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Getting Started With Freestyle To Music

  • Posted: 14 July 2020

July Online Dressage Music Festival GraphicDuring July and August you can take part in a our Music Festival. Follow this simple guide to get started with all you need to know about how to plan your test.

About Freestyle to Music

Freestyle to music tests test have a list of requirements at each level. Create a floor plan using these movements and set it to music of your choice. Grab a copy of the requirements from the BD Online Shop (or check our test overviews in July's schedule).

Timing runs after the first halt and until the last halt. The music can start after the first halt but using a 20 second introductory piece can add artistic quality.

Make sure your music source is close enough to the camera so the judge can hear it clearly on your video!

Get Help With Your Floorplan or Music

This month's Music Festival sponsors are ready to help, so if you need a bespoke floor plan and music visit:

 1. Create a Floor Plan

A good floor plan will show off your horse to his best advantage. Be sure that you include all the required movements but also plenty of the things he's good at and not so much of the things he's not so good at.

Think about the order you want your walk, trot and canter to come in. Most tests (at the lower levels) start in trot but your horse may be better after he's had a canter. Try not to chop and change too much, it will make editing your music much harder and the overall picture won't be so harmonious.

Top Tip: Remember that this is a freestyle test. The judge is looking for something a bit more interesting than the normal tests at the level you're riding at. Freestyle tests use all the space in the arena; don't just ride around the outside.

Put it all down on paper and try walking your test through. Does it flow well? Is it balanced on both reins? Make adjustments until you have a plan you like then learn your test!

2. Ride and Film Your Test

Ride through your floor plan a couple of times and time it. Prelim, Novice and Elementary music tests can be ridden in a short (20 x 40m) or long arena. A Prelim test can be between 4 and 5 minutes and the Novice and Elementary between 4.5 and 5 minutes.

3. Choose Your Music

You can create your own music but it's much easier to work with a specialist who can get your music just right. See the list of our class sponsors above who can do this for you at really affordable prices. You usually need to supply a video of yourself riding your test and your choice of music for each pace or section.

Have a think about the type of music you like and what will suit your horse. A light-footed pony might not suit a big, sweeping orchestral piece and likewise, a warm-blood might not suit dancing to The Sugar Plum Fairy.

Top Tip: Your music should have a theme so that it sounds harmonious overall. Instrumental pieces are best, this is a dance after all but if you do choose music with vocals make sure that they are subtle and don't dominate the soundtrack. You could also have a think about your halts at the beginning and end of the test. You need a definite flourish at the beginning and end rather than a track that just dies away gradually.

4. Edit Your Music

If you're not working with a specialist, you can edit your music yourself but if you are not very confident see the list above.

Play your video and time each section as accurately as possible:

  • From the start outside the arena until the first halt
  • The length of the halt
  • From the first transition until the end of the first section (change to a different pace)
  • Continue timing for all the sections from each change of pace until the next one.

For example your timing should look something like this:

Entry: 16 seconds
Halt: 6 seconds
Trot: 2 minutes 15 seconds
Walk: 38 seconds
Canter: 1 minute 21 seconds
Trot: 25 seconds

(This is the timing for a Novice freestyle test adding up to 4 minutes 39 seconds after the halt.)

Start with the entry, choose a point in your music that has a definite halt. The end of the trot music may supply this, it’s fine to use the same phrase or point at the start and end if you like.

Top Tip: Allow a few seconds of silence for your halt.  Remember you need enough time to salute and readjust the reins afterwards so 4-6 seconds should be about right.

Build up each section selecting passages from the relevant music to match each pace.

Your last section will end with a halt; again, the end of the relevant track should supply this. After your salute at the end fade out the track slightly if it runs on too long.

Play your finished track over several times and make adjustments if needed. If you can play your video at the same time it’s really helpful. When you're ready save the music as an MP4 file that you can play from any device.

5. Practice and Polish

Now you've got your music and your floorplan you need to get out and practice. Make sure you're happy with everything. You may find you need to make your transitions slightly earlier or later than planned so adjust the music accordingly. Once you're ready for competition you can enter our Music Festival, entries close 26 August.

Top Tip: Film your test making sure that the music is playing loudly and is close enough to the person filming for the camera to pick it up clearly.

Upload your test and you will be judged both on technical performance and also artistic, receiving marks for your floor plan, choice of music and how well you ride to it.

Good luck!


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