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9 of the most memorable grand prix dressage freestyles of all time

With top level international competition still on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic, we can't be the only ones missing the magic of a truly great dressage freestyle performance. To help tide you over, we have rounded up some of the greatest, most memorable dressage freestyle performances of all time. Turn the volume up, and enjoy...

Andreas Helgstrand on Blue Hors Matiné (DEN) at WEG 2006

This pair shot to fame after winning individual silver in 2006 with this electrifying performance to a pop medley that scored 81.5%. The enormous Aachen crowd were unable to resist joining in for the final section, as this enchanting mare passaged up the centre line perfectly on the beat to their Lady Marmalade music.

Isabell Werth on Gigolo (GER) at Atlanta Olympics 1996

At the inauguration of dressage freestyle into the Olympic Games programme, it was this routine that won Isabell Werth her first – and, to date, only – Olympic individual gold medal, as she edged out arch rival Anky van Grunsven to take gold on 76.6% with the legendary Gigolo. It set the standard for grand prix kürs, with a soundtrack really designed to enhance the horse and tell a story, rather than just acting as background music.

Edward Gal on Totilas (NED) at Olympia 2009

Who could forget this world record-breaking freestyle by Edward Gal and the one-and-only Totilas? The legendary black stallion produced a performance unlike anything anybody in the dressage world had seen before and blew the judges away with 92.3%, finishing at the top of the leaderboard with a 10% margin.

Laura Bechtolsheimer on Mistral Højris (GBR) at London Olympics 2012

Possibly one of the most well choreographed and befitting freestyles of all time, this performance from Britain’s Laura Bechtolsheimer (now Tomlinson) and Mistral Højris earned them 84.339% and individual Olympic bronze. The catchy Lion King medley suits “Alf” down to the ground, and Laura’s emotion and pride in her horse at her final halt is a delight to see.

Anky van Grunsven on Salinero (NED) at WEG 2006

She’s long been known as the “Queen of the Kür”, and has a plethora of standout freestyle performances, including with her Olympic champion Bonfire. But this one of Salinero’s, entitled L’Espirit Chanson and created by Dutch composers Cees Slings and Victor Kerkhof, may well be the best of all. It also features Anky’s own vocals accompanying her canter half-pass sequence. This particular performance earned her 86.1% and the world championship title.

Carl Hester on Nip Tuck (GBR) at Olympia 2016

This intricate freestyle was set to music by Tom Hunt, and based on Mr Selfridge. A masterclass in how to use a floorplan to really show off a horse’s strengths, it suited the quirky “Barney” down the ground, with the eye-watering level of difficulty really highlighting the tall gelding’s straightness and talent for the collected work. He may not be as flamboyant a mover as many top horses, but with the first centre line alone featuring a full piaffe pirouette, passage and a double canter pirouette, this routine certainly has plenty of wow factor, scoring 84.669% for the win here.

Juan Manuel Muñoz Diaz on Fuego De Cardenas (ESP) at WEG 2010

A freestyle full to the brim with energy and Spanish flair, this thrilling performance earned the pair a resounding standing ovation in the giant Kentucky stadium, as well as fifth place with 81.45%. The Spanish flamenco-style music, composed by Michael Erdmann, was superbly suited to this PRE stallion, and the excited and very vocal American crowd went wild for Juan’s one-handed centre lines.

Jessica von Bredow-Werndl on TSF Dalera BB (GER) at Rotterdam Europeans 2019

This exquisite, more recent performance, which earned Jessica her first ever individual medal – bronze, with 89.107% – is sure to go down in history. The beautiful music from La La Land really suits the tall elegant mare, and her equally elegant rider, perfectly and the sheer harmony between the combination is a delight to witness.

Charlotte Dujardin on Valegro (GBR) at London Olympics 2012

And finally, arguably the greatest of them all! Charlotte and Valegro produced so many dazzling freestyles, setting new world records at Olympia in both 2013 and 2014 along the way, but it is their gloriously British performance from London 2012 that will always stick the most firmly in so many minds. Having already lead Britain to a historic team gold, they stunned the Greenwich Park crowds with their memorable routine featuring Land of Hope and Glory and the chimes of Big Ben to score 90.089% and become Olympic champions.

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