Simple Steps to Freestyle Success



Freestyle dressage offers you the chance to ride a test to music and show off your horse’s strengths. It’s an opportunity to add a new dimension to dressage training, music can help your horse to develop more expression, to relax in the arena and to find fresh motivation in schooling sessions. Choosing great music for schooling and competition can help riders too.
  • The first step is to decide what level you would like to compete at and read the test sheet taking note of the compulsory technical requirements.
  • Next work out the BPM of your horses’s paces. Ask a friend to film you riding all three paces on each rein. You can then use a metronome app to calculate the BPM for each pace. Finding music at the correct tempo is the fun part, there are databases online that show the BPM and it’s also possible to use an app to tell you the tempo of tracks you have on your Spotify playlists for example.
  • Start to sketch out floor plan ideas and practice riding them, ask a friend to time each section so you can create a music soundtrack later, some riders prefer to create a music track first and then fit the floor plan to the music.
  • A helping hand… Talk to your instructor about your freestyle ideas and remember that there are also specific freestyle clinics where you can create a routine.


Once you have a routine and choreography it’s time to familiarise yourself and your horse with the music. Alternate between riding your actual routine and schooling to the track, changing shapes and directions frequently but only changing pace with the music. This helps to keep the routine fresh for your horse.
Choosing a sound system that’s portable and easy to operate is a challenge that we have solved with a small sports speaker worn on your wrist that has both Bluetooth and TF card functions. For homework you need to learn your music until you can imagine it playing and “hear” the nuances when you ride without your music. This is a great way to develop the cadence of your horse’s trot and canter and the purpose and activity of your walk. Remember too that it’s really helpful to watch video of your floor plan with the music playing so you can see and hear your cues.
Make sure you are a British Dressage Music Member and that you have signed and returned the music license agreement and sent off the details of the music you are using in plenty of time for British Dressage to send you your license stickers which must be displayed on your CDs.


On the day remember to warm up as usual so your horse is ready to show off the technical elements and go and have fun with your performance. Listen to your music and enjoy every footfall. Try and stay in the moment and present each shape to the best of your ability. Remember to collect your music when you collect your test sheet after the test.
There are several freestyle competitions to aim for, British Riding Club and Pony Club offer Music Championships and British Dressage offer first round qualifiers from January to November, the qualification requirements vary however as an example Silver Novice requires two 68% scores to get through to the Regional Championships whilst Silver Elementary riders need two 66% scores.
Freestyle is supposed to be enjoyed, it’s a freedom for creativity so most importantly have fun!

Contributor: Alison Kenward: BHS Stable Manager, Intermediate Instructor and UKCC 3 coach. Alison has represented England at the 2009 Home International and won at all levels from Preliminary to Advanced Medium. Visit Alisons website for more info: Solitaire Dressage 


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