Dressage Musical Freestyle Rule Changes for 2019

Editing my freestyle with a little help from my horses. Photo credit: Kimberly Chason

Editing my freestyle with a little help from my horses. Photo credit: Kimberly Chason

Every four years the United States Dressage Federation (USDF) reviews their dressage tests and makes improvements/changes. This year there were a few notable changes in the freestyle tests that you should keep in mind when preparing to show.

Qualifying Score

For USDF Recognized dressage shows you need to earn a qualifying score at the highest test of the level (or above) before you are allowed to compete your freestyle. The qualifying score was 60% and it was raised to 63%. It might take you a little longer to earn that qualifying score but in the end it will help prepare you for your freestyle technical scores.

Example:
You are planning to ride a Training Level Freestyle at a USDF Recognized show. First, you will need to earn a 63% (or above) at a USDF Recognized show in Training Level Test 3. You may also earn your 63% at a higher level/test, such as First Level Test 1.

Choreography Changes

  • Lengthenings/Mediums/Extensions on Straight Lines

There was a significant change in the choreography requirements regarding lengthenings/mediums/extensions (will refer to these as extensions) at the trot/canter. Previously, you could choose to ride your extension on a bending line or a large circle. The rules have changed so that you MUST ride your extension on a straight line. You can choose to ride a second extension on a curved line but it will NOT be counted towards your technical marks, just your artistic scores.

This will limit your available movements but try to incorporate straight lines in a non-test-like fashion by utilizing your quarterlines, centerlines, long sides of the arena, and riding a diagonal line from the centerline to the corner and vice versa.

Scoring Changes

The test sheets are easier to navigate for the judges/scribes and there are fewer collective marks in the technical side of the test. There is only one score for rhythm, energy, and elasticity. There are also designated areas for errors and deductions. Keep in mind that your judge cannot ring the bell for test errors (example: forgetting to salute at your halt) while your music is playing. There is a great article by Janet L. “Dolly” Hannon in the USDF Connection magazine that goes into more detail about these changes. Click here to read it.

Click here to read the current freestyle rules on the USDF website and view the freestyle tests.


Download my Free Resources

Stay organized with my Musical Freestyle Checklist and begin sketching choreography with my Blank Arena Diagram Page.

Freestyle Free Downloads.png

Browse my Freestyle E-Book Store

Learn how to create a musical freestyle from start to finish or choose an e-Book with choreography ideas just for your level.
Click here to view all Freestyle e-Books.

Related Freestyle Articles

How to Create a Musical Freestyle - Learn the Seven Phases of Freestyle Creation

Watch our "Outlander" inspired first level freestyle... photo credit: spotted vision photography

Watch our "Outlander" inspired first level freestyle...photo credit: spotted vision photography

Imagine riding up the centerline to the music of your very own musical freestyle! If you are reading this article you are thinking of, or have decided to, design a musical freestyle. How exciting!

Just think how much fun you and your horse will have dancing to music. I know that my horses enjoy their music and they will start to learn their transitions and follow along. 

This video will give you an overview of what's in store for you in the months ahead. I have broken down the process into Seven Phases to help you keep track of your progress and avoid overwhelm. 

You can just watch the video or scroll down to read a description of each phase. I have also included links to articles and resources to help you along the way.

#1: Plan & Prepare

You are currently in this stage right now, planning ahead for your freestyle. If this is your first time I recommend giving yourself ample time to work on it. There will be a learning curve with the music software and how to choreograph your routine so be careful not to rush yourself.

The best time to start working on a musical freestyle is in your "off" season. If you compete in the summer months try to begin in the winter, right after the holidays is usually a good time to get focused. Download my free Musical Freestyle Checklist to help you stay on track (scroll to the bottom of this article).

#2: Rules & Requirements

You will need to learn the rules that pertain to freestyles at a competition, especially if you want to show at a USDF recognized event. It would be a shame to enter your first show and realize you are missing a movement or get disqualified because your entrance music is too long. There is a handy resource on the USDF website that summarizes the freestyle requirements...click here.

Download the USDF EquiTests 1 App so that you will have quick access to your freestyle test sheets if you aren't sure about a movement...click here.

#3: Gather Info

In this phase you will be gathering information that will help you find your music and create your choreography. You will need to figure out the beats per minute for your horse's gaits so that you are prepared to select music. Learn how to determine your horse's beats per minute in this article...click here. 

There are many smartphone apps available that will also help you with the BPM's, choreography, and music. Click here to see which apps I use and where to get them. 

#4: Discover your Music

It is a lot easier to find music with the availability of online search. Platforms such as ITunes, Spotify, and Pandora will help you find music to match your horse. Don't forget to look in your old CD collection as well, there may be some gems that you forgot about. Click here for some ideas...

If you feel overwhelmed about selecting music, there are some options online for pre-made music such as Marvin's Music and MusiKur.

#5: Choreography

It is a fun challenge to work with a horse and rider to showcase their strengths and downplay their weaknesses. Try to "marry" the music and the choreography together, doing your best to follow the natural progression of the music. Avoid movements that will add stress for you and your horse, your test should HELP you, not hinder your horse's ability. My blank arena diagram sheet is very helpful during the process. Scroll down for your free copy.

If the idea of creating choreography overwhelms you, I have pre-designed routines in my Freestyle Choreography e-books. If you don't see the level you want just sent me an email (beginthedance@gmail.com) and I will let you know when it is available.

#6: Edit, Edit, Edit

This is perhaps going to be the longest, most frustrating stage of the game. Keep faith! You are so close to the end it should help you gain momentum to push through. If you are not very "techy" this part of the process can be outsourced to a friend or a professional. I have gathered together some popular music software and extra options in this article...click here.

If you get stressed out, take a break and try one of the four ways I stay motivated. Read the article here.

#7: Go to a Show

Time to take your freestyle for a trial run! Keep in mind that the first show is a learning experience. You will become familiar with the process, how to submit your music to show staff, the sound check, how to deal with different sound systems, and most importantly...how does your horse do with the freestyle at a show. 

You may discover that your horse's tempo is a lot faster than normal or he/she spooks at the speakers set too close to the arena. After you receive feedback from your judge you can go back to the drawing board, adjusting choreography and music based on their scores. 

Here's some advice, do not drastically change your freestyle based on ONE judge's opinion! The artistic scores can vary widely from judge to judge. For example: One of my clients rode her new First Level freestyle at a schooling show and received a score in the low 60's, the artistic scores ranged from a 6 to a 6.5. She rode the EXACT same freestyle at a USDF Recognized show for an "S" judge and received a 76%! All 8's in the artistic scores.

Artistic value is in the eye of the beholder, don't lose faith if one judge doesn't resonate with your music. 


Download my Free Resources

Stay organized with my Musical Freestyle Checklist and begin sketching choreography with my Blank Arena Diagram Page.

Freestyle Free Downloads.png

Browse my Freestyle E-Book Store

Learn how to create a musical freestyle from start to finish or choose an e-Book with choreography ideas just for your level.
Click here to view all Freestyle e-Books.

Related Freestyle Articles

Sandra Beaulieu and Rovandio - Second Level Dressage Musical Freestyle to Pop Violin Music

When you dance, your purpose is not to
get to a certain place on the floor.
It's to enjoy each step along the way.

- Wayne Dyer

After a long hiatus from the dressage competition arena, I decided it would be fun to work on my USDF Freestyle Bronze Bar with Douwe and Rovandio. To earn this award, the rider needs two freestyle scores (above 65%) at First level, two scores at Second level, and two scores at Third level from recognized shows. Douwe earned both of our First Level scores and Rovandio earned both of our Second Level scores in one weekend! I am so proud of them, they seemed to enjoy themselves and I did too! Last week I shared Douwe's First Level Musical Freestyle inspired by the TV show Outlander (click here to watch). Here is Rovandio's Second Level Freestyle with recognizable music played by a pop violin band named Escala. I found them on Spotify and loved their renditions of Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir", The Verve's "Bittersweet Symphony", and Karl Jenkin's "Palladio". Enjoy!

Inspired to create your own musical freestyle? Enter your email below for my FREE downloads including a Musical Freestyle Checklist to keep you on track and Blank Choreography Pages to sketch your routines. You can also learn more about my Custom Freestyle Design and Freestyle Workshops. Click here. 

Thank you Adam's Horse Supplies!

My new sponsors Adam's Horse Supplies generously outfitted me with new Ariat show boots, a Goode Rider show shirt, Toklat saddle pads, a ThinLine pad for Douwe, and a Micklem bridle for Rovandio for our freestyle debut.  

Adam's is located in Winthrop, ME but has an excellent selection online and they offer incredible sales and discounts. 

 

Sandra Beaulieu & Friesian Douwe - "Outlander"-Inspired First Level Musical Freestyle

We dance for laughter,
we dance for tears,
we dance for madness,
we dance for fears,
we dance for hopes,
we dance for screams,
we are the dancers,
we create the dreams.

                  -Albert Einstein

After a long hiatus from the dressage competition arena, I decided it would be fun to work on my USDF Freestyle Bronze Bar with Douwe and Rovandio. To earn this award, the rider needs two freestyle scores (above 65%) at First level, two scores at Second level, and two scores at Third level from recognized shows. Douwe earned both of our First Level scores and Rovandio earned both of our Second Level scores in one weekend! I am so proud of them, they seemed to enjoy themselves and I did too! If you watch the TV series Outlander you will recognize the music, the tempo and drama of the music really go with Douwe's stride. Enjoy!

Are you inspired to start working on your First Level musical freestyle?

My "how-to" e-book will take you through the creation process of your very own freestyle. 

  • 10 Fully Choreographed Test Patterns! Just Add Music!
  • 37 pages of choreography!  
  • 7 Online Resources to help you find freestyle music.
  • Creative freestyle questionnaire to help get your creative juices flowing!
  • Freestyle checklist to help you stay on track.
  • Blank arena diagram pages for you to take notes and draw your own choreography.
  • Rules to remember, arena & sound requirements, copyright laws and more!

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

Looking for a Musical Freestyle Designer in the USA?

If you are overwhelmed at the thought of creating your own freestyle, here is a comprehensive list of designers that can create a custom freestyle just for you!

This list features top dressage freestyle designers in the US. If you are ready to compete a musical freestyle these professionals can help you create a custom routine. Click here for a printable version to save for future reference.

Most of the designers listed have sample videos and a variety of options. Some designers offer budget freestyles and are willing to work on the music or choreography separately if you are stuck creating your own. Please visit my YouTube channel for more freestyle inspiration (playlist link at the bottom of blog post).

Musical Freestyles by Leslie

Leslie Berro is a Juilliard Master's Degree holder, professional musician, and dressage choreographer. Located in North Carolina.

Klassic Kur

Terri Ciotti Gallo's freestyles have been in the Olympics, World Equestrian Games, World Dressage Masters, Pan American Games, and the NAJYRC!                                  

Woodwind Studios

Beth Hall has been a featured speaker at the USDF Convention, and author for publications like "Dressage Today".

Luna Tunes Freestyles

Cynthia Collin's freestyles have been winning regional and national USDF awards for over a decade. Her list of awards is quite impressive!

Applause Dressage Freestyle Design

Karen Robinson's client list includes Olympians, World Cup, Paralympics, NAJYRC and WEG finalists such as Ashley Holzer, Leslie Reid and Leslie Morse to name a few.    

GoldBar Freestyles 

Lynette Wadsworth is a USDF Bronze, Silver, and Gold Medalist and has also earned her USDF Bronze, Silver and Gold Freestyle Bars. She certainly has rider experience!

Miracle Music Freestyle

Johnny & Marissa Woodall of Miracle Music have produced award winning freestyles for over a decade. Listen to their versatile, hand-crafted music on their Music Samples page. 

Freestyles from A to C

Ruth Hogan-Poulsen has earned her USDF Gold Freestyle Bar and also teaches "Riding in 3 Part Harmony" Freestyle and Musical Clinics.

KurBoom

Tamara Williamson is a musician/songwriter/producer who lives just north of Toronto. She has released six CDs in Canada and has toured Europe and America.

Equestrian Arts Productions

Ann Guptill is a USDF Certified Instructor and produced a video for USDF called "Introduction to Freestyle".

Admagination Creative Studios

Admagination's staff combine their expertise to create exquisite freestyle music for the discerning equestrian!  

LEGS Equestrian, LLC

Katherine Abrams has designed freestyles for over 9 years, winning numerous local, regional and national championships. She has her USDF Silver Freestyle Bar.

EquiChord

Frank Maddlone of EquiChord offers musical freestyles of all levels Training to Grand Prix. They also have some podcast episodes called Eye on the Ride about musical freestyle.

Freestyle Design Music Specialist

Karina Laudato offers freestyles of all levels and music editing.

Singer Sound

Ashley Singer is a USPC C3 Graduate and has a BA in Theatre. She has designed winning freestyles at the regional and national level. Located in Maryland. 

Three Wishes Freestyles

Collier Wimmer's freestyles have won Regional and National Championships. One of her clients was a Wellington Nation's Cup Australian Team Member.

YouTube Freestyle Inspiration: