The central debate on the first day of the forum were the "Do's and Don'ts in a Freestyle." Five youth riders were invited to demonstrate the movements required at their level. The panel of experts then discussed the current critical issues in freestyle riding at those levels.
Sanneke Rothenberger was the first combination to appear in the ring. Daughter of Sven and Gonnelien Rothenberger, the 12-year old Sanneke presented her palomino pony Domino Dancing at FEI pony level. First she rode some pony level movements, such as trot half passes, shoulder in and counter canter, and ended her session with her own designed kur to music, which was light, energetic and upbeat, perfectly fitting the quick movements of a pony.
Withages commented that the FEI Pony kur to Music is probably the most difficult freestyle to make, because the level of difficulty is limited. She also stressed that for FEI pony riders it is very important to chose music that fits the beat of the movements. A waltz, for instance, would be unsuitable. "There are only very few waltzes that fit. There is just too much spinning," Withages said. The panel of experts added that for pony freestyles (as well as for all other kurs) it is important to chose music from one theme (movie music, musical music, or music from one genre). to use the whole arena for the choreography.
Junior Riders: Steep angles and sequential flying changes
Junior Riders Tom Berg and Lukas Fischer served as illustrators for the discussion on the technical difficulty of the trot half passes, flying changes and walk pirouettes, as well is for the debate on the usage of shoulder-in on the diagonal, renvers and travers. The major issue was whether it is allowed to make a steeper angle in trot half passes to raise the degree of difficulty.
Withages argued that the steep angle is allowed, but it should only be done if the horse is capable of doing it. Jan Bemelmans added that the travers and renvers is a good exercise to be done on the quarter track, but they are just as training exercises and not meant for shows. To him, the usage of a steep angle in the half passes depends on the quality of the trot. "Supple horses should do it and it's not too difficult for juniors," Bemelmans said. Rafael Soto stated that the rider needs to adapt to the ability of the horse. Judge Bernard Maurel cautioned the riders that both the technical and artistic mark goes down when the steep half pass is not performed well.
All experts agreed that the walk pirouettes can be done in a kur, but there have to be two in order to keep the choreography in balance. Heike Kemmer said "I think walk pirouettes are boring, but if you do them, you need to do them on both sides."
What determines a sequence and what constitutes separate flying changes were the questions concerning flying changes. Lukas Fischer rode four flying changes on a 20 meter circle, changing lead on the four quarter points of the circle. Stephan Clarke cleared up the issue by saying that one has a sequence when there are flying changes every four strides. These 4x tempi's are not allowed at junior riders level. The flying changes on the circle are.
Young Riders: To Zig Zag or Not
The entrance of two male young riders in military uniform spiced the forum. Stephan Koberle and Benjamin Werndl, both Warendorf Bundeswehr Sportschule students (Military Sportstudents in Warendorf) presented their horses appealingly, demonstrating lateral movements to fit the discussion, which was an in depth debate on the steepness of angles in the half pass and on sequential flying changes at young riders level
Koberle's lovely bay mare had more difficulty maintaining balance and rhythm on the right track in the trot half pass. A good option to mask this problem in a kur is by riding zig zags in trot. Bemelmans believed that if the young rider is able to do the zig zag, he should add it to his test. Heike Kemmer claimed that you need a really well balanced horse for the zig zag and one that crosses his legs well. Mariette Withages argued that the zig zag has to follow the lines of the choreography and the rider has to make sure that all technical requirements for the kur are fulfilled, before adding high difficulty movements to the test. She declared her preference for "nice, easy, good half passes" over "riders who will penalize themselves by making it difficult [with a zig zag]."
Stephen Clarke mentioned that for young riders sequential flying changes involve the required 4x and 3x tempi's. Full pirouettes, however, are not allowed at young riders' level. If a young rider goes for the half pirouette but makes a full one by accident, he will get a 0 for that exercise and will automatically get no more than 5 for degree of difficulty in his choreography.
At the end of this session, Benjamin Werndl demonstrated his kur to music using Lord of the Rings music for the walk, Harry Potter and Pirates of the Caribbean music for the canter and Painted Black for the trot. German kur composer Stephan Krawczyk's main criticism on the ride was the lack of a theme in Werndl's music. He said Painted Black was not a good choice as all other music were movie soundtracks. "I missed a theme, a red line in the freestyle. I wasn't so enthusiastic about the music as the judges were," Krawczyk said.
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