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.

Pros:
* 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

Cons:
* 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. 

Pros:
* 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

Cons:
* 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

Pros:
* 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

Cons:
* 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.
 

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

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.

OR

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

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

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:

Developing a Musical Freestyle for the 2015 Pan Am Games with EquiChord and Julio Mendoza

I came across an interesting video on YouTube of Julio Mendoza practicing his Pan Am Games freestyle with a GoPro camera. I contacted his freestyle designer, Equichord, to learn more and ended up having a wonderful chat with Cece Maddlone.... She is very knowledgeable and passionate about designing musical freestyles. She took the time to write an article, giving us a behind-the-scenes look at the creation process for Julio's freestyle. Thank you so much CeCe! Enjoy the article!

Developing a Musical Freestyle for the 2015 Pan Am Games with EquiChord
by Frank and CeCe Maddlone

INTRODUCTION
It is always exciting when we get the opportunity to work with dedicated and talented professionals who take the freestyle process seriously. Julio Mendoza is one of those professionals. Our overall goal is to create premium quality freestyles. This means creating a design that demands the highest in technical accuracy, musicality, and appeal; not only from the riding side, but the artistic side as well. There is as high a level of technical demands for the rider on the artistic side as there is on the riding side. We have developed our own intensive and hands-on process that is designed to help the rider achieve that goal. Once a rider has established a solid foundation in the technique, they are then free to add the dynamics of emotion and performance to the ride. In the end, that is what we want to create, and audiences want to see. Ultimately, achieving this takes a commitment of time and attention on the part of the rider. The best way to show how we approach this undertaking is to run through the entire process. Julio’s freestyle journey to the 2015 Pan Am Games with Chardonnay is a  perfect example of how we work.

FALL 2014
Julio and Jessica Mendoza called upon EquiChord, as they were excited to have several new horses for whom they wanted to develop freestyles - seven, to be exact. All the horses were of very high quality, ranging from First Level to Intermediare 1. They were also a wonderful array of breeds and personalities ranging from Friesians toOldenburgs. One in particular was a huge focus of our attention - a 2005 Oldenburg chestnut gelding named Chardonnay. Julio had set a goal of qualifying for the 2015 Pan Am Games. In order to achieve this, he had to compile his qualifying scores by the end of May - to include a freestyle score. For us, this was a definite challenge. Since we strongly believe in having plenty of time to practice and perfect each freestyle, regardless of the level, our time was already rapidly ticking away.

DECEMBER 2014
When we first met with Julio and Jessica to discuss their horse, they brought us a video from a recent clinic. Chardonnay (or Chardy, as he is known by his family and fans) was a new acquisition for Julio, and he was just starting to work with him. Chardy was beautiful, and you could certainly see that he was extremely talented and expressive. However, he was very uneven - so much so that his trot was extremely difficult to match to a steady BPM. There was no consistent rhythm, and there was lack of flexion to the right due to a former shoulder injury. Needless to say, we were a bit worried. Without rhythm, you cannot have the fundamentals of dressage or music. The Mendoza’s expressed that they wanted to use music that was more contemporary and easily recognizable. This always makes things even more challenging for us, because even though contemporary music is fun, much of it can be pretty uneventful since it is mostly a collection of loops with a vocal track. And, since we are limited to using only a few vocals throughout the course of a freestyle, contemporary music minus the underlying vocal tracks can sound more like muzak, or just a collection of never-ending loops. We put together a couple of samples for them, based on what we saw as possible fits, and passed along our recommendations. In our mind, once Chardy became more even and correct, he was going to develop into a lighter horse with a good staccato movement. Therefore, overly heavy or driving music would certainly overwhelm him. Chardy is also a very sensitive horse, so we wanted to ensure that he didn’t overreact to the music and become tense. Certain tonalities do not resonate well with some horses, so these considerations are always a part of the selection process. Jessica and Julio liked two of the roughs we put together, and together we ultimately decided on one. However, our choice was only a part of the selection process; we had to see if Chardy would respond positively to it.

JANUARY - 6.5 MONTHS TO THE PAN AM GAMES
We went to Julio’s farm to work with Chardy, and to get some insights on a few other horses. As we played the different pieces of music, we were looking for selections that would help Chardy find his rhythm. Julio had already made progress with him, and his cadence (i.e. how each footfall evenly matches the music’s rhythm) was improving. One of the selections we had on hand was a medley of U2’s music. We were all very excited to see how Chardy found his rhythm when we played the track! It was settled; that would be his music.

OUR TO DO LIST:
1. Finish the music and choreographic design
2. Run through it again in person to ensure the moves worked
3. Give Julio the music, the choreographic counts, and a voiceover so he may
practice the freestyle when off the horse.

FEBRUARY - 5.5 MONTHS TO THE PAN AM GAMES
Due to the scarcity of approved CDIs in our area, Julio needed to travel to Florida to get his qualifying scores. This gave us under a month to pull everything together. With his attention focused on acquiring the scores needed for qualifying, the freestyle fell into a lower priority level on the practice list. To make matters more challenging, Julio’s facilities back home did not have a regulation size indoor arena. So this made practicing the freestyle that much more difficult once he returned home. To help alleviate these challenges, Julio transported Chardy to a friend’s farm to use their indoor arena to practice. At this stage of the process, we still had not run through the entire test. It was truly amazing to see the progress Chardy was making. His gaits were stronger, and far more supple and rhythmic. However, he still was unable to consistently run through the freestyle. For us, this meant that we were not quite certain if the freestyle needed to be modified, or even worked. Since Chardy was still having problems rhythmical matching the steps, we couldn’t accurately count out the movements to the music. Based on what we had initially recorded, Chardy would need more counts than average to complete the movements. We had to go back to the studio and find a musically correct way to accommodate his odd sets of beats. As a result, we felt that it wouldn’t be prudent for Julio to try and show the freestyle while in Florida. Instead, we suggested that he afford Chardy more time to find himself. Once Julio had him where he needed him to be, we could introduce the freestyle again. However, time was a component that we had little of.

MARCH - 4.5 MONTHS TO THE PAN AM GAMES
During this month, Julio competed Chardonnay to Florida. In the meantime, we took this opportunity to work on the music and anticipate the changes that may need to happen in the choreography. We devised several plans to help support Chardy through the music, while ensuring that Julio had what he needed to perform the movements technically correct.

APRIL - 3.5 MONTHS TO THE PAN AM GAMES
Practice #1
The weather was nice enough to practice outside in the beautiful regulation-sized arena. Chardy was also getting better and better during this time. However, he seemed to be developing some tension during the freestyle. Frank and I were worried that the music may be causing the tension, and suggested that we might want to try something different since time was running out. Julio wanted to work through the music, so he began playing the music for Chardy in the barn every night. Julio also noted that he might be causing the tension himself, as he had not had enough time to listen to the music and voiceover files in earnest, or really focus on learning the test. There was just so much time in each day, and Julio and Jessica were extremely careful not to overwork Chardy. We asked Julio to ride through the test without the music; to perform the movements in a way that he felt was the most comfortable, and to do them as technically perfect as possible. We filmed the ride and took the tape back to the studio to score the music underneath it.

OUR TO DO LIST:
1. We make some more tweaks to the choreography and the music.
2. We sent Julio a new count sheet and the video with adjusted music so he could see (as well as hear) the cues and where each should fall matching his ride. We were happily surprised to see that it fit almost perfectly - and Julio needed to see that. All that was needed was enough practice time so that both horse and rider could feel confident in what they were doing. At this stage, they needed to trust each other and the music.

Practice #2
BEST EVER!!! Almost perfect. We ran through it once and stopped.
1. We mastered and EQ’ed the music with the new adjustments, then formatted it and sent them the digital copies so they could generate the CDs.

MAY - 2.5 MONTHS TO THE PAN AM GAMES
During this time, Julio had to go to Canada to do two sets of shows in order to get his scores. Time was running out. This was it. He had to perform his freestyle.

FIRST SHOW:
Chardy’s freestyle came in 5th in an international field of riders!! The highest artistic score was a 77% and Chardy received a 75%!!!! Riders and officials complimented the Mendozas on their music.

SECOND SHOW:
RESERVE CHAMPION!! This is what we needed to see. Julio was going to the Games.

JUNE - 1.5 MONTHS TO THE PAN AM GAMES
Julio had a very busy and tight show, clinic, and training schedule this month. They booked a practice session for one of Julio’s rare open slots. Although the Canadian trip was very successful, there were still some sections of the freestyle where we needed to work on the timing. During the next practice session, we worked solely on nailing the timing with the cues. It was hard to believe that this was the same horse we saw in January. Now, he was happy, strong, supple, and right on in every movement. His technique was getting solid, and we could now begin working in earnest on the nuances and performance components of the freestyle so it will shine.

LOCAL SHOW
CHAMPION!!!!

JULY - 10 DAYS BEFORE THEY LEAVE FOR CANADA
Because Chardy had come so far, his movements, timing, and rhythm had changed dramatically. Once again, we had to adjust the music. He was able to enter and exit compulsory movements more quickly, cleaner, and with greater precision. This meant that we had to edit out the additional music we had inserted earlier in the process. He no longer needed it, as it was causing Julio to hold him back in order to stay with the cues. That simply could not happen. He needed to flow fluidly from one movement to the next without having to alter the horse’s rhythm or frame.

FINAL PRACTICE BEFORE PAN AM’s
We couldn’t practice with Chardy because something wasn’t right. We were all very worried. It seemed to be just a bit of tightness, so the chiropractor came out to confirm the observation. This meant that Julio would not be able to ride to the new music before
he showed it at the Pan Am Games. This was truly nerve-racking. Instead, we sat down with Julio to count through the entire test over and over again. Frank recorded another voiceover for Julio; this time in Spanish, so that Julio could have both English and Spanish versions to listen to. Julio said he was going to listen to it in the truck all the way up to Canada.

THE GAMES
Chardy did the best all-around test of his life. In a field of international competitors, during the first year when the Pan Am Games were now brought up to Olympic standards, Julio ended up 17th in the freestyles. That was amazing!!!

IN CONCLUSION
Anky van Grunsven was, undoubtedly, the best at putting together winning freestyles. She once said that she would never show her freestyle until it had been practiced at least 200 times. In the grand scheme of things, that amounted to a year’s worth of work that she would tuck away under her belt before showing. We only had the opportunity to work with Julio a handful of times, and with a horse that was just coming into his own. The music and choreography were constantly changing to adjust to the developing horse, and all within time and space limitations. Despite it all, Julio and Chardy worked extremely hard, listened to our input and, in the end, rode a performance that was truly
the stuff of dreams.

What an awesome article and interview, it really shows the dedication and time commitment that goes into a freestyle of that level. I encourage you to connect with Equichord and the Mendozas on Facebook and visit their websites. The links are down below. Please let me know your thoughts by posting a comment and/or question here on the blog or you can email me at beginthedance@gmail.com.

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