View Full Version : Totilas' new rider behind the scenes

Anthony Rowley
Jan. 5, 2011, 02:44 PM
Happy New Year from the UK! I was looking for info on Totilas' new rider Matthias Rath and came across this video.


It's from last year and shows Matthias behind the scenes preparing a brand new freestyle for his young Grand Prix horse Triviant. He seems a very likeable young man and certainly takes his job seriously. I can't wait to see him and Totilas in competition.

Jan. 5, 2011, 06:34 PM
Neat video!:)

siegi b.
Jan. 6, 2011, 10:42 AM
Great look behind the scenes...!
Thanks for posting the link.

Jan. 6, 2011, 12:14 PM
I love the older gentleman working with him. Who is he?

Anthony Rowley
Jan. 6, 2011, 04:49 PM
I love the older gentleman working with him. Who is he?

Hello again. According to the youtube video info it must be Cees Slings, his freestyle composer and producer. I've looked up some websites and pictures and I'm sure it's him. He made Laura Bechtolsheimer’s freestyle for Mistral Hojris and there’s quite a lot about this on www.horsehero.com including


He also did lots of Anky van Grunsven’s most famous freestyles.

Wow I would love to have a musical coach who would work with me like that, how amazing.

Jan. 6, 2011, 09:52 PM
I love the music. I can imagine the moves w/o seeing the freestyle. Is it Rhapsody in Blue?

Jan. 7, 2011, 02:59 AM
I think the music IS horrible. They might like it at a nursing home!

siegi b.
Jan. 7, 2011, 10:24 AM
Well, well.... I'm glad you got that off your baroque chest! :)

Jan. 7, 2011, 11:04 AM
I think the music IS horrible. They might like it at a nursing home!

Well, I've been told!!!

Anthony Rowley
Jan. 7, 2011, 06:51 PM
Yes it’s Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, and I was lucky enough to see Matthias Rath ride it for the first time at the World Cup final in Den Bosch last year. I remember that the commentator (Dane Rawlins, a British dressage trainer and rider) really enjoyed this freestyle as it had some very original choreography tricks in it that he had never seen before and they made him smile. The music, in his opinion, was very original too and fitted the programme perfectly. I’m trying to find the video on the internet. If anyone does, please let me know!

Hi baroqueNheart, it’s a shame you don’t like the music. We all have personal preferences but this is one of the 20th century’s great ‘modern classical’ pieces and surely doesn’t deserve to be confined to the nursing home! Anky van Grunsven rode Bonfire to a West Side Story freestyle, another modern classical piece, and won everything with it, and some of her other freestyles contained music from the early to mid 20th century. Does your name give away that you prefer earlier music?

Jan. 8, 2011, 02:47 AM
I don't mind classical music. But that was corny, synthesized muzak. Big difference. It's like vinyl vs leather. That muzak is definitely not a match for Totilas. Seriously you guys would ride to that? Really? With all the choices available?
That's "Modern Crappical"

Jan. 8, 2011, 10:58 AM
I agree that the composition of this song is cheesy and synthesized...it would otherwise be a great one for a freestyle!

Anthony Rowley
Jan. 8, 2011, 08:10 PM
Me again. Gosh I am surprised at how strongly you say that you don’t like this music, and that it is ‘synthesised musak’ and ‘cheesy’! As I said earlier, Cees Slings was one of the composers, along with Victor Kerkhof, of Anky van Grunsven’s Olympic, World and European championship winning freestyles – surely we should have respect for that? And as opposed to using synthesisers, I was under the impression that Slings and his team are famous for using complete orchestras, as they did with Anky’s freestyles.

Anyway guys, you have got me thinking so I decided to go straight to the horse’s mouth and have emailed Cees Slings through his Facebook page to ask how he puts these programmes together. Here’s what I asked and I’m waiting for his reply.

1. Please can you tell me about the musical choice for the Triviant freestyle?
2. Is it an existing recording that has been ‘cut and pasted’ to make it fit?
3. If not, did you use synthesisers to make a new version?
4. How much input do you have into the choreography?
5. Will you be involved in the new freestyle for Totilas, because Matthias Rath is one of your clients and you have already made freestyle programmes for Unicef Triviant and Unicef Sterntaler?

As soon as I hear something I will post Cees' reply here!

Jan. 9, 2011, 03:30 AM
Honestly, I believe I have muted most of Anky's freestyle rides. Is it choreographed well to the music? Yes. Do I enjoy the music? No. It's not stirring.

Gal's ride is on Totilas is stirring.

Anthony Rowley
Jan. 9, 2011, 01:31 PM
Now I think you are teasing me baroqueNheart! Are you serious that you muted Anky’s freestyles? The judges certainly didn’t agree with you but we all have different personal likes and dislikes.

As for Totilas’ freestyle, I agree the music is stirring and creates a wonderful atmosphere. But did you know that a great deal of it is from Jean Michelle Jarre and Hans Zimmer – two composers famed for their use of synthesisers! And I’ve found lots of comments on the internet from people who did not like the Totilas music at all. It seems that the sport of dressage freestyle is very, very subjective. I’m not sure this should be the case, otherwise how can the judging be truly fair?

I have received a reply from Cees Slings on Facebook but not the answers yet. He wants to know who I am etc so as soon as I have some info from him as to how he works and puts these freestyles together I will post on here.

siegi b.
Jan. 9, 2011, 04:12 PM
So baroque, do you just find Edward's ride on Totilas stunning, or is it the music? You're not being clear....

By the way, I just listened to parts of the video again and I'm 100% sure that it's not synthesized music but rather a pretty large orchestra.:-)

Anthony Rowley
Jan. 9, 2011, 04:20 PM
So baroque, do you just find Edward's ride on Totilas stunning, or is it the music? You're not being clear....

By the way, I just listened to parts of the video again and I'm 100% sure that it's not synthesized music but rather a pretty large orchestra.:-)

Hi Siegi, are you referring to the Triviant video in your comment above or the Totilas freestyle?

Jan. 9, 2011, 06:34 PM
I enjoyed the music for Gal's ride on Totilas. Powerful and dark. I really felt the music described the horse. I'm sure there were some synthesizers in his music, but I hear orchestra. I hear specific instruments. I LOVE the bell for his pirouettes. I can show his ride to a non- horsey person and they will watch the entire ride.

Yes, I wasn't joking that I muted Anky's freestyle. Much to "hokey" for me.

Music choice is completely subjective. I'm sure there are some that like what Cees puts together, and I understand that. But I think the choice of music should describe the horse. I don't think Cees music describes a horse.

Anthony Rowley
Jan. 10, 2011, 04:21 PM
Hello again, I am so excited as I received a wonderful response from Cees Slings explaining all about Triviant’s Rhapsody in Blue freestyle. If you know anyone who is interested in freestyle please direct them to this thread so they can enjoy this information. Mr Slings has let me correct some of his English so I hope it all makes sense.

Dear Anthony Rowley
Please find below my first answer. Your question about Totilas and a possible new freestyle is something between me and my client so I hope you'll understand this.
I'm too busy to answer all of your questions at once, but I'm willing to do it one by one. Your questions are straightforward, the answers are a bit more complex. I’ll send some more information as soon as I can!
Kind regards

Triviant-Unicef Freestyle
Your first question: the musical concept and idea

The Rhapsody in Blue concept (RIB) is one I came up with during my first meetings with Triviant at Kronberg Stables, Germany, when we started designing the freestyle choreography. Matthias and I had met before in Holland. I found out that Matthias' father, Klaus Rath, who trains and coaches him, loves old music boxes; he has collected some really rare examples and one of them I found in the rooms above the stables. It triggered some thoughts in me to do something with it.

I love this kind of music machine and it was also close to the idea I had in mind for composing a music-box theme (and a tune) for our daughter Vera. (I composed a tune for my son Marc, called Marc's Party, many years ago now, when he was a kid. Fortunately it became a huge tv-tune hit; so why not try it again!)

Matthias is also gifted with a musical ear and talent, he studied piano and has an incredible knowledge (for his age) of a wide range of music, from classical to pop and everything in between. This kind of client makes me happy, because when I bring up a tune, song or piece, they know it, or at least have heard about it.

All my freestyle productions have a story, not only in the music but also why and how it is made. Perhaps you've heard about this, or not. It also has to fit the rider, his/her idea and musical taste and it has to fit the combination (rider and horse) in the choreography. Triviant is a young horse, with lots of talent. Because Triviant is Matthias’ B horse we thought we could permit ourselves a sort of experiment; or at least to do something young and 'wild, experimental and modern'. We also had in mind to use Triviant and this freestyle to do something special, something I had done in the past with Anky van Grunsven - to use a freestyle plus a top rider and horse to promote dressage to a wider audience

We also knew from the beginning that Gerhswin's RIB is not a piece of music that is to everyone’s taste; at least if you use the original score and don't make an ‘easy listening’ piece of it. On the other hand it gave us many complex tempi changes, widely varying tempi (very nice for a freestyle), time signatures and rich instrumentation (we used Ferdi Grofé's orchestral score). This gave us a wide range to experiment with the choreography. RIB has very strong motives and leitmotivs and I do believe, that if you don't have a musical sense, this piece could be too much to handle.

It also showed a lot of the courage of Matthias, who insisted we use this piece because he loved it and enjoyed riding to it. So with Matthias' skills, his father's coaching and the easy to handle Triviant we created the choreography; a piece of team work. There are some nice, original transitions in it and it made many judges and commentators smile, what more could you ask for?

I also developed the second idea behind it; to make a special show version for two riders and horses. I have a poster for this which I will try to post on the internet. Create your own ideas how this could work out. However in horse/dressage sport things can change so I cannot reveal the plans about it at this stage. Imagine; Victoria Max Theurer and Matthias Rath in a Pas de Deux, wouldn't that be fun?

When I came up with the idea of RIB, the link to music-boxes became clear; Gershwin's RIB (the original title was ' an experiment in modern music') was one of the first pieces recorded with the piano-roll; a 'modern' development of music boxes. It also gave an extra dimension as to how the freestyle show could be produced; with the use of a pianola playing the lead piano parts of this piece. At this moment I'm working on a new website, it will be used for explaining and showing how we create freestyles. In the meantime I will upload some videos on youtube; not public but only for those who are interested. I will let you know asap. I will also add some of the videos of the orchestral studio recordings of this freestyle; in fact it's the answer to your other question: did you use synthesizers to make a new version? (I wish I had synthesizers here that could do this - it would make things much easier and cheaper!!)

Finally here is some very interesting Wiki info about RIB; perhaps you can use it for your blog and correspondence with freestyle lovers and disbelievers of RIB. I predict you will receive either very positive reactions or very negatives ones. I advise you to ignore the last ones; it doesn’t make sense to try to discuss points with either narrow minded persons or those who want to be totally subjective.

I'm aware that my team and I are the explorers in freestyle dressage music, and we have received many negative comments in the past too. On the other hand I still meet a lot of people who do understand that dressage music has to move on; we started this journey in 1995 with Bonfire's Symphony and changed freestyle dressage with it; and we still do. We love to do it and will continue, don't worry! Here is the Wiki info...

"By the end of 1927, Whiteman’s band had played the Rhapsody eighty-four times, and its recording sold a million copies.[14] Whiteman later adopted the piece as his band's theme song, and opened his radio programs with the slogan "Everything new but the Rhapsody in Blue".
The piece received mixed reviews from mainstream critics. Olin Downes, reviewing the concert in The New York Times: This composition shows extraordinary talent, as it shows a young composer with aims that go far beyond those of his ilk, struggling with a form of which he is far from being master... In spite of all this, he has expressed himself in a significant and, on the whole, highly original form.... His first theme... is no mere dance-tune... it is an idea, or several ideas, correlated and combined in varying and contrasting rhythms that immediately intrigue the listener. The second theme is more after the manner of some of Mr. Gershwin's colleagues. Tuttis are too long, cadenzas are too long, the peroration at the end loses a large measure of the wildness and magnificence it could easily have had if it were more broadly prepared, and, for all that, the audience was stirred and many a hardened concertgoer excited with the sensation of a new talent finding its voice... There was tumultuous applause for Gershwin's composition.[10]"

Anthony Rowley
Jan. 10, 2011, 06:07 PM
So baroque, do you just find Edward's ride on Totilas stunning, or is it the music? You're not being clear....

By the way, I just listened to parts of the video again and I'm 100% sure that it's not synthesized music but rather a pretty large orchestra.:-)

I didn't hear from you Siegi but I assume you have listened to the Triviant video again and have good ears to recognise the quality of the music. As you have noted, Mr Slings has confirmed it is an orchestra, not synthesisers.

siegi b.
Jan. 11, 2011, 10:26 AM
Sorry, Anthony, for not getting back to you sooner.... but yes, that's what I meant. I'm a "music person" and started playing the piano at age 6, so it's something that has always been with me.

Loved the response from Cees! He definitely knows and loves music and all its little idiosyncracies.... So nice to see that he took his time to respond very much in detail to your questions.

Thank you for sharing!

Anthony Rowley
Jan. 11, 2011, 07:21 PM
I’m delighted to post more from Cees Slings about the creation of the Rhapsody in Blue freestyle for Matthias Rath and Triviant. Mr Slings speaks very highly of Matthias – remember this is the young man who will be competing Totilas from now on! Hopefully there is more to follow and a link to some new footage and images.

From Mr Slings
The original Groffé version of Rhapsody in Blue (RIB) is about 16.30 minutes; so to downsize it (back to 6 minutes) and still keep all the elements, leitmotivs, rhythmical tricks and adventures was a hell of job. I think at least we succeeded in placing all the musical tempi changes in the choreography where we needed to; also we succeeded in making an acceptable 'play at home' version of it. Perhaps it's one of the things that won't come up with many freestyle producers but it does with us.

Of course it has to do with the ‘Anky's Music’ cd/dvd we made in the past. So many people who purchased it have told me that they played the cd at home and in their car, because all these Anky freestyles are one production, one style; as if you play a cd of one artist, with 8 or 10 tracks. Perhaps only Sjef's Game is an exception on the cd, but it was included as a bonus track and 'gimmick' to make the whole story a complete one.

Every instrument of Groffé's score of RiB is in the Triviant freestyle production, even the banjo, hahaha. It worked pretty well too, sometimes as an after beat, sometimes just on the beat. Don't forget, RIB was meant originally as a big band piece, with some additional instruments, as an experiment and as an effect in sound.

I am adding some screenshots of the Logic (my composing and producing software) file, and if you take a closer look, no track of a synthesizer can be found. Not that this would be a problem, of course we use synthesizer sounds where we need to. (I really don't understand what the forum/blog people mean regarding the use of synthesizers or not. A synth is just a module (with or without a keyboard) which you can create sounds with. Nice and friendly sounds, and horrible and freaky ones. There's also the 'sampler', in many variations. With this 'tool' you can play back all sorts of sounds you have recorded, or 'playback' the factory sounds supplied as a library. This could be anything, from good sounding instruments or sounds to bad sounding instruments or sounds.)

The only thing I can understand and agree with is that many (95%) of the freestyles we hear at competitions sound really bad; this has to do with those who produce them. Michael Erdmann’s (Germany) productions are an exception; they sound more or less OK. But the poor originality, bad 'fit', horrible synchronicity, 'sound the same as many other freestyles' and the lack of supporting an original choreography makes him no exception to the rest of many freestyle producers.

From what I understand 99% of freestyle music producers are not involved in the choreography; for me it would be impossible to work like this. Another thing could be the budget; however even with a smaller budget I can make a good sounding production, except it's just 5 seconds long, hahaha!

I can't put the whole track on youtube, because it's an exclusive production made for my client. I will add a video with some outtakes, some inside 'looks' at the composing program and everything I can find which is interesting. When it's there I will send you the link.

Even the drum tracks are not expanded compared to the original track, all the instruments like the 'sticks' (percussive sound) were used in the original long version. All the themes, hooks, tricks and melody lines of RIB spooked in my head for a long time after we'd finished it; I think it says enough about the very rich and original quality of the piece and it has proven to be a masterpiece forever. Even with all the variations made of this piece, from adapted versions for all sort of instrumental settings, to mellow soft pop versions in the line of Music for Millions, I think we made a good decision in staying as close as we could to the original piece.

We took a risk perhaps, or Matthias just showed courage, and I hope he will continue to do this. Almost 16 years ago there was a rider called Anky van Grusnven from Holland, who did the same with our first ever composed freestyle, called Bonfire's Symphony. She had the courage to accept my invitation and my idea about developing the freestyle.

When I came up with the idea of doing it, even my musical partner at that time (Victor Kerkhof) was not at all enthusiastic about it. Perhaps it's one of reasons why I've been active in freestyle productions after our split, whereas he is back to his roots, as a music teacher at a secondary school. Nothing wrong with that it I guess.

If you look at the most recent "What's Happening" on Eurodressage you will find 'a letter to the editor' together with a video clip. I really appreciate the editor publishing this, because I would like to find more riders like Matthias, who dare to do the same as Gershwin did in 1924; experiment and develop! The only way to success!

Kind regards
Cees Slings

Jan. 11, 2011, 07:24 PM
I beleive dressage radio is going to have Mathias on soon - should be an amazing interview

Anthony Rowley
Jan. 12, 2011, 08:05 AM
I beleive dressage radio is going to have Mathias on soon - should be an amazing interview

Oh that does sound great - please post the date when you know it, thank you.

Anthony Rowley
Jan. 12, 2011, 05:45 PM
It's taking a while for Mr Slings to make the new video about Matthias and the RIB freestyle so he has sent a link to a video showing how he made the freestyle for Laura Bechtolsheimer and Mistral Hojris (Alf).


The freestyle was first performed at Hickstead 2009 then at the Windsor European Championships. They then won the silver medal at WEG - what a great rider and horse.

Jan. 12, 2011, 05:55 PM
I am curious if they tend to choreograph first, come up with music first, or some combination of the two.

Please thank him for his generosity in sharing all this information. I'm hoping to have my first freestyle by fall, and it certainly won't be of the quality of those (even if it weren't just 1st level!) but I am starting now so I can learn and improve as I go!

Anthony Rowley
Jan. 13, 2011, 07:43 AM
I am curious if they tend to choreograph first, come up with music first, or some combination of the two.

Please thank him for his generosity in sharing all this information. I'm hoping to have my first freestyle by fall, and it certainly won't be of the quality of those (even if it weren't just 1st level!) but I am starting now so I can learn and improve as I go!

Hi Netg, I'm waiting for more info from Mr Slings as he is putting together a video for us which will hopefully answer your questions. He seems very approachable and wants to show us how things are done, although it sounds as if he doesn't like a lot of other freestyles, I'm not sure... Anyway I have written to him again to ask if I can meet up with him at an upcoming show!

I am a big fan of freestyle and can't wait to see Matthias Rath in action on Triviant or Sterntaler now I know more about how the freestyles are produced. And of course I can't wait to see Totilas in action, although I don't know when that will be or if Mr Slings will make the new freestyle for him, it's a bit awkward to ask certain questions.

siegi b.
Jan. 13, 2011, 10:26 AM
Thank you again, Anthony!! This is such great information, and watching the video was incredibly educational as well.

Anthony Rowley
Jan. 14, 2011, 10:20 AM
Hello everyone, it’s very grey and damp here in the UK but this is brightening my day. More from Cees Slings, I hope you like it, let me know and I can keep asking him for more.

From Mr Slings
Dear Anthony Rowley,

I've added a (very) short clip for you on youtube; it's in fact nothing more than my personal sketch book. It shows some of the ingredients of a possible Rhapsody in Blue freestyle show. First the RIB poster for the pas de deux with Matthias and Victoria, the Yamaha Midi Grand Piano, some shots of Matthias and Triviant and a computer screen clip of the music production in our studio.


It's all there, including a script, the format, the horse(s), the riders and the music; and of course a choreography for a pas de deux.

What lacks is the time and budget for the moment. Most of our freestyles have a second thought and idea behind them, and most of the time we can realize these thoughts and ideas.

I will also add a short clip of Anky van Grunsven’s Tango show and freestyle; I think that's all I can do for you now. I'm working on two new freestyles at the moment and I have to adjust an older freestyle too. Besides that I'm working on a tune for our daughter Vera; so I'm quite busy. When the tango clip is on I will send you an email.

Take care,

Cees Slings

Anthony Rowley
Jan. 15, 2011, 12:35 PM
As promised here is more unique background info about freestyle production, this time about Anky van Grunsven's Tango programme.

From Cees Slings
Here are two videos of Anky van Grunsven’s Tango freestyle; one with never used material, very unique. It's not even on the 'Anky’s Music' dvd, because I found this footage a year after we produced the dvd. It’s the premiere of the Tango De Las Doce Piernas Freestyle Show with Anky and Tineke Bartels at JIM (Jumping Indoor Maastricht) 1998. The second clip contains two outtakes from the Anky's Music dvd; a part from The Story and a part from The Show menu.



Anky’s Tango freestyle was (and still is) a freestyle dressage hit. It was originally made for Partout, and I remember the competition premiere of it in Bercy, Paris. The crowd was standing on the chairs after Anky saluted, it was an instant success.

The idea for this music and freestyle was on my piano for more than a year; and it took us a long time to persuade Anky and Sjef with the idea; Tango is dance and passion, what more do you need? I gave Anky a series of Tango cd's: Piazolla, Pugliese, the real stuff. She played it obviously because she called me after, saying; “horrible music, there is no way that I will ride to this sort of music”.

We teased her, telling her that we could produce an easy to access freestyle: Tango in the style of 'Music for the Millions'. She agreed but was still unsure, until I came up with the idea to introduce this freestyle to the public with a show (rather than in competition). I was most certain that the reaction from the audience and close relatives would change her mind; and it did.

The show was performed live only once, at Maastricht, the second performance was via satellite tv transmission at Indoor Brabant and can been seen on the Anky’s Music dvd (another premiere by the way and a huge success). Everybody, including a 'touched by tears' Coby van Baalen, told Anky: you should make a freestyle of it!

This kind of thing really is part of my joy in creating new things. Even the clothing, a specially designed dress for Anky and a male Tango dancer costume, was part of my job. The special poster (it's in the intro of one of the clips) I made was also for sale, and the money it raised was given to a charity founded for disabled riders. The competition freestyle was ready of course, the success of it is history.

This is how things can develop, this is also one of the forces to make and create new freestyle shows, as opposed to just competition freestyles. For this we need riders with guts, courage and the intention of improving freestyles without the competition element.

If riders only ride freestyle in competition this will not help to develop dressage, nor will it help the audience understand what kind of music is possible for freestyles. Many freestyles only support the aura of the horse, and have nothing to do with the goals set by the FEI rules - this is not the way we should move forward. We should use freestyle shows to really drive the sport forward and reach new audiences; but unfortunately I have rarely met a freestyle designer, music compiler, composer/producer or rider who's willing and has the courage to do so. A rather poor result after almost 25 years of freestyle dressage development.

One exception however is Dutch dressage rider Marlies van Baalen, for who I wrote a series of freestyles, including the Wild, Wild West freestyle. She performed a show with 7 other riders in Amsterdam and also at an outdoor show. With the indoor show at Jumping Amsterdam we repeated the video-wall effect, with the Aachen Symphony Orchestra playing and performing the show version I wrote for this occasion.

I was disappointed when Anky continued to ride the Tango freestyle in competition with many different horses. It was tailor-made for Partout and never fitted any other horse, even our attempt to make it fit Krack failed in my opinion. The 'Mechelen debacle' at the end of 2008, where Anky mistakenly used the show version cd with Painted Black, instead of the competition cd, made the complete end of a wonderful freestyle forever. It was faded out because it was too long and none of the judges timed the freestyle - she was over the time by 22 seconds and still scored over 80%. It says something about the judges and the judging system, don't you think?

Take care
Cees Slings