The Horse Rider's Journal

10 soundtracks we’d like to hear in Rio for the freestyle


No more muzak, please: The Horse Rider’s Journal and friends pick the fantasy tracks they’d love to ride to in Rio.

Text Susanne Madsen Photography Louis Vuitton

Last week, Innocent Drinks shared a Kanye-soundtracked video of Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro’s Grand Prix Special passage up the centre line with the caption: “Equestrian dressage is even better if you imagine the horse is dancing along to Kanye West.” (Cue Kanye going, “Well, obviously, I am God’s vessel.”) They weren’t the first to think like that – see our playlist below for the OG Kanye dressage rider, Carl Hedin – and perhaps it’s also not such a bad time to think slightly outside the music box, what with the International Olympic Committee threatening to take equestrian sport out of the Olympics. Especially when you think about the fact that a spoof video of Andreas Helgstrand’s 2006 WEG test on Blue Hors Matiné set to Lil Kim’s Lighters Up has nearly 5 million views.

We’re not saying that rappers should now be the soundtrack of choice for all tests or that the poetry of dressage should be overpowered by a need to cater to the mainstream. We’re also not in any way discounting the beautiful work by freestyle music greats like Tom Hunt and Joost Peters who do wonderful pieces to complement some of the world’s top combinations. We’re just saying it would be fun for everyone if dressage ventured out of its comfort zone a little once in a while. And for the love of all that is holy, please, no more Phil Collins muzak.

Judges, however, tend to be quite traditional when it comes to test music and start clutching their pearls if a soundtrack veers off the beaten track. When Joachim Thomsen debuted a phenomenal new kür with Akeem Foldager, there was a lot of discussion around the use of vocals on his Twilight soundtrack. (Vocals – so provocative!) While judges have to assess whether a piece of music is in harmony with the horse (its type, paces and movements) and are not allowed to let their personal taste in music affect scores, it’s difficult for them not to be coloured by personal (often conservative) preference.

Putting together a kür requires an understanding of the sport and horses and how they move, but you can’t help but think that it would be very interesting if catwalk soundtrack greats from fashion like Michel Gaubert or Yasmina Dexter – masters of building emotion and a specific mood to underscore a collection – would interpret a horse’s movements and expression. While we wait for that to happen, we got some of our horsey friends (a jolly mix of professional and amateur riders) and the editorial team to pick their fantasy tracks to ride to in Rio this afternoon if they had the chance – and could get away with playing anything.

Marie Davidson – Excès de Vitesse. Chosen by Maud Escudie, model

“I love Marie Davidson. Excès de Vitesse or Perte d’identité would both be brilliant – the latter is quite psychological. It’s so good and it would be amazing for a new type of dressage, to add something cool and modern.”

Instagram @maudescudie

Kanye West – Stronger. Chosen by Carl Hedin, Grand Prix rider and CEO at Eques Management

“If I would only ride to one song and take only my own likings into consideration, I most definitely would pick Stronger by Kanye West. I think this song has a suitable beat for riding and it has a clear rhythm to it. I also like the core message and if I ever have a bad day at work I tend to listen to this song, then I’m motivated again! I like the unconstrained feeling it delivers, something I really feel I can relate to.”

Instagram @hedincarl

Exile – Kiss You All Over. Chosen by Malene Malling, Publisher & Editor of The Horse Rider’s Journal

“It is perhaps the sexiest track I know – and dressage is really quite a sensual discipline – so I think it would be perfect.”

Instagram @malenemalling

Justin Timberlake – Can’t Stop the Feeling. Chosen by Patricia Florin, Grand Prix rider and CEO at Gunnarlunda Dressage

“If I could choose any song I wanted for my next freestyle it would be Justin Timberlake’s Can’t Stop the Feeling. It’s such a happy song with such a nice beat. It really describes how you “can’t stop the feeling” that all riders get when they enter the ring with their best friend. I bet my horse, the audience and the judges would love to Dance, Dance, Dance with me to that song.”

Instagram @gunnarlunda

Space – Magic Fly. Chosen by Nicco Torelli, Fashion Editor at Wonderland Magazine

“It’s from 1977, very early New Wave/New Romantic, and I’m obsessed with that time. It could have been released now and it would still be number one. It’s timeless. I can see it working well with transitions between the three gaits and I’ve often imagined myself riding to it – nervy paces and continuous restarts, with a nice, elevated trot.”

Instagram @niiccotorelli

Grimes – Dream Fortress. Chosen by Susanne Madsen, Editor-in-Chief of The Horse Rider’s Journal

“While I’d be tempted to use a score from Bram Stoker’s Dracula or the Woodsboro theme from Scream (I’m a major horror fan and there would for sure be some nightmare moments as I can’t count tempi changes to save my life!) I’m going to go with Grimes’ celestial Dream Fortress. It has an otherworldly, ecclesiastical sound that’s so mesmerising and it completely captures the almost spiritual feeling you get when everything comes together for you and your horse.”

Instagram @susannemadsen1

Tina Turner – Rolling on the River. Chosen by Kate Matheson, manager at Zapata Ranch in Colorado

“It might be a tricky one but it would be exciting at least! I seriously would love that so much. Valegro is, of course, the only horse I’d want to ride.”

Instagram @kateloveshorses

MØ – Pilgrim. Chosen by Maria Graae, Coordinating Editor at The Horse Rider’s Journal

“‘Hey, yo, holla’ could be the perfect entrance halt at X to any freestyle. I would especially love to see the two Danish riders Anna Kazprzak (26) and Cathrine Dufour (24) doing their canter Freestyle Grand Prix work and flying changes to some slightly more age-appropriate music. I even think this song could work quite well with piaffe and passage.”

Instagram @msgraae

Kygo – Stole the Show. Chosen by Helene Melsen, Grand Prix rider

“I love riding to music that I actually like. Kygo’s songs are great for something a bit younger and more fun – and Firestone would be good, too – but I probably wouldn’t ever choose it because of the judges. And it’s also something quite current, so it’s not a kür I’d use for many years.”

Emilie Levienaise-Farrouch – Tulsi. Chosen by Stacey Streshinsky, writer at The Horse Rider’s Journal

“In an ideal world, where my horse would respond well to a piece like that, the track of my choice would be Tulsi, by Paris-born, Goldsmiths-educated composer Emilie Levienaise-Farrouch. I like the idea of playing on tradition in dressage, so while the track can be defined as a classical piece it doesn’t conform to what one would expect at a kür ride. I love the tension of the track, which, I feel, captures what lies at the basis of an exciting freestyle routine. With the sporadically expressive string arrangement, it’d be interesting to contrast that with, say, a very measured passage. Basically, it’s beautiful, unexpected and challenging.”

Instagram @stacestr

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