Johnny Robb had just lost her FEI horse and started riding a little black Arab that belonged to her instructor, Lisa Payne. Fleet Halaniz is a two-time National Champion for Arabs at fourth and Prix St. George level dressage. Payne was riding a bigger, but also black, FEI horse, and for the fun of it they decided to do a Pas de Deux. They performed four times with the pair, twice scoring over 73%. Then the family that owned the horse Payne was riding sent him to another trainer, and they were left with only half of the duo.
It wasn't long before the Wellington pair decided that black and white worked out just as well, or even better, than the two black horses. Succeeding On, also an Arab, filled the missing link perfectly.
"The first couple of times we tried them together, we changed the test and they were competitive and tried to attack each other. We went back to the original format, in which they have a little more distance from each other, and it worked out well. Now we're hooked," said Robb.
As for finding the right music, things were hit and miss. They settled on a medley of Henry Mancini tunes. "We played a bunch of CD's and got the big beat and the little beat at the same time," said Robb, who claims no musical expertise. "The horses are 15.1 and 15.2 hands, so we just had to find something that worked for them."
"I think we did a really good job of finding music that compliments both of the horses," said Payne. "In an ordinary freestyle you have to match one horse, but in this I think we had to find music that that enhanced how the horses are dancing together. The Henry Mancini music is fun because most people will recognize at least two of the selections."
Having found a young horse for herself, Robb is already lining up a future Pas de Deux partner for the Latvian gelding that she purchased from Peter Gregoriev. She says that they do it for fun and for the sport in general. "People come and watch and laugh because we laugh," she says. It sounds like the judges enjoy themselves, too: once the pair got a "10" for laughing down the centerline. "We're dressage riders, but we're always doing fun things to keep it interesting. In fact, we did a hunter pace and won." Robb feels that the only hope for the future of dressage is to make it fun. "I'd like to push that atmosphere into the circuit," she said. Their husbands and significant other are also getting involved in horses. In fact, Robb's husband has become interested in reining.
The Gold Coast Dressage Association has added a year-end award for the Pas de Deux, which Payne and Robb won last year with average scores in the 70's.
Lisa Payne owns Oak Hammock Farms in Wellington, FL; Robb works as a creative director for an Air Conditioning Company. Payne says that it has drawn attention to her business as a teacher and trainer to be involved in such a noticeable aspect of dressage. She hopes to promote the class this summer when her farm has an adult riding camp. "We'll do ordinary lessons in the mornings but in the afternoon we plan to do Pas de Deux's and quadrilles so that the riders get used to regulating their horses to match another horse. Its will really help them hone their skills."
"I can't recommend doing a Pas de Deux enough," says Robb. "You're thinking about the other rider, so you're using your aids, not analyzing them."
By Amber Heintzberger for dressagedaily.com
"The Dancing Horse Fund"
A group of dressage enthusiasts recently established "The Dancing Horse Fund" through The Dressage Foundation in order to "promote participation in and improve the qualities of, musical freestyle at all levels of dressage." The Fund will provide help at the local and regional levels in education for competitors, and at the National level to promote education for judges and officials, and generally assist in making the Musical Freestyle a publicized part of dressage. The Dressage Foundation will promote the Fund and solicit donations to it, as well as processing proposals and requests for grants.
For more information about this fun, contact:
The Dressage Foundation
130 North 10th Street
Lincoln, NE 69508
Phone (402) 434-8585