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.

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

DIY? Custom? A little bit of both? Learn the Pros and Cons for your Dressage Musical Freestyle...

Learn how to create a dressage musical freestyle.   Click here.

Learn how to create a dressage musical freestyle.  Click here.

After you have clarified your goals and defined a timeline for your freestyle you will need to decide the best path to choose. Do you have the time and energy for DIY freestyle or would you rather pass along the task to a professional?

There are a variety of ways to complete a musical freestyle but for the sake of simplicity I have broken it down into three choices to  narrow your focus.

Here are the pros and cons of the three Freestyle Paths you might choose from:

DIY & On a Budget

Creating a musical freestyle can be a very rewarding experience. On the flip side it takes a lot of time and energy, especially if you are new to freestyle design.

Make sure to give yourself enough time to accommodate the learning curve that comes with the tech and choreography. Typically,  I recommend 2-3 months at a minimum. I have broken down the process into seven phases in my eBook that guides you along the way.

* Cheapest Option
* Learn the Process for Future Freestyles
* Edit as Often as you Like (especially after each show based on judge's commentary)
* Express your Creativity
* Gain a Sense of Accomplishment

* Possible Frustrating
* It will probably take a lot Longer
* You will mostly likely run into Tech Issues
* You will face Setbacks
* You may not reach your Show Deadline

Learn how to design your very own Dressage Musical Freestyle.  Click here

Learn how to design your very own Dressage Musical Freestyle. Click here

With Some Help & a Moderate Budget

This is the route I see many adult amateurs take. They want to stay on a budget but are not quite capable, or confident, to put in the extra time to learn the tech side of freestyle design.

Typically, riders will outsource the music editing because they are not familiar with the  software. It is a smart decision considering the learning curve can be quite frustrating! Click here to take the guesswork out of choreography design. 

* Learn the Process
* Outsource the Parts you Don't want to Do
* Outsource the Parts you Don't have the Skills to Do
* Express your Creativity
* Feel a Sense of Accomplishment

* Costs more to purchase Pre-Made music or Hire Help
* You may run into Tech Issues
* You may not reach your Show Deadline
* You may have Trouble finding good Help

Save Time & Energy - Go with a Custom Freestyle

If you are a professional rider that is too busy with training clients and competitions, this is your best option. Adult amateur riders that are competitive and going to a lot of recognized shows will also benefit from a professional's touch. Every designer has a unique creation process and style to their freestyles. I personally am drawn to soundtracks that evoke strong emotions for the rider, the audience, and the judge. I chose music from the TV series Outlander for my Friesian gelding. When the entrance music starts my emotions change and it helps with my confidence. Click here to watch our Outlander freestyle

* Works with a Busy Schedule
* Great Option if you Lack Creativity
* Takes the Worry out of the Process
* Can be a lot of Fun to test out the Music and Choreography
* Additional Support and Encouragement

* Most Expensive
* Can be Frustrating waiting on the Designer
* You may end up on a Waiting List during busy Seasons
* You may have to pay for additional Edits and Changes

I hope that diving deeper into the Pros and Cons of each process has helped you decide on the best course of action for you. If you have any questions you can post them on the blog or email me at beginthedance@gmail.com.

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 Articles

Six Smartphone Apps to Help you Create your Dressage Musical Freestyle

Learn how to create a dressage musical freestyle.   Click here.

Learn how to create a dressage musical freestyle.  Click here.

After you have clarified your goals and decided on a course of action, you will need tools and resources to begin your freestyle journey. The internet has made the freestyle creation process a lot easier, with more apps and tools being added all the time.

Here are some popular apps that will help you will different aspects of freestyle design. Most of these apps are available on both iPhone and Android but I have only included links to the iTunes store. Send me an email (beginthedance@gmail.com) if you have found another useful app that you think I should add to this list.

USDF EquiTests 1

It is a good idea to have the freestyle tests available for quick reference. I check the tests to make sure I know the required movements for each level and to make sure I am not including anything that is forbidden.

The app also includes the USDF Introductory Tests, which is helpful to have on your phone if you are teaching beginner dressage riders. Click here to download the USDF EquiTests 1 app.

BPM by Cheebow

I use this app on a daily basis to help me find a horse's BPM (beats per minute). There are many BPM and Metronome apps on the market but this one also lets me check the BPM of a song while it is playing in Spotify. Many of the other apps I have tried will not work at the same time as you play a song.

You can use this app to determine whether a song will match your horse's gaits, simple, quick, and easy! You simply tap the beat on the screen. When I use the app I start by tapping my foot to the beat of the song and then tap my finger to help me keep a consistent rhythm. Click here to download the BPM by Cheebow app.


This metronome app came highly recommended by a member of the Freestyle Facebook Group. I have since downloaded it to my iPhone and I will test it out myself. You can simply tap the screen to start/stop the metronome and set a visual flash of light if you can't hear the beat. 

It also has a BPM detector that may also be useful to figure out the BPM of a particular song. This app is meant for musicians and has additional features to tune instruments and record music. Click here to download the Soundcorset app.


This is a metronome app meant specifically for riders. You can use this app to help you determine your horses's BPM's but it works differently. Instead of tapping the screen you will set the tempo and keep adjusting it until you and your horse are in sync with it. 

This app is helpful for riders that have a hard time keeping a steady tempo. Once you figure out your horse's BPM's you can set the tempo and practice keeping it steady during your ride. Click here to download the EquiTempo app.

EquiSketch Dressage

I have not used this app personally but I have heard positive reviews from students. This app is helpful for choreography, letting you draw movements and save your routine on your phone. This would be useful if you have an idea for your freestyle but are not close to a pen and paper. 

Let me know if you have tried this app and how you like it. Click here to download the EquiSketch Dressage app. 


I love using Spotify and I recommend the paid version. You can use Spotify for free but it does not let you click through songs quickly, you have to wait and listen to ads. If you just need the app to help you for a one-time freestyle you can just use the free version.

I save numerous playlists for walk, trot, and canter songs so I can go back later and find something for a new client. I also create playlists for each horse/rider combination and for my own personal horses and themed performances.

Spotify will also recommend songs based on your personal preferences. This has helped me discover new music that I wouldn't have found on my own. However, it is easy to fall down the rabbit hole and listen for hours! But I don't see that as a big problem do you? Click here to download the Spotify app.

Do you have an app you use for musical freestyle? Please leave a comment below, email me at beginthedance@gmail.com, or join the Facebook group and share with the other members

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 Articles

From Wild to World Champion... Be Inspired by Cobra the Mustang - Breyer Model 2017

A dark bay mustang branded outlaw,
came to her from western skies.
A dark bay mustang from Nevada
fear and fire in his eyes.

- Peter Prince (lyrics)

The amazing success story of Cobra the Mustang just keeps getting better! My close friend Marsha Sapp and her mustang Cobra are inspiring thousands of people all over the world. Recently, they inspired song writer Peter Prince to write a song about Cobra and his journey! This music video shares their story. Please share with anyone you know that would be inspired by Cobra, Wild to World Champion. Enjoy!

Follow Cobra's Facebook Page!



Four Ways to Stay Motivated as you Create Your Dressage Musical Freestyle

Creating a musical freestyle takes time. You may begin the process all gung-ho and then find that your motivation lessens as time passes.

So far on your freestyle journey you have clarified your goals, decided on a course of actiongathered your resourcesfound your BPMs, and started the music search

Whenever I feel a lack of inspiration I spend some time doing the following. I would love to know how you stay inspired. Please share in the comments below or with the Freestyle Facebook group

Go to a Show

If you have the opportunity to attend a live event I think that it can help spark motivation. Even a local schooling show with one freestyle can motivate you. Watching a fellow rider in the ring, showing their finished freestyle is encouraging. Sometimes the lack of entries is also inspiring, it confirms the fact that creating freestyles is a lot of work and it means that your freestyle will stand out from the crowd.

Make plans to attend a big show if you live near high-profile showgrounds like Saugerties, NY or Tryon, NC. Are you making plans to attend the World Equestrian Games coming up this September (2018)? Regional and National Championship shows typically showcase the freestyles in the evening for the enjoyment of the audience. 

Watch YouTube

This is by far the quickest way to get motivated and inspire new ideas. I have saved individual Playlists for each level, Training through Grand Prix, and would love your help to add more. If you want to inspire other riders please send it along. Click on the freestyle level you are interested in seeing, the link will take you to my YouTube playlist for that level.  

If you have a video you would like me to add, please post the link in the comments below, email me at beginthedance@gmail.com, or post your video in the Freestyle Facebook Group. I would love to share your finished freestyle, it doesn't matter if you are starting out at Training level.

Browse Quotes

When I am feeling down I jump onto Pinterest and start searching for motivational quotes and sayings. There aren't that many quotes related to musical freestyle...believe me I know! That's why I have created my own using quotes related to dancing, music, and riding. Click here to browse my collection of quotes here on my website or you can follow my Dressage Musical Freestyle board on Pinterest

Join a Community

Being a part of a group of like-minded riders is helpful to stay inspired and get encouragement. I started a Freestyle Facebook Group specifically for riders that want to ask questions, share their journey, and receive encouragement along the way. It is a positive group of ladies, many of them I know in "real life" too! Click here to join.

You can also join a few other Facebook groups called Musical Freestyle (Dressage Kur) and Musical Freestyle Dressage

There are also two online forums that you can ask questions and interact with other members on the topics of musical freestyle. These are the two that I recommend, the Chronicle of the Horse Forum and the Definitely Dressage Observation Lounge Forum.

If you find any other fun, positive groups online please let me know in the comments below or email me at beginthedance@gmail.com. I hope this post helped you find some motivation to continue working on your freestyle. Don't worry, everyone gets stuck, I think it is basically a right of passage! When you are struggling through the third, even tenth edit of your freestyle music it can feel like it is taking forever! Good luck!

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 Articles

Turn Up the Music! Begin the Search for Your Dressage Musical Freestyle Music by Picking a Theme...

Now for the fun part! This is usually the part of freestyle creation that everyone seems to enjoy. Searching for music can be exciting. However, it could be overwhelming if you don't know where to begin. That is what we will focus on today.

Before you search for your freestyle music you will want to clarify your goals, decide on a course of actiongather your resources, and figure out your horse's BPMs. By knowing your horse's BPMs you will spend less time on your music search.

You can use a smartphone app to check songs on the fly, save songs on an app like Spotify, and shorten the amount of time it takes to find songs for your walk, trot, and canter. 

You might already have a particular band, song, or soundtrack that you are particularly fond of. If you starting from a clean slate, use this list to help you brainstorm ideas. 

> Match Your Horse's Breed:

Your horse's breed might lend itself to a particular genre of music.  Think about where your horse's breed originates from, and the history that goes along with it. 

If you ride a Mustang you might choose music that sounds like the wild west or a movie soundtrack like Spirit. If you ride a Baroque horse (Andalusian, Lusitano, Lipizzan) you might like classical, flamenco, or spanish style music. 

> Favorite Movie & T.V. Soundtracks:

Riding to popular movie soundtracks will engage your audience/judge, reminding them of the emotions they felt when they watched that movie.

I chose music from the Outlander soundtrack for my Friesian horse Douwe. I love the T.V. series and I was lucky that the music matched his gaits. Click here to watch our First Level Freestyle that has over 9,000 views on Facebook! 

> Favorite Bands & Popular Songs:

Is there a particular song on the radio that you just love? Lyrics are discouraged in the show arena (unless they lend a special quality to the performance) but you can find a variety of cover songs and remakes online.

Search the song name on ITunes and Spotify and you will typically find instrumental versions. Some of my favorite groups that create instrumental songs from modern music are Vitamin String Quartet, Eklipse, and The Piano Guys. You can also find remakes of your favorite songs from the 70s, 80s, etc. 

> Favorite Genre of Music:

Are you a huge fan of the 80's? Maybe you love classical music and opera. There are so many genres to choose from. Narrowing it down to one genre may not be as specific as a particular band but it will be a great start! 

When you think of your favorite style of music keep in mind how it makes you feel. Gravitate towards music that gives you confidence and keeps you focused, some music can create a lot of excitement that might translate into tension at a horse show.

If you haven't started already, I hope this article inspires you to begin your music search. Putting together your own musical freestyle is a challenge but well worth it in the end.

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 Articles

How to Determine your Horse's BPMs for your Dressage Musical Freestyle...

Learn how to create a dressage musical freestyle.  Click here.

Learn how to create a dressage musical freestyle. Click here.

After you have clarified your goals, decided on a course of action, and gathered your resources, you will need to figure out your horse's BPMs. 

I get asked about BPMs (beats per minute) frequently from riders who need help finding freestyle music. They know that they need to figure out their horse's bpms but aren't quite sure what that means or how to go about it. It is actually quite simple once you give it a try. 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 as well) but is a good place to start. 

Items You Will Need

  • A Timer or Cell Phone (with one of apps listed below)

  • Leg Wraps - use 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 with just one that is brightly colored.

Learn how to find your horse's BPMs for your musical freestyle.

Learn how to find your horse's BPMs for your musical freestyle.

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.

Use a Timer

Using a stopwatch or the timer on your cell phone, have your assistant set the timer for one minute. 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.

Use an App

Have your ground person use a metronome app on your phone, adjusting it up or down until the “beep” sound of the metronome matches the footfall of the wrapped leg. Some good apps to try are EquiTempo and Metronome.


Have your ground person use a BPM app, tapping the screen every time your horse's front leg touches the ground. It will give you the average bpm within a few strides, try it a few times to double check consistency. I have been using the BPM by Cheebow  for many years.

Take A Video

Take this opportunity to have your assistant video 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.

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 Articles

What Computer Software Should You Use to Edit Your Dressage Freestyle Music?

Learn how to create a dressage musical freestyle.   Click here.

Learn how to create a dressage musical freestyle.  Click here.

After you have clarified your goals and decided on a course of action, you will need tools and resources to begin your freestyle journey. The internet has made the freestyle creation process a lot easier, with more programs and tools being added all the time.

Find online resources to edit your dressage freestyle music. Click image.

Here are some popular programs that are used by amateurs and professional freestyle designers. Send me an email (beginthedance@gmail.com) if you have found another useful program that you think I should be added to this list.

> Garageband My current software of choice. It is easy to use and works seamlessly with ITunes. Only available on Mac.

> Audacity Probably the most popular FREE software that will work on all computers.

> Logic Pro X The next step up from Garageband. Only available for Mac.

> Adobe Audition Creativity in the cloud, there is a monthly fee but you also have access to other Adobe programs.

> Music Maker  Previously known as Sound Forge, was bought out by Magix. They have a free trial to use the software.

Dressage Musical Freestyle Video Tutorials YouTube online resources Begin the Dance Kur Design.png

YouTube Video Tutorials

I regularly save freestyle videos and tutorials on my YouTube channel. If you find a video that I have not saved to a playlist please send me an email (beginthedance@gmail.com) so I can add it.
> How to Edit Music using Audacity YouTube playlist with Video Tutorials

> How to Edit Music using Garageband YouTube playlist with Video Tutorials


Local Resources

Dressage Musical Freestyle Resources Music Editing Software Kur Routine DIY how to day four.png

In addition to online resources, I encourage you to look into options that might be available to you locally. 

> Family & Friends: Perhaps your son is really good on the computer? Check with your horse friends and see if any of them are tech savvy. Maybe you could barter some riding lessons for their editing skills! Be creative!  

Local High School: Meet with your local music teacher to see if they have the ability to edit music. Your school may have a computer class that could include your freestyle as a class project.  

Nearby University: Pay a college student to edit your music. Try posting a want ad on a local community board or coffee shop where the tech-savvy folks hang out. Some college student would probably appreciate the opportunity to earn a little extra money.  

Professional Musician: If you know someone who records their own music they will certainly have the skills to edit music. Check out some local bands in your area. Don't worry about the genre of their music, it is the editing skills you need. 

Freestyle Designer: You can reach out to a few professional freestyle designers and see if they would be willing to edit your music separate from the choreography. Most designers want to be involved in the entire process or they may have suggestions for your music choices and choreography.

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 Articles

Let all thought leave your mind, feel your horse rhythm's time...

This beautiful saying was created by my mother-in-law Bethanne Regaglia. It has become my business motto and I love to share it with others. Riding a horse is so much more than learning physical skills. It is a mind-game, an opportunity to become one with the present moment, and a challenge to let go of our anxiety, tension, and our worries. I admit this is definitely a struggle some days...but when I finally get to that special place that's where the magic happens! 

The calligraphy design is one of my art originals. I have a collection of designs on my SandraB. Designs website including clothing, apparel, and gifts. Click here to see the entire collection of designs and sayings.

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.


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.


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:

"Sway" Routine at the Elysium Sport Ponies Open House

"Other dancers may be on the floor
Dear, but my eyes will see only you
Only you have that magic technique
When we sway I go weak
I go weak..."

                                              - lyrics from Sway by the Pussycat Dolls

This video was taken at the Elysium Sport Ponies Open House November, 2015. I was SO happy with this routine! As some of you know, I was injured the week before and wasn't able to practice. I decided last minute to ride to the song "Sway", one of my favorite songs that I performed to with Rovandio at the Equine Affaire last year. I knew the transitions of the music inside and out, and it has a fun, playful vibe. Enjoy our dance routine and please share with anyone else that would appreciate it. Thanks!

Behind the Ride: 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.


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.


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.


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!


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 leave them down below or 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!

Royal Vanidor, Lipizzan/Thoroughbred Performs with Bellydancer - 2008 Isaac Royal Equestrian Theater

"Forget your troubles and dance!"
                   -Bob Marley

I have fond memories of this routine- it was the first time that I performed with a dancer! My best friend, Lydia Rose Spencer is dancing. Lydia is also an amazing dressage rider and equine artist. I am riding Royal Vanidor, a Lipizzan/Thoroughbred cross gelding that was born and raised at Isaac Royal Farm in Dover-Foxcroft, ME. I started working with him as a weanling and trained him up through the dressage levels to Pre St. Georges before he died in 2008 due to a tragic vet error. It was devastating but at least I have some wonderful memories of the times we performed together. RIP sweet Vanidor, maybe someday we will dance together again!

Who are some inspiring horses from your past? Leave a comment below!

Improve Your Dressage Position with Better Posture- 12 Tips & Exercises

It is a beautiful to watch an elegant rider on a balanced horse. What is the key ingredient to creating that elegant picture? Great posture of course! There is an immediate, 100% improvement in the overall picture of you and your horse if you correct your alignment.

A slouched, hunched over, "sloppy" rider can transform into a tall, straight, elegant rider quickly with consistent practice. Some of the causes of incorrect alignment include: physical problems, tension, and lack of confidence.

My improved posture came from years of practice. At the Isaac Royal Academy of Equestrian Arts I spent the first 6 months of my training on a lunge line riding without stirrups and reins. My instructor, Carolyn Rose, had me continue to ride without stirrups for years to instill independent balance. I also love to dance and practice yoga so that helps me with core strength and being open in the shoulders and chest.  Here are some exercises to try on and off your horse to help improve your posture.

Exercises to Practice Correct Posture On Your Horse:

  • Ride with one hand held above your head. Place your reins in one hand and stretch your other hand high to the sky. This will lift and stretch your torso, helping you to stay balanced and straight. This is also an excellent exercise if you tend to drop one shoulder more then the other. Try it at the walk, trot, and canter if it's available to you.
  • Start with warm-up exercises for your chest and shoulders. Try stretching your arms up high as you look up at the sky to open up your chest. While your horse is halted you can put one hand on the pommel and reach the other one back to the cantle to add a gentle twist with your upper body to help release tension in the back.
  • Lift your chin like you're balancing something on your head. Looking down at your horse too much will cause you to tip forward and round the shoulders. By keeping your chin up, you cannot help but lift and open your chest. Remember to look between your horse's ears or even higher to help keep your chin level.
  • Imagine that you are drinking tea! I really like this one because it also helps riders feel elegant and still in their upper body.
  • Try to pinch your shoulder blades together. Imagine there is a pencil in that space and you're trying to crush it with your shoulder blades. This will help you to open your chest.
  • Take a lunge lesson and hold the pommel with one or both hands. Use your hands pressing against the pommel to help you lift your chest.
  • Place a whip behind your back and wrap your elbows around it. Do this in your warm-up at the walk on a safe horse. This may over-arch your back but it can help open your chest and shoulders if you are really rounded in your upper back.

Usually, a person with poor posture when they ride will also have poor posture on the ground (and vice versa). This may or may not be true for you, but try to imagine that you are a King or Queen when you're home, or wherever you are, and that is what you should feel like on the horse! Proud, confident, and strong!

Noble and great. Courageous and determined. Faithful and fearless. That is who you are and who you have always been. And understanding it can change your life, because this knowledge carries a confidence that cannot be duplicated any other way.
— Sheri L. Dew

Exercises to Practice Correct Posture On the Ground:

  • Take dance classes. There are so many to choose from! Try tango, ballet, belly dance (see video below), salsa, or ballroom!
  • Practice yoga(check out THIS POST for yoga videos sorted by "target" areas of the body and choose a video by the amount of time you have to practice) or tai chi.
  • Try a pilates or cross-fit class for core strength.
  • Try sitting on an exercise ball while you are on the computer to help bring awareness to your seat and spine.
  • Wear a shoulder brace that helps remind you to stay in correct posture. There are many different styles to choose from online.

Belly Dance Video To Help With Your Posture:

If you live near Dover-Foxcroft, ME you should check out the Color of Life Yoga Studio.

For yoga videos to improve your strength, flexibility, and balance (from the comfort of your own home!) and to target your "stuck" areas, CLICK HERE.

If you have any pain or discomfort in your back, neck, or shoulders, you should seek therapy to help correct the issue. I have been to many massage therapists, osteopathic doctors, and alternative physical therapists to keep my body in order so that I can ride to the best of my body's capability.

Regular exercise and stretching is important to prevent injury and increase flexibility, strength, and balance. To ride a horse is the ultimate form of dance, involving the body, mind, and spirit of both partners. So treat yourself like a professional dancer, because that is what you are!

What does dance do for us? First and foremost, it inculcates the sense of rhythm and enhances our response to rhythm. This is really a response to life. It makes us more living, which is to say, more spiritual. It brings out beauty of form and movement, and envelops our personalities in the enjoyment of them. It takes us beyond ourselves, bringing an initial taste of the state of non-being, which is really a balm for the soul.
— Samuel Lewis

Join Sandra's New Online Coaching Group!


Improve Your Ride with a Positive Attitude! 6 Tips to Help You Focus & Relax

Horse are incredibly sensitive creatures, they rely on their instincts for their overall safety. If they sense an uncomfortable situation their "fight or flight" mentality comes into play.  Horses will teach you the incredible power of your emotions and how to harness your personal energy. If you arrive at the barn in a negative mood, frustrated or tired, the horse will sense that as weakness and feel uneasy. If you approach their stall in a great mood, confident, and looking forward to your ride then they will be more interested in their work. Put yourself in your horse's shoes...if your owner/rider was tense and frustrated you wouldn't be that excited to go trot and canter circles over and over again would you? It took me many years for this to really sink in. I spent so many rides in frustration at my inability to improve. I am a type-A, goal oriented person and learning to train a horse doesn't exactly go according to plan. I broke down in tears more times than I care to remember. I tried too hard and let myself think negatively about my skills. This blocked my ability to relax and really feel my horse. Timing comes when the rider can truly be "in the moment" with their horse. You must focus and read the horse's body language to react quickly and correctly. If you are constantly thinking negative thoughts such as, "I am never going to get this." "The other riders look good, why can't I do it?" "This is too hard, why won't my horse just do it!" "He always spooks in that corner." "I always get tight in the flying changes."

What you think about materializes into reality so be careful! If you constantly repeat any negative thoughts they will continue to be a problem in your riding. You must learn to take a negative thought and turn it into a positive one. For example: "I am never going to get this!" can turn into "This is hard but I am going to master it!" You are recognizing the difficulty but encouraging yourself to push on and believe that you can do it. We can only accomplish what we truly believe is possible.

3 Tips to Help You Focus:

  • Surround you and your horse in an imaginary bubble. Imagine that you and your horse are enclosed in a quiet, safe place. Almost like an invisible force field that protects you from outside, negative energy. I try to feel that my aura is merging with my horse's aura, creating a highly positive force field.
  • Close your eyes.  Don't allow your eyes to wander towards the on-lookers or the other riders if they intimidate you or make you feel inferior. That will only make you self-concious and your ride bad, the opposite result that you actually want! Try closing your eyes for a few strides, feel the horse moving with you, or focus on the horse's ears, notice if his attention is on you. The better you can filter out the unnecessary thoughts and distractions, the more sensitive you will be to the finer details of riding your horse.
  • Ride a pattern. Pick a dressage test that you and your horse are familiar with and ride through it. This gives you something to focus on and relays confidence to your horse because you are certain where you are going. Often times riders wander around the arena aimlessly and never really know if their horse is truly on the aids.

3 Tips to Help You Relax:

  • Have NO Expectations. I have found over the years that I ride better when I have NO expectations of how my ride will go. I am not focusing on a specific test for scores for an upcoming show...I am simply riding my horse, working on weaknesses and enjoying our strengths. Horses do not have an agenda and they certainly do not always agree with the rider every day. Try to be aware of how your horse is feeling and tailor your ride accordingly.
  • Take your time in warm-up.  Rushing your warm-up is a key to disaster! Your warm-up should be based on rhythm and relaxation. I always start with a free walk on a long rein to allow the horse and myself to warm up together. I like to feel my hips open, my legs relax and then feel the back of the horse swinging with a relaxed topline. Make sure your basics are intact, the energy is good, the swing through the back is there, and your horse is supple before you attempt the harder movements.
  • Smile! The simple act of smiling can also change your attitude. If you are becoming negative and over-focusing on a problem I suggest taking a walk break (very important for the horse as well if he is frustrated). Try to find something in your mind, in another horse/rider, or in your surroundings that you think is positive. Recognize it and smile, appreciate the positive and then pick up your reins and go back to your ride. This is also a great opportunity to breathe deeply and release tension in your back and shoulders.

I hope these suggestions help you Begin the Dance with your horse. If you have any other tips to help riders develop a positive attitude please leave a comment below! Or you can email me with any comments or questions at beginthedance@gmail.com.