HAPPINESS IS: Pas de deux buddies Sierra Cullen on Painted Lily (left) and Kameryn Stockar on Annie chose a “Happy” theme for their test at Straight Forward Dressage’s (PA) July schooling show (Jennifer Bryant photo)

Want to double your dressage fun? Read on!

Reprinted from the September 2014 Issue of USDF Connection

By Anne Moss

Pas de deux (a musical dressage ride done with a pair of horses and riders) is the most fun to be had at a dressage show—but don’t tell the quadrille riders! Dressage is fun; adding music for a freestyle makes it super fun; and riding to tunes with a pal is the best thing going down the center line.

Have you ever gone to a dressage show and things just didn’t go well? I have a clear memory of feeling perfectly dismal after getting a crummy Second Level score at the end of a long and expensive weekend. Granted, the ride (and, more to the point, my riding) matched the score pretty well that day, but the long and the short of it was that I was not having fun with my horse.

Th is has never happened to me showing pas de deux. I always have fun, and there are some great reasons for that that I want to share with you.

You’ve Got a Friend

Training and showing with a friend completely changes the competitive experience. I know I’ll have a good time and that I’ll come out of the arena smiling.

Many horses gain confidence in company, too. My experienced horse, Helium, was a great training and showing buddy for my PDD partner Deb’s green horse, Oz. Later, after Oz had himself become a schoolmaster, he acted as leader to show my new, green mare the ropes. PDD teams often consist of horses showing at different levels, and they can show as a PDD at one level below the one at which the greenest horse is competing.

Creating the Pas de Deux

The creative collaboration in designing and preparing the PDD ride is a treat. Here’s your chance to show off what you and your horses do well as a pair.

It takes a minimum of eight weeks of weekly or twice-weekly practice to get a ride ready to show; before that, of course, comes planning the pattern and coordinating the music. Pattern design is a great artistic challenge, and it is always fun to see what your horses think of the track you have drawn for them. I tend to be more creative than realistic (or so says my horse), so my original pattern is never the improved and more ridable version that ends up in the show ring. Be flexible as you choreograph, and make it fun and easy for your horse. Many crowd and judge-pleasing movements and figures are easy to ride.

Before you get started, though, it’s a good idea to read the fine print. Read the PDD test rules (https://www.usdf.org/education/other-programs/pasdedeux/)  carefully, noting both what’s required and what’s forbidden at the level you will be showing.

Music or pattern first? Some teams start with the music and script the ride to match it; others set the music to the pattern. I find that doing a little of both works really well.

 If you and your partner will be creating the ride yourselves, without the help of a professional freestyle designer, there are many music editing programs that do a great job—but be ready to put many hours into the project. Videotape the pattern being ridden a few times and time the walk, trot, and canter sections as a starting point for selecting music that fits.

There is nothing wrong with using a professional designer, but a do-it- yourself PDD can be a rewarding effort. However, you may not have to start from scratch. It may be possible to use one rider’s existing freestyle music and tweak the pattern into a PDD. Quadrille riders can sometimes repurpose their quad music and pattern for just two horses. Beginning PDD teams may be able to borrow a pattern and music from another team that no longer uses it. Hundreds of hours go into designing a ride, and it is a pity for a pattern and music to go dormant when a team is finished with it. (On that note, be sure to save your music and pattern together in one file. You will invariably create many updated music and pattern fi les, so rename the fi e or update the date when you save the changes.)

Make Some Magic

With a good pattern, willing horses, synchronized riders, enchanting music, and some spiff and polish, you can create a tremendous performance that is not only a ball to ride but (one hopes) will delight the judge, inspire spectators, and bring joy to your heart.

Now that you have an impressive ride put together and have ridden it well a few times at shows, don’t be surprised if you get invited to do an exhibition ride at a local venue. This can be the most fun, as the costume closet is wide open for you and your horse, and you will finally have the big audience that you deserve. Exhibitions are one of the few ways to expose the general public to dressage, and they are great way to give your horse a taste of the limelight without the pressure of competition.

So PDD on! There is so much to learn, so much creativity to explore, and double the fun than you and your horse will ever have going it alone.

 Longtime freestyle, pas de deux, and quadrille enthusiast Anne Moss is a member of the USDF Freestyle Committee and the chair of the USDF Historical Recognition Committee. She is also a USEF “r” dressage judge. She lives in Coatesville, PA. 

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