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.

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