Freestyle dressage is when a horse and rider dances to the music. The rider normally either uses a film sound track or a well-known classical piece to dance with, or they create a floor plan and film the performance – be it walk, trot, pirouette, etc – for a composer to analyse and write for. In this case, the composer studies the horse and rider’s movements carefully, matching its tempo, the body weight and character of the horse.

Dressage horses don’t vocalise; rather, they use their body to dance with the rider, and the rider takes the lead. This was a similar process when the poem ‘The Silver Moon’ was written and signed in British Sign Language by 13 year old Layla Fitzgerald-Woolfe. To the world it may appear that she is simply moving her hands in silence, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Sign Language is full of expressive ideas, just like a musical score which shows the shape of sound and silences.

As a fluent British Sign Language user myself, I studied Layla’s movements and wrote a musical score based on her poem, which was then played by Dame Evelyn Glennie.

Ruth Montgomery December 2018.