Making of Jacqueline Brooks’ Kür for D Niro–Winner at First Dance

9 years ago StraightArrow Comments Off on Making of Jacqueline Brooks’ Kür for D Niro–Winner at First Dance
Jacqueline Brooks and D Niro performing their new all-Canadian artists' freestyle. © 2012 Ken Braddick/



When Jacqueline Brooks rode her D Niro to a new freestyle, a standing room only crowd of 5,000 spectators at Dressage at Devon World Cup event agreed with the judges awarding her the highest score she had ever received outside of her native Canada.

Although Jacquie took a risk performing the new freestyle in public for the first time on such a big stage–possibly the largest audience at a non-championship competition in North America–she and the 13-year-old Swedish Warmblood gelding (D-Day x Alitalia x Napolean 625) achieved what she and Tamara Williamson she teamed with to create the freestyle could have hoped for. A video of the performance can be found here:!

The result for her and the horse Jacquie bought in February, 2011, was the highest so far in the World Cup North American League standings after three of 10 events in the United States to qualify for the Final in Gothenberg, Sweden next April.

Jacquie said that making the freestye was her main focus since returning from London after competing in her second straight Olympics. She rode Gran Gesto in the 2008 Games.

Tamara Williamson, a Briton with a classical music upbringing transplanted to Canada, was both a dressage riding student of Jacquie’s and her first customer when she started her company, Kurboom in 2002.

Tamara Williamson. ©

“I was lucky enough to go to the Olympics and watch the freestyles this summer,” Tamara told “I came away with a clear idea of what I wanted to do. Something dramatic and clever at the same time. It struck me that the world of freestyles was getting a bit too Hollywood epic and I wanted to just take it back a notch.

“So I approached Jacquie with an idea. I love working with Jacquie. She always loves to try new ideas, and has a very musical ear.

“I wanted to make a Canadian kür celebrating some of Canada’s finest songsters.

“Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah,’ one of the greatest songs ever written was a nice place to start. The Joni Mitchell ‘Big Yellow Taxi.’ a folk anthem through the ages; Neil Young’s ‘Heart of Gold,’ and then for the intro ‘Spirit of the West, Home for a Rest’ one of the greatest drinking songs ever! All Canadian! All recognizable.”

Three weeks before Devon, Tamara and her long time drummer friend Morgan Doctor and producer/engineer Mitchell Girio got together at The Slaughter House studio in downtown Toronto.

“I made a map of the test making sure each part was mirrored and then I literally sang section by section how the music was going to work with the gaits of the horse and the pattern,” Tamara explained.

“It was hard and everyone had headaches but we got through making all the drum tracks the first day. Then we just kept adding layers but at the end of each session I would go over and Jacquie would ride it to make sure it was all working.

“She also would make choices about how much instrumentation she wanted.

“We all agreed it was sounding pretty good with just drums, guitar, bass and vocals. But we sent it off to violinist Karen Graves and she added some spectacular fiddle and string arrangements.”

Jacquie said that they wanted to play to D Niro’s strengths, particularly his “internal metronome” that showed off piaffe and passage.

“We emailed the finished kür to the sound man in Devon on the Thursday–two days before the performance,” Tamara said.

The  compilation was named “Poets and Dreamers.”

Jacqueline Brooks and D Niro at the end of their new freestyle. © 2012 Ken Braddick/

Before relocating to Toronto in 1993, Tamara formed a series of small, independent bands in London. She has created and produced several albums, recording for a major label, and toured extensively in North America and Europe, including supporting Jewel and Oasis.

She likes mixing her passions of riding dressage and creating music.

“I am interested in making original music or kürs from scratch,” she said. “I am tired of editing together pre-existing music which can only work up to a point. When you create a kür for the horse that’s when the artistry comes into play. I honestly think Jacquie would not have won on Saturday with an edited kür. You could hear it in the way the crowd responded–they are ready for more.”