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

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.
 

Soundcorset

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.

EquiTempo

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. 

Spotify

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

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. 

Create Your Own Training Level Musical Freestyle! Sample Videos of Good Choreography & Music Selection

Create Your Own Training Level Musical Freestyle! Sample Videos of Good Choreography & Music Selection

Have you always wanted to ride a musical freestyle? Getting started at Training Level is a great way to get your feet wet and learn how the entire process works. 

In this post, I have shared some examples of Training Level musical freestyles and reasons why they are good, from a judge's perspective…

Read More

Pre-Made Dressage Freestyle Music and Choreography: Marvin's Music!

Have you always wanted to ride a musical freestyle? Do you listen to music on the radio and find yourself picking out music for your horse's trot or canter? Picking music is really fun, but it can be a little frustrating if you aren't sure where to look. I use iTunes and Amazon to purchase music, but Marvin's Music is perfect if you are looking for freestyle music that is ready to ride to!

Marvin's Music

This website offers pre-made freestyle music and choreography for a decent price. The prices range from $23-$57. I have had a few clients use this website to purchase music and choreography. You may need to re-arrange the choreography to better highlight your horse's strengths and weaknesses but their pattern will give you a good base to start from. I encourage you to visit their website and spend some time listening to the music. It will help you get into the creative mindset. 

  • You can listen to each piece of music for the walk, trot, canter, entrance, ending halt and passage if it applies.
  • If you love soundtracks they have music from Star Wars, Zorro, James Bond, Pink Panther and more!
  • If you want to try something unique try their new Game Music (Mario, Angry Birds, Sonic). It sounds great!
  • They also have music from popular bands like the Beatles, Abba, and Madonna as well as Classical, Spanish and Violin music.
  • They have a Tailor Made option where you can mix and match music from different themes. It costs extra but would be a good option if you wanted something more unique. They can also match their music to your own choreography. 

Click here to visit their website: http://www.marvinsmusic.nl/english/

 To help you find your horse's BPM please click here to read my blog post on the topic. I also offer custom freestyle design if you are interested. To read more about the process click here to visit my Musical Freestyle webpage. 

Have fun!

Freestyles are a lot of fun! Here I am with Max, a Percheron/TB cross that I showed at PSG. We did a Fourth Level freestyle using music from the modern King Arthur movie, dramatic and powerful for this big horse!

Freestyles are a lot of fun! Here I am with Max, a Percheron/TB cross that I showed at PSG. We did a Fourth Level freestyle using music from the modern King Arthur movie, dramatic and powerful for this big horse!

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).

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.

Musical Freestyles by Leslie

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

Begin the Dance with Sandra Beaulieu (me!)

I am passionate about helping riders create their own freestyles with my new EBook series and this blog.

YouTube Freestyle Inspiration:

Create Your Own First Level Musical Freestyle! Sample Videos of Good Choreography & Music Selection

 

If you are creating a first level musical freestyle, please check out my First Level eBook.  In the eBook, you will find choreography you can use and resources on where to find freestyle music. While I was creating the book, I watched a lot of First Level freestyle videos on YouTube. Below are some of my favorites with bulleted points detailing why.

Watch these videos to help inspire you with ideas for your freestyle!


Video #1: Recognizable Music Suitable To The Breed

The music in this freestyle matches the horse's physique and movements wonderfully.

  • Recognizable music (and same theme used throughout).
  • Choreography matches music.
  • Music accentuates horse's impressive movement and figure.

 Even though some soundtracks have been "over-used", that doesn't mean that you shouldn't go for it if you really love the music. I think James Bond would have chosen a Friesian, don't you?

Video #2: Music Expressing Rhythm and Tempo of Horse's Gaits

This freestyle demonstrates a seamless combination of choreography and music.

  • Choreography reflects changes in music.
  • Music matches tempo of horse's gaits.
  • Orchestral pieces match the regal air of the horse.
  • Cohesiveness to music and seamless editing.
  • Creative use of serpentine to demonstrate counter canter.
  • Balanced use of space and cohesive routine design.

Lovely freestyle!

Video #3: Ease of Accomplishing Patterns and Obvious Trust Between Horse and Rider

This pair demonstrates synchrony and confidence of horse and rider.

  • Music matches rhythm and tempo of horse's gait
  • Playful and pretty trot music gives indication of energy and emphasizes horse's character.
  • Coherent music theme.
  • Choreography of transitions matches changes in music.
  • Canter music is graceful and matches horse's physique.
  • Extended canter on the diagonal showcases higher difficulty, along with the counter-canter.

Beautiful pair!

 

Video #4: Use of Vocals Does Not Detract From Elegant Performance

This pair shows beautiful harmony and the music and choreography enhances the horse's punchy and handsome gaits and physique.

  • Use of vocals does not take away from elegance of test.
  • Music matches horse's rhythm and tempo of gaits and charming and handsome physique and coloring.
  • Transitions in music are obvious and match choreography.
  • Impressive leg yield!
  • Rider and horse performed in obvious harmony.

Nicely done!

If you would like to watch more videos, I have a special First Level Freestyle Playlist on my YouTube Channel.  Sign up for my free downloads to help you get started with your freestyle.

 Please leave a comment below or send any questions to beginthedance@gmail.com.

Have fun creating!

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Looking for music for your dressage freestyle? Check out AudioJungle!

I have spent quite a few hours browsing through Audio Jungle's library. I LOVE IT! It is easy to use and the quality of the audio files is top notch.

PROS:

  • The music is copyright free so you can also use it for YouTube videos without having ads displayed.
  • You can search by your horse's Beats Per Minute [To learn how to find your horse' BPM, CLICK HERE].
  • They have a huge collection of songs (over 150,000) to choose from!
  • They have an amazing list of categories and search options. My personal favorites are Cinematic and Folk/Acoustic, but they also have Classical, Rock, Pop, Jazz and Country.
  • They have special sound effects (horse sounds, fairytale effects, horns)  if you want to get creative with your freestyle, such as emphasizing your halt/salute.
  • Most songs are 2-3 minutes long, which is just about the right amount of time to match a particular gait in your freestyle.
  • You can save songs that you like in a folder. You just click on the little heart underneath the audio file image. That way, you don't have to worry about writing down all the different songs you liked.
  • Reasonable prices! Some of my favorites range anywhere between $6-$18 per audio file. Sound effects are $1-$4. 

Click here to visit the AudioJungle website and start browsing their music library!

If you have any questions about AudioJungle or creating a musical freestyle please leave a comment below or email me at beginthedance@gmail.com.

Want to take all of the guess work out of creating your own freestyle? CLICK HERE.

Watch Max, an amazing Percheron/TB gelding perform piaffe, pirouettes and flying changes to music from King Arthur!

"Always be yourself, express yourself, have faith in yourself, do not go out and
look for a successful personality and duplicate it." 

- Bruce Lee

This quote resonated with me because I think it is really important to express our individuality. I have always loved performing to music, it is a passion of mine. This routine was inspired by the movie King Arthur and it matched Max perfectly. We rode this routine in the Isaac Royal Equestrian Theater back in 2007, sadly Max is no longer with us and I miss him very much. I have learned so much since then and I wish I had the chance to ride him now with all the knowledge and skills I have gained over the years. He was truly a special soul, standing over 17 hands with a heart of gold. I hope you enjoy our last performance ride together.

Sandra Beaulieu Performs at Open House for Elysium Sport Ponies

We had such a wonderful day at Elysium Sport Ponies open house this past Sunday on June 15th. Elysium is owned by Laurie & Elisha Harvey in Atkinson, ME. The facility includes an indoor arena with attached stalls. It is well set-up and clean with a lot of natural light in the stalls and the arena. Douwe and Rovandio really liked the open stalls so they could visit with each other and see everything that was going on. The demos started in the afternoon followed by a wonderful bar-b-que later in the day.

I rode Rovandio with Lydia Rose Spencer dancing and we did our "Music Box" routine. We added more color to our costumes and glitter to the pedestal to help it stand out more. Rovy was impatient to start but once the music began he was really focused. He loves to have a job! His flying changes were better today and he had a really high rear at the end.

For my final ride I rode Douwe in our "Wings of Isis" routine. Today was the first time I tried doing the routine without a bridle and he was fantastic! He even did his flying changes! Good boy! This was such a fun ride, he was with me the entire time, relaxed and enjoyed performing.

Rovandio and Douwe also did their "Liberty Dance" routine again and today Douwe really wanted to stay on the pedestal. At the Safe Haven demo he really wanted to roll and was distracted away from the pedestal but at Elysium that's all he wanted to do!! He is so funny!

You can see more photos from the event on the Elysium Sport Ponies Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/ElysiumSportPonies