Fun and Games with Winnie

Capturing the Dance

They've done a square dance on horseback with the boys side by side so they didn’t think it’d be a great leap to dance side by side. Wrong.

By: Fun and Games with Winnie |

Bill and I decided to create a dance for our spring fundraiser May 7th. Here it is below:

Our coach, Alex, met with us several times during the creative process. Here are some of the adventures we had along the journey.

1. We’ve done a square dance on horseback with the boys side by side so we didn’t think it’d be a great leap to dance side by side. Wrong. We learned that we upset the herd dynamics! In the paddock Zeloso is in charge. He has been ever since he was four years old. That’s when he finally was a bit taller than Zelador. Zelador always lets Zeloso boss him. Zelador gets out of Zeloso’s way instantly. Under saddle Zelador says, “With Winnie riding me I’m superior to All horses in the world.” Zeloso doesn’t agree.

Our first two or three practices side by side required close attention on the riders’ part to every nuance from the horses. Both of them indicated that they were at the top of the pecking order and would bite the other horse if the riders didn’t stop them. Initially we had each horse’s head turned away from the other horse. Alex wanted us side by side with our legs touching. This close contact took a few weeks of practice. We finally got there.

2. Speaking of legs touching…during one practice we were walking a few steps side by side after the horses did what I call “the whoop-si-do.” During this movement, they go from approaching each other head to head and end up side by side. Well, Bill and I both noticed that the knobs on the outside of his right Portuguese chap had gotten stuck in the left side of my riding boot. My boot has a tie at the top. Perhaps the knob was in the tie’s loop. I don’t really know. Our next movement in the dance was for us to split, Bill going left and me going right. We weren’t sure WHAT would happen. We split. The boots disengaged and we proceeded on the back of our respective horses.

3. After our first practice with Alex I commented, “Did you notice hot TALL Zelador was!!! I swear he was taller than Zeloso.” Alex said, “Yes, Zelador was doing everything he could to be the biggest horse out there. He put a bit more bounce in his step which lifted him above Zeloso and he carried his head higher.”

4. Our initial version of the dance had the Spanish Walk. Zelador did a great job, but Zeloso wasn’t a happy camper. I had taught Zeloso the Spanish Walk when he was four (on June 30 he’ll be 13 years old). I started on the ground and progressed to the saddle. I helped Bill with reschooling himself and Zeloso. I showed Bill the steps from the ground and the saddle. Zeloso was brilliant. Occasionally Zeloso and Bill would “click” and the steps of the Spanish Walk were amazing, but there was no consistency. We decided to find another movement to replace the Spanish Walk. We flirted with a leg yield from “A” to the middle of the long side. We tried the half-pass. Both were practiced at the walk and at the trot. Finally, we settled on a shoulder-in down the centreline.

5. At the fundraiser, the boys did GREAT. We didn’t get any videos taken that day and one of our friends said, “You’ve got to get the dance on video before you forget it!”

6. When it came to filming we encountered many more adventures. Turns out that a normal lens on a video camera did not get both riders in the frame when we were near the camera and at separate sides of the arena. If the camera operator stayed focused on the centre of the arena then the video showed and empty arena at that movement.

  • One camera operator zoomed in and out. The zooming mechanism on our camera is very delicate. The result was rapid zooming which made watching the dance difficult.
  • Another operator sort of turned off the camera and missed half of the dance.
  • We put one operator in the loft of the arena and instead of turning after the pedestals, we turned before them. Of course, this messed up the timing of the dance with the music. Only other problem was the operator didn’t quite get both of us in the frame. He held the camera a bit off centre with extra space to the left of that rider.
  • One operator filmed perfectly on a phone. The phone had wide-angle possibilities and got both of us in every frame. Only problem, Zelador wasn’t all that cooperative, whereas Zeloso was brilliant. We tried again and again to have this person refilm, but she was adamant that the first film was just plane luck and she would never film again. The wee problem with the phone footage was it appeared on our computer rotated 90 degrees. Turns out this happens quite often with phone footage. We looked online and found many solutions, one of which worked perfectly, too bad Zelador didn’t.
  • We bought a wide-angle lens for our video camera and things went relatively smoothly. That’s the version of the dance that you see here.

7. We found the music very early in our practices. It’s the second movement of Beethoven’s 8th symphony which was written shortly after the metronome was invented. The steady beat is delightful to ride to. However, we quickly learned that not every conductor interpreted the second movement the same. One version was three minutes and forty-eight seconds long. Zelador quite liked this zippy tempo! Another version was over four minutes and thirty seconds. Amazing. We settled on Otto Klemperer’s second movement (4:21) and it worked just fine. Alex suggested starting the dance with the sounds of the orchestra tuning their instruments. That was a GREAT idea.

8. Playing the music in our arena presented challenges. I have a tape recorder that I bought in the early 1970’s. The sound quality isn’t all that pleasant. When we turned up the volume the 2nd movement sounded pretty horrible. This led to buying a new audio system for the arena.

And that pretty much sums it up!

P.S. The horses are 13 years old this year and the riders are 68 and 71.