The Magic of Equestrian Musical Freestyle

Passion, Practice and Beautiful Bonds of Love and Trust

My husband and I recently moved to the Northern County of San Diego, CA. In addition to its beauty and wonderful weather almost every day, there are a number of attractions like the Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch, the San Diego Botanical Gardens, its proximity to many beaches and parks, and spiritual centers like Yogananda Gardens in Encinitas, as well as the Deepak Chopra Healing Center in neighboring Carlsbad. We have many new rich possibilities to explore here.
Another nearby beautiful town, Del Mar, has fair grounds that host all kinds of interesting events. We recently attended our first musical freestyle equestrian event there. In a big tented, open-air arena, we witnessed about sixteen competitors. The first eight were vying for a $1,000 prize and the other eight were competing for a $5,000 prize.
Anna Buffini

Anna Buffini decided to give her “best friend” and 18-year-old partner, Sundayboy, a new chapter, retiring him from international competition. As a sendoff, the pair performed their final brilliant freestyle dance. Photo by Donna El Haber, 2017. All rights reserved.

I know very little about the training or required dance steps for this sport, but I felt thrilled to see riders and their horses having so much fun in the ring doing what they had spent so many years practicing to earn a prestigious spot among those horses and riders who can compete at that high level. The horses were all magnificently groomed and adorned and the riders all looked so dashing in their helmets and riding apparel.
With each one, there was the anticipation of the music, how well they would work together, and how smoothly all would go. I liked the presentations best that chose more dramatic music and where the horse took flight for a bit and let out all that reined in energy.
The position of the neck of the horses, along with their precise dancing steps cannot be easy for them. And yet each seemed to be enjoying the spotlight, their time in the ring and their time with their riders. During different segments, my eyes welled with tears because my soul was filled with such emotion and joy at what these teams had accomplished together. I felt so deeply grateful to have been there in that beautiful arena with my husband, witnessing the beauty and exquisite expertise of what can only be accomplished with so much hard work, dedication and love.

Communication between equestrian freestyle performers and their horses seems effortless and their bond so deep. There is so much trust and love that flow between them. Photo by Donna El Haber, 2017. All rights reserved.

I could easily glimpse a little of what it must have felt like for the rider as I took some musical freestyle classes with my dog Socrates, who has since passed. We only performed in class, but on the last day when we all performed our routines, it felt so good when we were having fun and the routine was going well. It was uplifting for both of us. I recall that my mother, who has also since passed, was there and was beaming with pride for her granddog.
What was amazing to me during these performances is that I did not see or hear the riders ever talking to their horses. The music was loud, but I think there was more of a silent communication. Much must have been done with the reins, but it was so subtle that I didn’t see any overt signals. In canine musical freestyle, you often see competitors gesturing very clearly for the move they want the dog to perform. With this seamless kind of movement over the course of a five-minute program, I could only imagine the amount of work and dedication that it took to arrive at where they were.
What brought the tears to my eyes was the beauty and charm of so much coming together in the moment – the music, the elegance of the horses, the grace of their movements, the choreography and so much more. But perhaps what always affects me most when I see animals performing with their guardians or professional riders is their ineffable connection. It is the invisible ribbon of trust and love that flows so effortlessly between them and the clear foundation for the magnificent artistry they create together.
I almost love best of all the finale of each performance when the music stops, the applause begins and I can see the rider stroking or hugging and kissing the neck of the horse. Then that love becomes visible for a moment. It is so sweet and tender and fills my heart with gratitude because I know everyone in the audience wants to also be stroking or hugging the neck of the horse that just performed so beautifully as a way of saying a collective “Thank You.”
Del Mar National Horse Show

Those attending the Del Mar National Horse Show – Equestrian Freestyle Evening of Performances witnessed years of hard work and practice and deep connections between riders and horses that coalesced in magnificent performances of elegance and grace. Photo by Donna El Haber, 2017. All rights reserved.

I was recently listening to a wonderful segment of Esther Hicks channeling the wisdom of Abraham at a workshop given on July 9, 2011 in San Francisco. Towards the end of the workshop, a woman came up who had been training horses for many years. She felt something was going amiss in her work and she wanted Abraham’s guidance on how to enable her work to flow more smoothly and for her to have more success with the horses she was working with.
I loved their interaction because the infinite wisdom that is the collective consciousness of Abraham turned the discussion around completely. Rather than training horses to get them to do what their riders wanted, Abraham shared that the trainer needed to decide who her true client was, the rider or the horse.
What Abraham also shared was to begin first attracting in a positive vibrational way the horses who really wanted to learn and do the kind of work their riders wanted them to do. If her work continued to be trying to get horses to comply with riders and do what they really did not want to do, then she would continue to feel that she had lost her touch, the horses would not be learning or following guidance as easily, and her work would feel far less rewarding.
Happy & Healthy Dog E-book
In my e-book, “25 Ways to Maintain a Happy and Healthy Dog,” I encourage guardians to find an activity or sport to do with their dog, whether canine freestyle, obedience work, agility, fly ball, therapy dog work and so much more. However, I caution guardians to tune in to whether their dogs are really enjoying the sport or activity. I shared how Socrates became a therapy dog, but never enjoyed going into facilities. So I decided to stop taking him there. His heart just wasn’t in it. He couldn’t wait to leave and then it wasn’t fun for me anymore either. To learn more about my e-book, “25 Ways to Maintain a Happy and Healthy Dog,” click here.

My dog Socrates loved to dance with me, but never enjoyed going into facilities with elderly patients. Photo by Donna El Haber, 2002. All rights reserved.

All the horses seemed to really be enjoying their time in the ring, moving so elegantly to the music. In fact, what amused me so much was how two of the winning horses, one from the $1,000 competition, and another from the $5,000 competition, could not stop their feet from dancing at the awards ceremony. They could barely stand still and wanted to just move and maybe even show off a little more. It seemed almost as though their riders were just along for the ride the horses were taking them on. Check out Zenith’s entrance into the winner’s circle as Nick Wagman gently steers him into the ring. Throughout the ceremony, ever the show horse, Zenith still just wanted to move and dance. As Nick exits the ring and takes his last lap around, you can see me in the stands, wearing a pink shirt and white sweater, standing, applauding and cheering for the dynamic duo.
Winslow, who came in second for the $5,000 competition, also could not stop moving. He also won my heart. Check out his winner’s circle moves here with Kimberly McGrath riding. Winslow’s feet just won’t stop prancing and dancing.

Nick Wagman gently steers Zenith into the ring to receive his award.

Winslow, who came in second for the $5,000 competition, also could not stop moving.

The following week at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, I saw horses competing in the jumping competition. There was both more risk and more money at stake. I was very surprised when several of the horses competing at that high level just stopped short in front of some jumps. It takes a really strong bond of trust between rider and jumper to compete at this sport and at this level. It was amazing to watch when it was done with speed, precision and agility. Some horses seemed to just fly over jumps.
Flying Horse

Some horses competed effortlessly, easily flying over the bars, while others just stopped in their tracks, refusing to make the next jump. Photo by Donna El Haber, 2017. All rights reserved.

Both of these events reminded me about the importance of building a foundation of trust, respect and love with animals we are working with and with our pets. The beautiful performances I saw reflected some deep bonds and relationships that filled my heart with both joy and awe.
In my work with guardians and their pets, I am always seeking to foster an even deeper bond, to improve communications, help solve behavioral and other issues and strengthen the respect and mutual admiration that is always flowing between the two. To learn more about the work I do with animals and their guardians and the packages I offer, click here.

Carolyn Scott and Rookie perform their extraordinary and inspirational dance to “You’re the One That I Want” from the musical “Grease.”

One of connections I love so much is the one between a Golden Retriever named Rookie, who has since passed, and his guardian Carolyn Scott. Their amazing canine freestyle performance so clearly shows the heart of a dog whose bond went so deep with his guardian. To watch their inspirational performance to “You’re the One That I Want” from the musical “Grease,” click here.
It was also wonderful to see so many participants involved in sports they were so clearly passionate about. When you do what you love, and do it so well, you inspire and uplift others. I encourage you to make time for the activities that bring you the most joy. I also encourage guardians to seek activities to do with their horses and dogs that will deepen their relationships and foster the bonds of love, trust and respect. Following the bliss of doing what you most enjoy will always lead to more positive expansion.
Congratulations not only to the winners of the events, but to all the riders and horses who competed and who provided a wealth of inspiration for us all. With passion, talent and practice, there is no limit to the heights of success that can be achieved within that deep and sacred bond of love and trust. Here’s to your passion and your purpose. And here’s to the guardians and their ineffable connections with their horses and pets who together achieve so much through their beautiful bonds of love, trust and respect.
With love, healing and so many miracles,
Rev. Donna El Haber
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