Kelly Layne Debuts Udon P’s “Heart” Freestyle at Florida’s Global Dressage Festival

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Kelly Layne on Udon P performing their new "heart" Grand Prix Freestyle at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival. © 2015
Kelly Layne on Udon P performing their new “heart” Grand Prix Freestyle at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival. © 2015

Jan. 10, 2015


Udon P, the 14-year-old gelding pulled out of a campaign for Australia’s World Equestrian Games team when he developed a heart problem similar to Parzival, was ridden by Kelly Layne at Florida’s Adequan Global Dressage Festival in a debut of their new Grand Prix Freestyle created by British composer Gary Patterson to celebrate the recovery and return to the international competition arena.

The so-called “Tin Man” Freestyle was ridden by Kelly, the Australian team rider at the 2006 World Equestrian Games who is based in Wellington, Florida, to a score of 71.550 per cent for sixth place in the first of four World Cup events during the three-month winter circuit.

Although Kelly admits the chances of making it to the 2015 World Cup Final in Las Vegas in April are almost non-existent–the structure of the annual global series is centered around geographic leagues–she will give it her best shot as much to be thankful for Udon’s restored fitness.

The video of Friday night’s performance can be seen at

Gary Patterson, who has composed Freestyles for British team rider Michael Eilberg, Denmark’s Mikala Gundersen, Spain’s Paula Matute, Tanya Strasser of Canada and Janne Rumbough, the doyenne of Florida dressage, aimed for a composition that was “uplifting, inspirational and, in every sense of the word, light hearted.”

Udon P was suffering shortness of breath and a lack of fitness almost a year ago and Kelly took him to the University of Florida in Gainesville, about four hours north of Wellington, for a procedure to restore his heart to normal rhythm. The procedure went well but because the cause was unknown, she took rehabilitation very seriously. Udon’s heart was checked every five minutes while working over the next three months.

At the end of summer, they traveled to the northeast United States to compete although Kelly was “still a little nervous about what would happen under the stress of competition.” The horse had more than enough power and energy–to the point of being a little out of control at times–and fears for Udon’s health went away.

“I feel a little emotional when riding him and cherish every day I get to sit on this sensitive and generous athlete,” she said. “For such an enormous horse it is amazing how he is able to propel himself off the ground.”

Gary Patterson was initially disappointed for Kelly when she had to drop plans to go to Europe to try out for a place on the Aussie WEG team.

“I thought that his subsequent bounce back to full fitness would make such an inspirational story and that we should celebrate his return to competition by basing the entire freestyle on the theme of ‘the heart’,” he told

“Kelly and I had great fun working on it as there are so many songs to choose from. I threw in a lot of ideas and Kelly knew exactly what songs did and didn’t click with his personality. Opening with the Tin Man’s song ‘If I Only Had a Heart’ from the Wizard of Oz in particular made us laugh.

“Of course, blending together so many songs from different eras and genres was quite a challenge. We travel from the 1930s ‘If I Only Had a Heart’ to 1970s disco ‘Young Hearts Run Free’ to the 90s and Deee-Lite’s ‘Groove is in the Heart’ with many other stops along the way but making it all sound cohesive is a challenge that I enjoy.

“Borrowing ‘My heart Will Go On’ from Titanic for the walk is perhaps the only emotional interlude, after which we put our tongue right back in our cheek using ‘Don’t Go Breaking My Heart’ for his fantastic bold tempi changes.”