How I Create Your Freestyle

Long distances are not a problem. I work with clients all over the world, using email both to communicate and, in most cases, to send music.

1. The first thing to do is to determine your horse's tempos at all gaits. (If we are working over distance, you will need to send me a video of your horse. I’ll provide detailed instructions on the video once we have started to work together.) I will then discuss with you what kinds of music would suit his or her personality and way of going. If you have a preference for a particular musical genre, or if there are kinds of music that you would like to avoid, you should tell me at this point. I can't guarantee that I will find the right music within a single genre, or that I won't suggest music that you may dislike. I do, however, guarantee that you will be pleased with the ultimate selection.

2. Generally I send each client 6 to 8 songs for the trot (or passage if it’s a Grand Prix freestyle), and let the client choose one or two favourites. Before you choose, you should listen to the music and ride to it, or watch a video of your horse working to it. This step is important in determining what music complements your horse, and what 'feels good' to ride to. The tempo may not be exactly matching at this point - that comes later with editing. Once I have feedback on favourite trot songs, I then send another 6 to 8 pieces of possible music for the canter.

3. Once we have decided on the music to use for the trot and canter sections, I will select the walk and introduction music. I am a firm believer in thematic and instrumental consistency; it is important in giving the freestyle cohesiveness and flow. All the pieces of music in your freestyle will sound like they belong together.

4. The choreography comes next, though in some cases I have worked with clients on the choreography first or concurrently with the music selection. If you are doing the choreography yourself, then I will need a video of you riding it in a full sized dressage ring. If I am designing the choreography and we are working over distance I will also need a video of you riding the completed pattern.

**If I am designing your choreography, I will ensure that you include all the compulsory movements for your level and that you don't perform movements which could eliminate you. If you are doing the choreography yourself, I will be responsible only for making certain your freestyle length is within the minimum and maximum time requirements.

5. Once the choreography is complete, I will do the final edit of the music using software. I will adjust the tempo to exactly match your horse, and use fading, volume and pitch adjustments so that the final product is seamless and a pleasure to the ear. You will receive two CDs and if you can receive an mp3 file by email, you will receive the music that way too so that you can load it onto a player or burn extra copies.

6. With this final version of the music, you will need to run through your freestyle at least a couple of times in a standard sized arena to ensure perfect timing. You will receive a printed copy of your pattern in a dressage test-like format, with notes about when you will need to listen for changes in the music. Good luck, and have fun!

Freestyle Riding Tips

Some Points to Remember...

Keep an open mind with the music selection. When I was working on the music for my own freestyle one year, my husband walked through the room and commented dryly: "it's not necessarily music you would listen to otherwise, is it?" Many pieces of music that most of us wouldn't like to listen to in the car or at home sound great when you add the visual element of a horse trotting or cantering around in time with them.

Once your freestyle is finished, listen to it over and over (and over!). The better you know it, the more easily you will be able to stay on time in your pattern. You will also get the rhythm of the music imprinted on your memory, which will help you to keep an even tempo when riding to it. If things go wrong while you are performing it at a competition - as they sometimes do - knowing your music will make recovery easier, and you may even keep the judges from detecting that you are improvising on the spot.

Don't over-practice. If you ride to your freestyle too much, it will lose its spark. Riding to music is exhilarating, and the effect can be seen in the animation of both horse and rider during and after a freestyle performance - but not if you have ridden it so much that it has become as routine for you as a technical test.

Give yourself enough time. If you call me two weeks before the show, I might be able to produce music for you, but a lot of the pleasure will be lost in the rush. I should be starting work on your freestyle a minimum of eight weeks before the show in which you want to use it. FEI freestyles, particularly at Grand Prix level, are bigger projects that often carry higher expectations in competition. Having more time to work on a freestyle of this level allows me to spend more time finding the right music and choreography for you and your horse.

Generally, my client list fills up in the fall for the following show season. The exception to that is if a rider participates in a clinic in the spring, I will always accommodate a request that we continue working together after the clinic to create a finished freestyle.

Enjoy yourself! Freestyles are a tremendous amount of fun, and are transforming dressage into a spectator sport. Whether you are a professional or are doing this purely for pleasure, you should have fun with both the process and the result.

I look forward to making your next freestyle a success.

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