Songs that lend a voice to the equestrian world in a way only music can.
From the back of a horse, we riders learn so much about time. There are timed events that teach us how to move with efficiency; judged events that demonstrate the importance of keeping a steady pace; and even musical events that grant us the pleasure of moving with a beat. Ultimately, in all equestrian competition, timing is everything.
As we all move into a new year, it is the perfect occasion to investigate what equestrian principles can teach us about making the best use of our precious time. And, in my humble opinion, there is no better way to meter out time than with the tempo of a great tune. So without further ado, I give you my latest playlist: Timing Is Everything.
Get the full playlist on Spotify here: Timing Is Everything
1. TIMING IS EVERYTHING by Garrett Hedland from the soundtrack Country Strong (More Music From The Motion Picture)
We begin with the title track, and overarching concept of this playlist. Timing is everything, whether it is on the back of a horse or in life in general. This song takes the position that perfect timing comes down to fate or destiny. “When the stars line up and you catch a good break, people think you’re lucky, but you know its grace.” And to some extent I agree. Horseback riding teaches us to accept that sometimes your best days will surprise you, and seem to come from little more than good luck. But, as the actor turn singer for film “Country Strong” Garrett Hedland sings, when timing comes from destiny alone “it can happen so fast or a little bit late,” and so we must move to the next song to explore how we riders can, to some degree, train time like a wild steed.
2. WALTZ FOR PONY by BOY from the album Mutual Friends
In “Waltz For Pony,” the Swiss/German pop duo, BOY, describes time as a “hungry beast [that] swallows all my memories…makes all smells and colors fade [and] takes the ones I love away,” which indeed it is. But they have a simple solution on how to keep it in check. “It’s starving but it can’t attack. I put two saddles on its back.” Learn how to ride time like a pony? What an excellent idea!
3. TIMEKEEPER by Grace Potter & The Nocturnals from the album The Lion The Beast The Beat
From show jumping, to eventing, to rodeo rides, the almighty and impartial timekeeper is often the final word on triumph in equestrian competition. So, learning how to manage the clock, even in very brief intervals, is essential for the skilled equestrian. In this track from Grace Potter, she pleads with the all-powerful keeper of time – “Timekeeper, please wont you slow it down tonight…. Timekeeper, tell me I’m gonna be, alright.” If Potter is seriously seeking more time, then she could learn a lot from horseback riding. Let’s consult Fanfarlo and the next playlist track to see how!
4. EVERYTHING TURNS/TIGHTROPE by Fanfarlo from the album Rooms Filled With Light
Taking large strides and making straight lines almost always accomplishes the sensation of slowed time on the back of a horse without actually having to change the time on the clock. And the same can be applied to life. When we are feeling pressed for time, stop rushing around aimlessly without a plan, and rather take bold steps, like an efficient equine, towards the future. This is the essential message of Fanfarlo’s song, “Tightrope,” in which they repeatedly sing: “We’ve been keeping it down. We’ve been holding it down. Just walk in a straight line. Just let it go…. Everything could change today!”
Fanfarlo are a London-based indie/alternative band formed in 2006 by Swedish musician Simon Balthazar, and they explain their current sound as Space Opera meets Spaghetti Western. For me everything about that description cries out equestrian. That may be in part due to the fact that I am well acquainted with horses named both Simon and Balthazar, but it also has a lot to do with what I previously learned from playlist artists Muse and Other Lives. Read about it here!
Since Fanfarlo has such an exceptional equestrian spirit to their work, I wanted to keep it whole. The track “Everything Turns,” acts as an instrumental introduction to “Tightrope” on their album Rooms Filled With Light, and I intend to maintain the integrity of that arrangement in this playlist. Plus a title like “Everything Turns” feels inherently linked with questions of time!
5. BREAK MY STRIDE by Matthew Wilder from the album I Don’t Speak The Language
When talking about timing in life, it is often much less a question of speed and more a question of rhythm. And so this playlist moves from songs contemplating a rapid pace, to those that advise you take a more dance-like beat. First up is “Break My Stride” by Matthew Wilder. In 1983, Wilder hit No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart with this tune, and it’s been a favorite of mine for as long as I can remember.
Wilder sings “Ain’t nothin’ gonna break my stride. Nobody’s gonna slow me down. Oh-no, I got to keep on moving. Ain’t nothin’ gonna break my stride. I’m running and I won’t touch the ground.” I can just imagine a majestic horse performing an impulsion-filled dressage freestyle to this dance track. After all, it takes perfected impulsion to move forward in even strides that seem to float above the ground. And so should we attempt to tackle time with this forward rhythm.
6. INTO ACTION by Tim Armstrong from the album A Poet’s Life
The second dance track on this playlist comes from Rancid front man, Tim Armstrong. In “Into Action, Armstrong urges us to “get moving into action.” Now for us equestrians, encouraging our horses to move with action is a familiar concept. It involves, at its roots, getting their butt in gear and then harnessing that energy so the movement is dance-like. We all might move more rhythmically through time if we heeded Armstrong’s advice and applied the equestrian concepts of action to ourselves. So, “if your life’s too slow, no satisfaction, find something out there. There’s an attraction. If you hesitate now, that’s a subtraction. So, let’s get moving girl into action!”
7. ROTTEN APPLES by Voxhaul Broadcast from the album Timing Is Everything
“Rotten Apples” is a rather unusual song from the now defunct Los Angeles act, Voxhaul Broadcast. The song itself is so steeped in equine imagery, that the band was inspired to make a western-inspired music video. But most relevantly to this playlist, is the line that in life “If you want to change then you gotta grow. If you want to change then you gotta wait for it.” Perfecting your horseback riding technique also requires a lot of waiting – waiting for the right spot to take off for a fence, waiting for the perfect moment for a canter depart, waiting for the exact moment to explode out of the starting gate. If you want to change and grow in your riding, you will have to learn to wait for it.
8. THE FEAR by Ben Howard from the album Every Kingdom
Finding this perfect timing in your discipline of choice requires, in addition to patience, the ability to conquer fear. Ben Howard aptly sings, “I’ve been worryin’ that my time is a little unclear…. I’ve been worryin’ that we all, live our lives, in the confines of fear.” He also repeatedly alludes to sense of insignificance, and in those allusions lies the answer to the fear. Find the confidence to do what is required in life, on the back of your horse or otherwise, and you will no longer feel that your time is unclear.
9. PERFECTLY ALIGNED by Milo Greene from the album Milo Greene
Rather, when you have finally learned, pace, rhythm, patience and confidence things will suddenly feel “Perfectly Aligned,” like this souring, cinematic song from Milo Greene.
10. TIMELESS by The Airborne Toxic Event from the album Such Hot Blood
Even better yet, when thing are perfectly aligned, you and your horse have the ability to make each other timeless. This may come from your great accomplishments or simply in your honest remembrance of each other. So sing along with The Airborne Toxic Event, “We are timeless, timeless. Everything we have, we have, everything oh my god. You are, you are the only thing that makes me feel like I can live forever, forever with you,” and know that thanks to your horse, you have conquered the question of time.
In 2014, we equestrians will all say “timing is everything” with complete assurance that we in particular have the tools to tackle that beast!