Incipient FEI Freestyle Forum, Good Start to Open Discussion about the Kur

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

"It is a dream come true. My hopes have been fulfilled," said FEI Dressage Committee chairwoman Mariette Withages in her closing speech at the first FEI Freestyle Forum hosted by Performance Sales International (PSI) in Ankum, Germany, February 1-2, 2005.

The 2005 FEI/PSI Freestyle Forum was the first ever international conference on the rules, regulations and dimensions of the dressage freestyle. During this two-day meeting, trainers, riders, judges, and attendants discussed a wide range of aspects concerning the kur to music. To provide illustration for the debate, several renowned dressage riders gave a demonstration and 'sacrificed' themselves for public criticism on their technical riding skills as well as their choice in music and choreography.

The FEI Freestyle Forum is the brain child of O-judge Mariette Withages who has been striving towards "globalization" and "transparency" in dressage ever since she became the FEI Dressage committee chairwoman. "The freestyle has given a new dimension to dressage and has done much to secure its Olympic status," Withages said, "most spectators are not dressage experts, but they are interested in the movements. The audience goes wild when the music is to the beat of the rhythm of the horse."

Judge Christoph Hess, who spoke in behalf of the German Equestrian Federation, said that the concept of this FEI Freestyle Forum was based on Joep Bartels' Global Dressage Forum. The international eventing riders held a similar gathering about the current standing of their discipline in Addington (GBR) last year, and, according to Hess, the time was ripe for the dressage experts "to decide in what way we want to continue," as the freestyle has been part of the dressage competition sport for 10 years. Hess quoted the legendary Dr. Reiner Klimke, who used to be a fervent detractor of the kur, but who changed his mind after having seen the kur at the 1996 Olympic Games. Klimke said that, "the Freestyle is the real highlight of the Olympics."

Mariette Withages stated that a good freestyle should show a horse that is "lightfooted, willingly and in partnership with the rider. Like a ballerina performing a classical ballet. It is a combination of art and sport. In the freestyle, discipline becomes art and art becomes discipline."

The 2005 FEI/PSI Freestyle Forum was a forum for experts and not for mere dressage aficionado's who were sitting in the stands as well. Sometimes the discussions were so much focused on the fine print of the rules and regulations on freestyle riding, that on the one hand they narrowed down the debate for the ears of a niche audience of judges only, but, on the other, they were highly interesting analyzing the boundaries of technical and choreographic difficulty in a freestyle ride.

With a registry fee of more than 500 euro, the 2005 FEI/PSI Freestyle Forum discouraged the "average" dressage fan to gather at this public seminar on freestyle riding. Consequently the stands were only filled with approximately 100 people, who did not receive sufficient opportunity to interact with the panel of experts. Overall, the forum left a chilly feel with the attendants, but, fortunately, the content of the topics heated up the arena and, furthermore, the gala dinner in the evening added much to the atmosphere of togetherness and shared passion for the dressage freestyle at the first FEI/PSI Freestyle Forum.

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

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