Freestyle, "Free Style" ?

Sun, 02/06/2005 - 00:00
2005 FEI Freestyle Forum

The last heated discussion at the 2005 FEI/PSI Freestyle Forum was once again between David Hunt and Stephen Clarke, a British duo which has become notorious for its rivaling opinions and constant public clashes, but without affecting the bonds of friendship.

Hunt's main complaint aimed at the plethora of rules and regulations on the freestyle, which actually limit the freestyle in its potential and creativity. "There are restrictions and rules on one movement [e.g. triple pirouette not allowed] and then there are movements which are not regulated," Hunt complained. "There has to be more logic behind it. With all these rules, you police it [the sport]." International judge Uwe Mechlem agreed with Hunt. "There are too many limitations on the freestyle. Riders no longer have the possibility to be original."

What one could conclude -- after sitting through the 2005 FEI Freestyle forum -- is that the kur is called a freestyle, but there is little room for a "free style". Withages talked about discipline becomes art and art becomes discipline, but isn't total freedom of creativity one of the major characteristics of "Art" ?

Judge Moritz repeated that all these rules are in the welfare of the horse. "We like to see quality of gaits and classical dressage in the freestyle," he said. "It is not our aim in this sport to exaggerate. You have to put a rule, a stop somewhere." Carsten Sostmeier believed that rules are there "to open up possibilities." Withages stated that "we should not lose artisticity. If it is done with ease, it is good. Some horses have better flying changes or half passes. In the freestyle, they can hide their problem points and show the strong points."

The freestyle forum concluded with four final highlight rides. Falk Rosenbauer on Don Jos, Louise Nathhorst on Guinness, Ignacio Ramblas on Distinguido and Juan Antonio Garcio Mena on Lance showed their kur to music. Each kur was introduced by the trainer, who talked about their choice in choreography and music. These four rides were a nice illustration of the principles, rules and techniques of freestyle riding discussed during this two-day forum.

In a final farewell speech, judge Stephen Clarke said that "this forum was so special. Mariette has wonderful ideas, but this was the most inspired. Situations like this bring the sport forward. To me, it's one of the best things that has happened so far." Withages was also very satisfied with the first Freestyle Forum. "Four years ago, I set transparency as one of my goals. As a chairman I am happy to have demystified much here at this forum."

The 2005 FEI/PSI Freestyle Forum was a big success for the judges, who wanted to set the record straight about their rules and regulations, and announce the newest changes in the rule book on freestyle riding. The organization of the forum, done by P.S.I., was once again impeccable.

Unfortunately, the lack of interaction with the audience was a low point at the forum. Maybe next year, the people in the stands can be more involved in the discussions by giving them access to a microphone and, for instance, by letting them act as 'ad interim' judges (giving scores to the demo riders, telling the 'real' judges what they liked about the choreography and music). Even though people from 20 nations were present at the forum, the forum seemed to be a German pow wow. The lack of time for the organization and extensive promotion of this forum, as well as the expensive entrance fee, can be the cause of this. Hopefully next year, Mariette's "globalization" project can eventuate at the forum. Nevertheless, at the 2005 FEI/PSI Freestyle Forum the first stone has been laid for a way to an open debate on the future of (freestyle) dressage.

Text and Images Copyrighted Astrid Appels/ - No Reproduction allowed without explicit permission

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