Skip to main content

2020 Amanda Johnson Freestyle Fund for Region 2 and 4 Riders Grant Recipient: Emily Gill

Emily with Collier Wimmer

I am still in disbelief I was chosen to receive the inaugural Amanda Johnson Freestyle Fund grant and am grateful to have had this opportunity. I think freestyles are the most fun creation that rider and horse can create together. It was a blast to put together one with my long-term friend, “Kahlua,” a 15-year-old Morgan, who I have had since he was a yearling.

I met Collier Wimmer in Florida when I was working for Lendon Gray’s Winter Intensive Training program. Collier conducted a demo for our group, and I loved how easy she was to work with and how she stepped outside the box to really create something unique. Collier came on board to help create my freestyle and we fired up the creative lobes of our brains together.

My vision for this freestyle was that I wanted it to be a “fight” freestyle. I wanted it to be strong and brave, just like Amanda. My mom is a survivor of breast cancer and I know Amanda fought long and hard, so I wanted this freestyle to reflect the strength of cancer survivors and fighters. The music that Collier found for us has never been used before and was perfect for my vision. I am obsessed with the percussion that it expresses, as well as the story it presents. It was smooth sailing with Collier, and after a couple of videos exchanged and some minor adjustments, we were done!

During this process, Collier taught me that your vision for a freestyle can come true. Creating a freestyle is an art that comes to life--the music can really enhance the horse’s movements and create a story throughout the routine. A word of advice for creating a freestyle: pick music that you are willing to listen to a billion times! There will be a lot of practicing, so choosing music you really love will make the process even sweeter.

Being open to some very different and challenging choreography can make the process a new experience for you and your horse, and hopefully, with some difficult choreography, the judges will notice too. This is a team dance for both you and your horse so express what you really excel at and have fun. On the other hand, it is great that you don’t have to spend a ton of time with movements that are not your favorite! The most important thing I learned through all this is to enjoy your horse. We are lucky to have such amazing dance partners.

I am excited to take this freestyle to a show this summer. My goal is to hopefully qualify for Regionals and then go on to Finals! I feel like I can finally be competitive in the arena with this freestyle.  Additionally, I plan to invite Collier to Ohio in the future to work with my clients and others in the area. This dream come true was possible because of the support of The Dressage Foundation and the Amanda Johnson Freestyle Fund.

The Amanda Johnson Freestyle Fund was established at The Dressage Foundation in 2020 by Amanda’s family and friends, in memory of her dedication to the sport of dressage. The goal of this Fund is to provide an annual grant of up to $2,000 to a young professional between the ages of 20 and 30 to pay for the costs of creating a professionally prepared musical freestyle for competition. Applicants must be current residents of USDF Region 2 or USDF Region 4. Applications are due October 15.