Dressage Musical Freestyle Rule Changes for 2019

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

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

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

Qualifying Score

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

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

Choreography Changes

  • Lengthenings/Mediums/Extensions on Straight Lines

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

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

Scoring Changes

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

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


Download my Free Resources

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

Freestyle Free Downloads.png

Browse my Freestyle E-Book Store

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

Related Freestyle Articles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#1: Plan & Prepare

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

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

#2: Rules & Requirements

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

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

#3: Gather Info

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

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

#4: Discover your Music

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

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

#5: Choreography

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

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

#6: Edit, Edit, Edit

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

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

#7: Go to a Show

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

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

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

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


Download my Free Resources

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

Freestyle Free Downloads.png

Browse my Freestyle E-Book Store

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

Related Freestyle Articles

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.

DIY Glitter Hooves, Mane & Tail for Your Horse!

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

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

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

What You Need:

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

How to Apply Glitter to the Hooves:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And you are done!

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

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

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

Learn More about Fantasy Photo Shoots with your Horse

Sandra Beaulieu Performs at Elysium Sport Ponies Fall Fun Day with Douwe and Rovandio

I had a wonderful time performing with the horses at Elysium Sport Ponies Fall Fun Day with Douwe, Rovandio and Lydia Rose Spencer. The weather went from hot and humid all week to cold and windy overnight so all the horses were a little on edge. Rovandio was well behaved considering this is just his third time performing away from home. He is going to the Equine Affaire, Inc. (Official) next month and that will be his big debut in front of a larger audience.

Lydia and I changed our routine slightly to incorporate her fan veils and our loooonnnng blue veil that we used with Douwe a few years ago. We changed our color scheme and our entrance music. We only practiced the week before because the filming for Falcyyr has had us busy, out in the fields getting the horses ready for their group scene. We had some really nice moments in our routine and then other parts we goofed but overall I was happy. Rovy was anxious to get started at the beginning and wouldn't stand still but his focus was awesome once he got moving.

Riding Rovandio with Lydia Rose Spencer dancing. The long veil is harder to manage but it is beautiful in motion! Photo taken by Laurie Harvey's assistant Kaitlyn.

Riding Rovandio with Lydia Rose Spencer dancing. The long veil is harder to manage but it is beautiful in motion! Photo taken by Laurie Harvey's assistant Kaitlyn.

My routine with Douwe and Rovy came out pretty well, Douwe decided to add a new move where he took his front feet off the pedestal and left his hind feet up....not something we practice!!! He is only allowed to get off the pedestal by backing up but he lost his balance and came off the front. But it was really cute because he paused long enough for me to ride around him and give him a loving pat on the haunches. Douwe got on the pedestal with all 4 feet for the first time in this routine and he also did a nice lay down in front of the audience. Rovy was a superstar when I left him on the pedestal to do some in-hand work with Douwe. He stayed there for the end of the routine and never moved a muscle! He is so reliable, I love both of them so much!

Douwe and Rovandio working together in their routine. Douwe was a little lazy for the canterwork but they had some nice transitions together. See the video at the bottom. Photo taken by Laurie Harvey's assistant Kaitlyn.

Douwe and Rovandio working together in their routine. Douwe was a little lazy for the canterwork but they had some nice transitions together. See the video at the bottom. Photo taken by Laurie Harvey's assistant Kaitlyn.

Douwe was really good in his wings routine, relaxed and slow enough for me to push him a little bit. I was concerned that the wind and the weird noises from the roof would make him a little on edge but he was chilled out after working him at liberty. We performed bridleless again and he also did his flying changes pretty well. His rein back had a little more energy to it this time and his slow spin was even.

Douwe bridleless with his wings. Photo taken by Laurie Harvey's assistant Kaitlyn.

Douwe bridleless with his wings. Photo taken by Laurie Harvey's assistant Kaitlyn.

Please follow Elysium Sport Ponies on Facebook for upcoming events:
https://www.facebook.com/ElysiumSportPonies
To see more photos from this event click here to see my PHOTO GALLERY.

Here is a highlight video of my routine with Rovandio and Douwe together. Thank you Kaylee Clark for videotaping for me!
 

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