is proud of his relationship with his horse’s "mum". He believes that this is a vital component of any top dressage partnership!

“My relationship with Christine is the best one possible," said Carvalho. "We are a very strong team in the sense of trust and our desire to be objective while also maintaining a strong working friendship. Christine also organizes a lot to make my job easier. She knows how to analyze our work and was thus able to not affect us and just let us work and make the best of our options and opportunities. I've learned a lot from her through our exchange of knowledge, respect, friendship, and consideration. It is so crucial to be a cohesive team, in order to win!”

Christine added that she is in great admiration of Gonçalo's talent and fine way of riding.

"Concerning the organization, I am demanding. I always ask for frankness and fairness, because that is how I am: a fair, honest and straightforward person," she explained. "And it is normal. It is always with persons of whom you appreciate their talent and in whose capacities you believe, that you are the most demanding, isn't it?"

by Sarah Warne
Photos © Astrid Appels - Private

Related Links
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Gonçalo Carvalho Sweeps the Board at 2012 Sunshine Tour CDI
Young Portuguese Star Goncalo Carvalho Inspires Young Riders

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