While dressage has its roots in ancient Greece, it was in the seemingly magical displays of horsemanship in Italy and France from the 16th to the 19th centuries that the haute ├Ęcole, or high school dressage and horsemanship to music, developed. . Northern Italy was the center of the equestrian arts in Renaissance Europe in the late 16th century and it was here that what was to become musical freestyle in competitive dressage was born. Not in the Pignatelli school in Naples, which is one of the most famous, but in the schools of Fiaschi and Fredirico Grisone, music became closely related to dressage. Both men wrote the first treatises on dressage and included the use of music. While Pignatelli is known for being the first to train horses on pillars, bringing a new aesthetic to training a horse, it is the musical displays that have endured and made it an international competition.

In Italy in the 1500s, music was introduced into the equestrian arts, first to teach rhythm and tempo to riders, and soon after to accompany splendid equestrian ballets. Grisone encouraged the use of the voice to help pace the horse. He wrote a treatise in 1550 that was soon translated into French and German. Fiaschi included in his 1556 treatise short musical melodies corresponding to the steps and movements of a horse. Thus, the first musical vocabulary for dressage was put on paper. Fiaschi encouraged his riders to learn music well enough to sing as they rode and ride as if he were playing rare and excellent music.

As early as 1548, in Lyon, France, costumed knights wowed audiences with their horses leaping, turning, and leaping to the sound of little bells attached to the horses: “They resound so pleasantly that the harmony of their sweet sound did not tickle the spirits.” of the astonished”. people, less than the sparkle of glittering gems, dazzled their eyes, so that those who looked did not know whether they were dreaming or living.” In 1602, La Broue wrote that without musical sensitivity one could never have sensitivity to rhythm and the horse’s tempo needed to ride well.

In a spectacular feat, Pluvinel, who reintroduced Xenophon’s gentle horse training techniques, created a horse ballet in 1612 to honor Louis XIII’s betrothal to Anne of Austria. The ballet was only a few minutes into a long day and night of a lavish parade, jousting, and a carousel. Pluvinel stole the show as the spectacularly dressed jockeys’ horses leapt, danced, twirled and leapt, captivating the audience.

Although dressage shares a long history with music, musical demonstrations were absent from the competitive arena until relatively recently. Since the early 20th century, competitive dressage has drawn more from its military roots than its entertainment roots. In the 1980s, once again, the horses seemed to be dancing in the arena as organizers brought musical freestyle into international competition dressage, aiming to draw spectators into what was often considered a quite event. bored. The 1996 Atlanta Games were the first Olympic Games to add freestyle to the format and today musical freestyles draw huge crowds to watch the horses dance.

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