Tamara Williamson has designed freestyles for dressage for some of North America’s best riders, including Jacqueline Brooks, Diane Creech, Evi Strasser, Diane O’Brien and Julie Watchorn. What makes Williamson unique among freestyle designers is that she’s also an accomplished musician and composer with eight albums under her belt and a resume of world tours.
Williamson, based in Canada, owns Kurboom. A dressage rider herself, she got her start doing musical freestyles after watching the freestyle competition at the Royal Winter Fair.
“One of the riders came out and must have been using a cassette because the music started to stretch, warp and swell in volume while everyone started to blush a little,” Williamson recalled. “I thought to myself, ‘That shouldn't happen.’ I began to think that as I had my own studio and knew a lot about editing and mastering music that perhaps I could help.
I started my company Kurboom soon after. My second job was for a rider at the same show the following year. I remember sitting in the stands and being so nervous that I nearly lost my lunch, but I was hooked.” PhelpsPhoto: Julie Watchorn and Dobble Tyme at the 2007 North American Young Riders' Championships Individual Bronze Medalist.
The process of developing a kur is a long one, Williamson said, that involves much back and forth between herself and the rider. “If my client lives close enough, I often go out and film their pattern, chat about structure and what designs are easier to put to music. A lot of my clients from the U.S. send me videos. Ideally I like to fine-tune my editing by going back and forth to consult the rider, all the while making small edits. For instance, with Jacqueline Brooks' kur for Gran Gesto, I probably made ten separate visits to fine-tune the music. The final kur had over forty edits.”
In reality, Williamson said no freestyle she designs is ever complete. Why? Because horses are living creatures and changing all the time. “Every time the horse changes movement, the music must change with him. The kur must continuously be fine tuned as the horse is developing through its training.” PhelpsPhoto: Canadian Team member, Jacqueline Brooks and Balmoral at Dressage at Devon.
Williamson is a native of Britain, so it’s no surprise that when she was younger, she was an avid Pony Club member. She moved to Canada in 1997 and essentially devoted her life to her music. “I have predominately been a musician and was signed to a major label. In 2001 I moved out of Toronto and bought a hobby farm with my husband. I found myself in the heart of horse country and started training in dressage. I now have a huge pinto named Ollie Orca and we are aiming to show Level Three this summer.”
As a musician, Williamson has toured throughout North America and Europe. She defines her music today as “quite melodic and ethereal, but in the olden days my band was quite punky and we opened for bands like Oasis and The Pursuit of Happiness.” Clearly, Williamson is thrilled at her success in combining her two love, music and dressage. “As you can imagine, with my background in music and performing, I love the art of the kur. I like to think that if we had more riders riding to music, we could all have more fun and the sport could reach a wider audience.”
As a freestyle designer, Williamson said there is always a moment of “stage fright” just as she watches one of her riders enter the ring. “When the rider signals for the music to start, it's like the beginning of a great live show. There's that moment of anticipation, that excitement in the air.... I love it. The kurs I make have lots of cues.
The riders have to be on their mark and really go for it... and the music always has to end with a ‘KURBOOM’.”
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