How to Determine Your Horse's BPM for a Musical Freestyle

I get this question a lot from riders who need help finding freestyle music. They know that they need to figure out their horse's bpm's (beats per minute) but aren't quite sure what that means or how to go about it. It is actually quite simple and a great place to start on your journey to developing a musical freestyle. I have included a few different methods, hopefully one of them will work for you!

Why You Need To Figure Out Your Horse's BPM:

Every piece of music has it's own beats per minute. When you match your horse's BPM to the music's BPM you can feel confident that the music will match. Of course there is more to it than just matching the bpm (picking a theme, matching personality, and whether your horse enjoys it too) but is a good place to start. 

What You Will Need:

  • A timer or cell phone (with the app below)
  • polo wraps-3 white/black and one easy-to-see color
  • video camera (optional)
  • A helper/assistant

Start by wrapping one of your horse's front legs with a colored polo wrap. You only need this one wrap but the leg will show up better in a video if all the legs are wrapped and just one is brightly colored. I suggest that you warm up first so that you can be sure to have the best representation of your horse's working gait. Every time that front leg touches the ground at the walk or trot, you will count it as one “beat”. At the canter, you count the leading foreleg as one “beat” when it strikes the ground. There are a few different ways to count that beat:

Have Your Helper Count: Using a stopwatch or the timer on your cell phone, have your assistant set the timer for one minute. Then have them count the number of footfalls (of that one foreleg) while you ride your horse in a consistent working walk, trot or canter. As long as the horse stays steady and your helper is a good counter (haha) you will have your bpm. You may want to take an average after multiple tries.

Try a metronome: This is the "old fashioned" way to find the bpm. Buy a hand-held electronic metronome and have your ground person adjust it up or down until the “beep” sound of the metronome matches the footfall of the wrapped leg.

Try an App: My favorite app is made by Cheebow. If you type "bpm" into the search bar on the app store (IPhone) it is the first one that currently comes up. The neat thing about this app is how easy it is to use. Your helper will tap the screen every time your horse's front leg touches the ground. It will show you the average count of the bpm and it doesn't even take a full minute to figure it out!

Use A Video: Have your assistant video tape your horse at a consistent walk, trot and canter. Make sure to include your working gaits and lengthened/extended movements. Stay in each working gait for at least one full minute. You can count the footfalls from the comfort of your own home on your computer. The video will also be helpful for you to test out different pieces of music.

Here are some basic BPM guidelines:
Walk- between 50-65 BPM
Trot- between 75-90 BPM
Canter- between 95-110 BPM
Passage/Piaffe- between 60-65 BPM

*Generally the canter is twice the beats of the walk and the trot lies somewhere in between.

I hope that helps! If you have any questions or comments please leave them below this blogpost or email me at beginthedance@gmail.com.

ARE YOU INSPIRED TO START WORKING ON YOUR MUSICAL FREESTYLE?

This "how-to" e-book will take you through the creation process of your very own freestyle. Go through the entire process step by step, with simple and advanced ways to find freestyle music, create choreography, and to edit music. You can also join the Create Your Own Musical Freestyle Facebook Group where you can ask questions and share your freestyle videos to gain valuable feedback from a community of like-minded, creative equestrians! This ebook includes:

  • Smartphone Apps and Online Resources
  • Creative Freestyle Questionnaire 
  • Chapter Checklists & Worksheets
  • Blank Choreography Pages 
  • Overview of Rules & Requirements

I also offer CUSTOM FREESTYLE design and FREESTYLE WORKSHOPS. Click here to learn more.