New Book Coming Soon! FREESTYLE - the Ultimate Guide to Riding, Training, and Competing to Music by Sandra Beaulieu

Dressage Freestyle Book Coming Soon

Sandra has written a book for Horse & Rider Books (Trafalgar Publishers) sharing her knowledge related to musical freestyle. This book is meant for anyone that wants to ride to music for fun, for competition, and for exhibition. Sandra reviews how to choose freestyle music that suits your horse, determine your horse’s beats per minute (BPM), the basics of music editing, music copyright, costumes, props, and even showmanship tips. She reviews sample choreography for every dressage movement from Training Level to Fourth Level and for western dressage Basic to Level 4.

“In all my years of teaching, the comment I hear the most from riders is how much they want to ride a musical freestyle. And yet, year after year I hardly see any of them accomplish that goal. They get overwhelmed, discouraged, and stuck in the process. My goal with this book is to help lower that barrier to entry and get more riders into the show arena. Musical freestyle is the future of our sport and there are more opportunities to show and perform with growing disciplines like Western Dressage, the Baroque Equestrian Games, Working Equitation, and the International Liberty Horse Association competitions. I also have a large section devoted to exhibition freestyle because that is where I like to express my personality, and that of my horses as well.” -Sandra Beaulieu, author

Coming January 2020!

Sandra uses an app to DETERMINE the BPM’s for Mary-Jo Zanolli’s mare Bella. Photo Credit: Kimberly Chason

Sandra uses an app to DETERMINE the BPM’s for Mary-Jo Zanolli’s mare Bella. Photo Credit: Kimberly Chason

Sandra would like to thank all of the amazing riders who shared their freestyle experiences for this book:
Marsha Sapp, Anne Margaret Meyers, Frances Carbonnel, Mario Contreras, Luke Gingrich, Carolyn Rose, Carol Dover, Ashley Mancuso, Deanna Corby, Elisha Harvey, Nancy Conley, Rebecca Waite, Jean Thornton, Tik Maynard, Lindsey Partridge, Elizabeth James, Laura Hosmer, Nicole Johnson, Heather Webster, and Lena Witham.

A big thank you to all the riders that were photographed and/or contributed photos:

Alyssia Martin, Liz Burrows, Amy Jordan, Ashley Bizelli, Mary Jo-Zanolli, Guy McLean, Ashley Morgan Rhodes, Tia Tondreau, Morgan Cameron, Pam Catell, Ahura and Sinari Dilizza, Holly Bailey

And of course to all the equine photographers for contributing their work:

Kimberly Chason, Jesse Klein, Spotted Vision Photography, Karen Mancuso, Diana DeRosa, Bill Lee, Megan Stapley, Harry Furey, Winslow Photography, Rachael Young Farrah, Sinari Dilizza, White Hart Photography, Brian Donaghy, Kathleen Bryan, Shane Rux, Bernie Saunders, Boot Crowns, and Samantha Dawn.

Coming January 2020!

Sandra draws choreography for Amy Jordan on Ozzy. Join the Email list to get your free Arena Diagram Pages. Photo Credit: Kimberly Chason

Sandra draws choreography for Amy Jordan on Ozzy. Join the Email list to get your free Arena Diagram Pages. Photo Credit: Kimberly Chason

From the Horse & Rider Books Website:
”Music has long been part of esteemed equestrian traditions—consider the classical tones of the over-500-year-old Spanish Riding School and the Verdi purported to play at deafening volumes from the arena of Portuguese master Nuno Oliveira. Today we have sound systems that enable the most humdrum of riding lessons to become rhythmical dance rehearsals. And on the Olympic stage, the very best in international talent compete to discover which exquisitely choreographed performance is gold-medal-worthy. The musical “freestyle,” as it’s known, has become a form of equestrian display that draws large audiences in horse sports of every kind: dressage, Western dressage, and Cowboy Dressage; reining and liberty; breed classes and training competitions; drill teams and quadrilles. The use of music with horses is truly an art in itself—one that award-winning musical freestyle designer Sandra Beaulieu has perfected in her years of experience as a dressage competitor and professional entertainer. Here she provides everything readers need to know to enjoy freestyles of their own—whether for fun or for ribbons. Discover how to choose suitable music, explore choreography techniques, and learn basic music editing. Review required movements, then use Beaulieu’s expert suggestions for weaving them together. Plus, enjoy a section on preparing exhibition performances—complete with ideas for props and costumes. With plenty of advice for practice as well as putting on a crowd-pleasing show, readers are sure to find all they need to begin the dance of a lifetime.

How to Add a Treat Pouch to Your Costume {For Horseback Riders}

I have been performing with horses for many years. I use treats as positive reinforcement in my training. Over the years I have tried to come up with clever ways to use treats during my performances without the treat bag looking frumpy or drawing attention. I have decorated old fanny packs and handbags that I have found at thrift stores, and used treat pouches designed for horseback riders. Most of them worked pretty well but they would either slide around on a belt, be too wide at the top and the treats would fall out, or they just felt bulky and in my way. This is my solution to the treat dilemma!

What You Need: 

  • A Canvas Bag (I bought mine at Hobby Lobby)
  • Your Corset (or you could use a wide belt)
  • Decorative Trim/Tassels
  • Scissors
  • Hot Glue Gun & Extra Glue
  • Decorative Buttons or Pendants (optional)
  • Fabric Spray/Glitter (optional)

Watch Video for Step-by-Step Instructions:

Do you love being creative with your horse?

Download the First Chapter of my new Fantasy Photo Shoots E-Book today!
Or you can go ahead and purchase the E-Book to get started right away.

Fantasy Photo Shoots Free Chapter Download.png

How to Decorate Your Horse's Bridle {Ribbon Browband Tutorial}

When I am performing I get asked a lot of questions...not just about riding, but more often the questions are related to my costumes and my horse's tack. I started performing when I was a teenager in the Isaac Royal Equestrian Theater. We put on a two hour long performance jam-packed with quadrilles, single routines, plays on horseback, and dancers. My fellow riders and I were in many routines so we learned how to change costumes QUICKLY and doll up our tack on a budget. 

Purchasing a fancy new bridle for a one-time photo shoot, performance, parade, or wedding can be expensive. This DIY project will help add some color, bling, and accessories to your horse's bridle. You can use this same browband technique on the noseband for a more dramatic effect. 

What You Need: 

  • Your Bridle (You will not be gluing directly to the bridle so it won't ruin it.)
  • Satin Ribbon 
  • Decorative Trim
  • Scissors
  • Hot Glue Gun & Extra Glue
  • Decorative Buttons or Pendants (optional)
  • Wire Flowers (optional)
  • Fake Flowers (optional)

Watch Video for Step-by-Step Instructions:

Do you love being creative with your horse?

Download the First Chapter of my new Fantasy Photo Shoots E-Book today!
Or you can go ahead and purchase the E-Book to get started right away.

Fantasy Photo Shoots Free Chapter Download.png

Sandra & Douwe - Friesian Breed Demos - 2016 Equine Affaire

"Reach high, for stars lie hidden in your soul.
Dream deep, for every dream precedes the goal."
                          -
 Mother Theresa

I was very proud of Douwe's performance in the Coliseum. He can get excited with larger audiences but he focused well and stole the show with his kisses, smiles, and wiggles. We also rode in the Mallory South building and he did well, but was not as relaxed. There isn't a proper warmup for the Mallory South building and waiting outside on the pavement isn't ideal for the horses to stay relaxed. I would like to extend a big THANK YOU to Danielle Barrasso for organizing the breed demos and for letting me stable with her in C-Barn. Enjoy this video of Douwe in the Friesian breed demos!

"Outlander" Inspired Routine - Bitless, Bridleless, and at Liberty

I love watching the Outlander TV series and adore the soundtrack. The songs are dramatic, beautiful, and have a light-hearted quality that fits Douwe's personality really well. Douwe injured his knee a month before this event and I barely had a chance to ride him the week of the show. I brought Rovandio with us as a backup and ended up performing both of them and they felt great. I tend to be more creative on a deadline so I found myself putting together a brand new routine just days before the show, editing the music and pulling together a costume from my collection. I am so happy with how the routine turned out and Douwe really enjoyed himself. We even popped in a few tempi changes even though we haven't practiced those in months! The music gives me goosebumps to ride to and I am looking forward to the next time I can perform this routine. 

Roxie Hart Jazz Routine at the Equine Affaire - Enjoy this fun & sassy routine!

"Mmmm, I'm a star!
And the audience loves me!
And I love them
And they love me for loving them
And I love them for loving me
And we love each other..."

                                                                        - Lyrics from "Roxie Hart" from Chicago

Who can't help but love this song!! It is so sassy and fun to ride to. This year I was given a solo spot in the Andalusian demo with Rovandio and I thought what the heck! It was the perfect opportunity to try something fun that the audience would enjoy. I wanted to highlight Rovandio's amazing personality and rideability. He loves the audience and enters into that electric atmosphere as calm and collected as he can be. It is hard to see me lip synching and playing to the audience but I am sure you can see how much fun I had riding this routine with Rovandio.  Enjoy!

Creative Process for "Wings of Isis" Bridleless Routine - Music, Costume, Choroegraphy, & More!

I absolutely love performing with my horse. It is such a satisfying experience to take an idea or be inspired to create something unique and make it a reality. My "Wings of Isis" routine with Douwe is one of those ideas that has taken years to develop. I wanted to share our journey to hopefully inspire you to pursue that creative freestyle  you have been dreaming of. It may take some time but in the end it is worth it!

Inspiration

I have always loved to dance! In 2007 I started taking bellydance classes and fell in love with the veil and fabric wings called the Wings of Isis. I taught classes for a few years and our local dance troupe performed locally. From the very beginning I wondered if I could ride a horse with the wings and began to experiment. I purchased my silver wings from www.moondancebellydance.com, they come in a variety of sizes and colors.

Costume

I went with a Pegasus/Greek goddess theme. I found a Greek goddess dress at the Halloween store for under $65 and have added a lot of details to it over time. I bought silver wings from www.moondancebellydance.com and also used an aqua blue petal skirt that I purchased from them as well to add in some color. The dress had gold trim on it so I covered it with a variety of silver sequin trim from Jo-Ann Fabric and added some aqua blue ribbon to match the petal skirt. I am wearing a white satin circle skirt underneath the dress to cover my legs/saddle. I had this made for me by a local seamstress. For the finishing touches I found a matching headband and some really sparkly diamond earrings at the mall. I braid my hair the night before to give it that wavy look. 

Music 

This was a difficult ride to find music for...I searched and searched on iTunes for something that would accent my arm movements with the wings, have a  walk entrance, a smooth ending (no sharp halts) and also be dramatic for the horse. The music I finally chose is called "Ulysses" from Cirque Du Soleil. The music lets me highlight the movement of the wings and has transitions that give me space to re-organize if the horse is getting quick or tense. 

Choreography

My routine is fairly simple and leaves a lot of wiggle room. Essentially, my only goal is to match the musical transitions (particularly to and from the canter), to show simple serpentines at the trot and flying changes at the canter. I want to match my arm movements to the music at the trot and try to remain quiet in my body and always smiling! 

From the Beginning

The first horse I performed with the fabric wings was Vienna, a Lipizzan mare owned by my close friend Lydia Spencer. After losing Max and Vanidor in 2008 she was very kind to let me ride Vienna for shows and performing. The first day I rode Vienna with the wings I had to have someone lead me around the ring at a walk. She was a little suspicious of the fabric tickling her flanks! It took about a week of walking and slow trot with a ground person until she was relaxed with the wings and after that she was wonderful. I steered Vienna by using very thin cables clipped to the bit that went through a "belt" on my dress and then out to my hands. When I turned my upper body I was able to cue her with the reins. She was very light and sensitive to the aids so this system worked really well for her. Douwe on the other hand is big and stiff in comparison so when I tried the same thing with him the cables/clips/belt kept falling apart! On the other hand he was very good with the wings from day 1...he never spooked or seemed bothered by the fabric floating on top of him.

Here is a video of me performing with Vienna in the Isaac Royal Equestrian Theater back in 2007. She was a really good girl, performing flying changes and prompt transitions. I made the simple bridle and sidereins with clothes line rope you can purchase at the hardware store.

Discovering a New Way...

After some experimentation I found out that Douwe is really good at whip-steering. I started using the wings for steering, the same way you would train a horse to steer by using whips (not by hitting them of course but by holding the whip out to the side so they can see it peripherally and turn away from it). In the beginning I rode Douwe with a regular bridle and handmade sidereins (the same clothes line but spray painted black to blend in). 

The Power of a Dream

When I had the idea to ride with the dancing wings my dream was to eventually ride bridleless.
It took 7 years from the first ride on Vienna (summer 2008), training Douwe in Florida (winter 2010) and then performing bridleless in the summer of 2014.

I wanted to give you an idea of the timeline to help inspire you to keep plugging away at your goals...if you are persistent they really can come true!
 
I encourage you to follow your dreams no matter what they are...being creative is one of the most satisfying things you can do. This video was taken at Elysium Sport Ponies in Atkinson, ME at their open house. This was the first time I performed with Douwe bridleless and he was super! His flying changes need more work but overall he was relaxed, focused and I really enjoyed our ride together.

I would love to hear from you about what inspires you...maybe you have an idea for a freestyle or exhibition ride that you have begun to work on. If you have any questions or comments please post them down below or email me at beginthedance@gmail.com Thank you for taking the time to read my blog and watch the videos!

Creative Process for "Diamond" Routine - Music, Costume, Choreography, and More!

Creating a competition freestyle is a lot of work but creating an exhibition freestyle is an entirely different challenge. I wanted to share my thought process behind our new routine to help give insight to other riders that want to create their own exhibition freestyle. There really is no particular way to put one together but my process might help spark some ideas for you.

Inspiration

Originally I was planning to perform with my friend Lydia Spencer dancing as we have done in the past. Unfortunately her schedule wasn't working out so I was left with two weeks to put together a new routine. At first I was disapointed but then I was excited at the thought of creating something new. The day of the performance was Douwe's 14th birthday so I wanted to dedicate the routine to our partnership together. I have considered him to be a "diamond in the rough" because of his background and thought diamonds would be a fitting theme. Click here to read Douwe's story.

Music

This was perhaps the most frustrating piece of the process. I went through at least 5 edits of the music and spent at least 7 hours finding music online, downloading, editing, burning test cds and watching the music to videos of my horse. I love picking music but it was stressful for me because I was still editing music the day before the performance. I started with songs that I knew the audience would recognize, Diamonds by Rihanna, Chandelier by Sia and Lay Me Down by Sam Smith. I found acoustic piano versions of all three and practiced riding to them every day. It was tricky to edit them smoothly and I wasn't feeling the flow for the liberty work. I ended up purchasing some music from AudioJungle.net that was more dramatic with clear highs and lows. It wasn't long enough for my entire routine so I blended that with the Diamond song. Two days before the performance I practiced our routine to the music and found it wasn't inspiring me for the liberty work. Back to AudioJungle I went and found a romantic, inspiring song by the same composer that was easy to edit. However, I didn't want to lose my Diamond theme so I took the very beginning of Rihanna's song to set the tone for our routine.

Choreography

Trying to choreograph a liberty routine can be considered very difficult or very easy depending on how you look at it. On the one hand I really can't have detailed choreography because I have no clue what we will end up doing at each moment on show day. All I can do is have specific markers in the music so I know when I would like to take off the bridle, dismount of the liberty work or perform specific movements. On the flip side it is extremely challenging because I need to have 1-2 backup moves in the back of my mind in case Douwe isn't at the right position of the arena, in the right balance or in the right mood for that particular movement. During the winter months I have been playing with new moves, having Douwe pick up the veil with his mouth, trot and canter beside me with the veil, follow me with veil, etc. Trying to blend these different movements together and make it look like a finished routine requires that I stay super focused and in the moment with my horse. The most important thing to remember is that the audience doesn't know what you are trying to do so just smile, even if you make a mistake!!! The audience wants to be entertained and if you looked frustrated it takes all the passion out of the performance. Performing exhibition routines has helped me overcome some show anxiety because I am forced to stay present in the moment, if I get tense or lose focus my horse will just leave me!

Costume

Putting together a costume is always fun...for this routine I didn't have the luxury of buying anything new because of the time crunch. I went through my collection of dance and riding costumes and came up with the black petal skirt from Moondancebellydance.com, my Art on Horseback corset from www.corset-story.com, and a wrap top I use for dancing. I did buy sequin trim and fabric from Jo-Ann Fabric to add to my corset, saddle pad, petal skirt and to use as a veil. My costume jewelry was a throw back to my days in the Isaac Royal Equestrian Theater in a Moulin Rouge routine I used to ride in. I used spray glitter to cover paint specks on my corset and on my plain black breeches. I added my diamond browband to Douwe's bitless bridle and we were ready to go!

Show Prep

I braided my hair the night before so that it would be wavy and I braided some sequin fabric into the front to keep it out of my face. Elisha Harvey helped me glitter Douwe's hooves, mane, tail, pretty much all over! For more details on how I get the glitter to stick check out my blog post on DIY Glitter Hooves, Mane and Tail. I painted a diamond on Douwe's forehead and swirls on his neck and hind end using a special trick we figured out years ago.....fabric paint! The fabric paint stays wet long enough for you to create the design and add the glitter. It takes about 30 minutes to dry and you have to be careful not to touch it or have your horse rub it off before it is done. Once it is fully dry it will stay on for days! 

If you have any questions or comments please email me at beginthedance@gmail.com. I would love to hear your stories about performing or any ideas you might have about the creative process. Have fun dancing with your horse!

DIY Glitter Hooves, Mane & Tail for Your Horse!

Whenever I perform with my horse the first thing that everyone compliments us on is our use of GLITTER! I particularly love to make Douwe's or Rovandio's hooves gold, silver, or copper, whatever matches our costume. Everyone always asks how I get the glitter to stay on the hooves and on their manes and tails. So, I wanted to share this SUPER EASY secret to getting your own "cheap" version of Twinkle Toes!

Douwe's silver hooves at the 2014 Baroque Horse Show where we performed. Photo taken by Karen Lendvay.

Douwe's silver hooves at the 2014 Baroque Horse Show where we performed. Photo taken by Karen Lendvay.

What You Need:

  • Hoof Polish: I prefer black because it makes the hooves really stand out, but clear will work fine as well.
  • GLITTER: You can get glitter in many colors at any craft store, JoAnn Fabric, ACMoore, Hobby Lobby, and Walmart. You can just get the regular craft glitter. The fine glitter works really well for the mane and coat but I usually just get the large containers of big glitter.
  • Hairspray: Can(s) of Super Hold hairspray- you can buy this at WalMart, Walgreens, etc...
  • Latex Gloves: If you don't want to get the hoof polish on your hands, wear gloves!
  • Block of Wood: To help keep the hoof area clear of shavings or to protect the floor.

How to Apply Glitter to the Hooves:

  1.  Clean the hoof and leg- just brushing it off will do! You don't need to wash the hoof.
  2. Place the hoof on a piece of wood if you would like to keep shavings/dirt away from the drying polish.
  3. Apply the hoof polish to one hoof at a time.
  4. Sprinkle on the glitter immediately after you apply the hoof polish.
  5. Do one hoof at a time and wait until it dries, it doesn't take too long, maybe 10 minutes before you are ready to ride.
Elisha Harvey (putting on polish) is working with Hannah French (glitter girl) to make sure the glitter is added immediately for the best "stickage"!

Elisha Harvey (putting on polish) is working with Hannah French (glitter girl) to make sure the glitter is added immediately for the best "stickage"!

Putting glitter on Douwe's hooves at a show. Not a good idea to do this in your white costume!!

Putting glitter on Douwe's hooves at a show. Not a good idea to do this in your white costume!!

How to Apply Glitter to the Mane/Tail/Coat:

  1.  Groom your horse first! Do not use Show Sheen or the glitter will not stick.
  2. You might need someone to hold your horse while you spray, some horses don't like the hairspray, be careful!
  3. With the glitter in one hand and the hairspray in the other, spray a section of the horse and then sprinkle on the glitter.
  4. I usually spray, sprinkle, and then spray again over the glitter to get it to stay.
  5. The horse may shake his head after you are done, that is why we put on a lot of glitter! We usually keep in mind that half of it will fall off once the horse shakes or the skirts rub it off.
Having way too much fun at the Equine Affaire! Elisha Harvey and Hannah French were my assistants/grooms for the event and they made a great glitter team! Here you can see how much glitter they put in Douwe's mane!

Having way too much fun at the Equine Affaire! Elisha Harvey and Hannah French were my assistants/grooms for the event and they made a great glitter team! Here you can see how much glitter they put in Douwe's mane!

Elisha Harvey is one of Douwe's glitter grooms! Here she is adding more hairspray to his tail to help hold the glitter in....you can also see that she put glitter on his feathers!

Elisha Harvey is one of Douwe's glitter grooms! Here she is adding more hairspray to his tail to help hold the glitter in....you can also see that she put glitter on his feathers!

And you are done!

I would love to see photos of your horse all glittered up, make sure to post them on my Facebook page at Begin the Dance with Sandra Beaulieu or email them to me at beginthedance@gmail.com. Have fun!

Here you can see Douwe's hooves, feathers, mane, neck and tail all glittered and he is ready to perform! We are on our way to the Youth Pavilion at Equine Affaire to demonstrate Douwe's tricks in the Friesian breed demo.

Here you can see Douwe's hooves, feathers, mane, neck and tail all glittered and he is ready to perform! We are on our way to the Youth Pavilion at Equine Affaire to demonstrate Douwe's tricks in the Friesian breed demo.

Learn More about Fantasy Photo Shoots with your Horse

Awesome Website for Costume Corsets

Would you like to dress up with your horse? Need a corset for your costume? I found this website last fall and have ordered at least 3 corsets from them already. Their steel boned corsets are really high quality and I love the way they look. The only downside to a steel-boned corset is they are impossible to get into by yourself! You need someone to help lace you in and it can be quite an ordeal! They also have corsets for every budget and sell different styles like steampunk (my favorite!) and burlesque. Check them out, I highly recommend this website!! Here are a few photos of the corsets I have purchased from them and incorporated into recent costumes. Elisha Harvey is also wearing a corset from their website (in the first photo).

Check out their website: http://www.corset-story.com/