Ruth Hogan-Poulsen launched her work as a freestyle composer in 1997 with a horse named Aristocrat owned by Elizabeth Ritz. Ruth qualified Aristocrat for the small tour at the 1998 Dressage at Devon and needed a freestyle, so she created the music on her dual disc recorder/player with a stop/start button. “I had so much fun and success making that freestyle,” Ruth recalls. “It actually won at Devon.”
Ruth can read music and grew up singing and playing instruments along with riding horses, so combining the two was a natural. After the Devon victory, she began creating freestyles for riders in New England. Those riders also found success and Ruth discovered her niche. “Some of the freestyle composers are excellent technicians, but don’t ride,” she pointed out. “I had a good connection to the rider because I do it myself.”
Ruth currently creates 10 to 12 freestyles annually. She especially enjoys working with juniors, young riders, and children, pointing out, “They’re going places, they need help, and they need mentoring. Most have never done a freestyle before.” Ruth has created freestyles for the Children of the Americas Dressage Invitational (CADI) – a competition for FEI riders aged nine to 14, as well as for competitors in the USEF Young Rider and High Performance divisions. “Some of my freestyles have gone to the FEI World Cup Dressage for Young Riders in Germany and the World Equestrian Games Selection Trials,” Ruth notes.
Discovering that many riders want to ride to music but don’t necessarily want to compete, Ruth developed her Riding with Soul™ clinics in 2007, which utilize the effect of music on horse and rider. Learning to find and maintain the right tempo helps riders improve their riding, their relationship with their horse’s rhythm, and their relaxation.
The clinics led Ruth to develop the Riding with Soul™ CDs, offering five music genres – Classical, Upbeat, Symphony, Jazz, and Latin. The 35-minute CDs contain tracks Ruth has mixed and matched as walk, trot, and canter music. The average beat per minute for a horse is timed out so the rider knows it’s appropriate for the designated gait. The CDs also include Ruth’s voiceover instructions that help the rider find the downbeat. “I’ve sold out twice already,” Ruth says. “I spend a lot of time burning CDs!”
Ruth has a digital recording studio in Vermont that also travels with her to Florida. The music is on her computer; she records her voiceover, and edits the final product. Learning the technology was challenging. “My brother Neil is a computer genius, so I’d tell him what I needed, he’d find a program and install it on my computer and then hand me the manual,” Ruth laughs. “I did classes online. It took a long time to figure out how to do everything, but I’m persistent and I follow directions. When you really desire to do something, you can learn how to do it. I was not a super computer person five years ago, but I’m pretty clever at it now.”
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