freestyle to music banner

Freestyle to Music

If you and your horse are looking for a new challenge, why not try dressage to music? Making freestyle tests is great fun and can be done easily at home, or with the help of a professional rider or musician. Take a look at our guides to help you get started in freestyle dressage.

Need some inspiration to get started?

Here’s what our experts have to say about choosing your music and impressing the judges:

Sara Green – De-mystifying the music

Sara Green is first and foremost a dressage to music enthusiast, who has produced music for tests atall levels from Prelim to International Grand Prix. Here she gives us her insight into matching your music to your horse and your choreography.


  • The single most important thing to understand before you begin to choose your music is to understand the difference between rhythm and tempo and how this applies to the way your horse moves.
  • The rhythm is the way the horse moves – walk four-time, trot two-time and so on. The tempo is the speed the legs work within the pace.
  • It’s really important when choosing music to listen to the rhythm first. Does it sound like the pace? e.g. a marching walk, a punching trot or an up and down canter.
  • Then work out your tempo. To do this just count the number of times a nominated leg hits the ground for 30 seconds, double it and you have your beats per minute (bpm). Generally, a walk will be 95-110bpm, trot 140-180 and canter 95-110. So, walk and canter have a very similar tempo but a completely different rhythm.
  • When you are choosing music for your Freestyle test, listen to the predominant beat and ask yourself ‘does the rhythm say what I’m doing?’
  • Then see if your piece of music has dynamic changes in it, which can be used to signify a change within the pace – working trot to medium trot for instance. Or for a stretchy trot circle in your Prelim test – use a more relaxed part of the music. This really enhances and helps with the story telling part of the performance.

Music and floorplan combination

  • When you have chosen your music and matched it to your floorplan listen to it – does it fit together smoothly, does it have expression? Put simply does it feel like music to a dance routine?
  • Choosing a theme can help pull all this together, maybe the same artist or tv themes, a similar orchestration or movies or musicals. This provides the link through the music.
  • If you are competing at the lower levels, you do not need a complicated floorplan. Let the music lead your choreography and let it take you into movements to match its expression.
  • I often say to people I’m helping, “You have to like the music you ride to but you can’t necessarily ride to the music you like.”
  • Don’t forget the personality of your horse as well as showing his best movements. The judge doesn’t know your horse, but you can show his personality through the music you choose as well as matching his physical presence. i.e. don’t choose fairy light music for a heavier weight horse – unless he is exceptionally light on his feet!!

And finally…

  • Don’t forget your intros and endings. You want to announce your entry into the arena with a ‘hey I’m here – I’ve arrived!’
  • Your ending also needs to be definitive and finish with a ‘bang’!!
  • More than anything else though, dressage to music is fun, you can be creative and show off your horse and your riding – so enjoy it!
Andrew Fletcher – Top tips to impress the judge

Andrew Fletcher is an FEI Dressage Judge and trainer. Here we ask him what his top tips are to really impress the judge when performing your Freestyle tests.

Your floorplan

  • Riders get confidence from riding the movements they are good at and this produces confidence in the horse. This really enhances the performance and enjoyment of riding the test.
  • I personally like to see a floorplan with some uniformity – this helps because if the pattern is easier to follow it is also easier to judge.
  • Consider the way you show your horses best movements. For instance, if he is good at medium trot use the long diagonal and show it off. If he’s not so good at it, place it on a circle with just some strides shown.
  • Judges always look for quality in the movements – this should be your priority working to keep you and your horse in balance.

Your Music

  • Do watch what I think is the best Freestyle test ever – Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro at the 2012 London Olympics. The harmony of the music and the rider is pretty close to perfect – let it inspire you!!
  • Choose music you enjoy and that means something to you. It must, of course, still suit the rhythm of the pace and the tempo of your horses’ footfalls.
  • Your music should add – not take away from the riding performance. The movements and the music need to be in harmony and work to enhance the judge’s view.
  • Practice with your music so you know it backwards and can make a minor change if necessary.
  • A judge likes nothing better than seeing a well ridden horse with music that suits and a rider who is really enjoying themselves.

Area Festivals - Freestyle Championship Winners

We understand that getting started is sometimes the hardest step; And hope that sharing some of our previous winners experiences with you, will encourage you and your horse to give it a try.

"This was a dream come true to qualify for the Petplan Equine Area Festival Summer Championships, especially at such a prestigious venue."

Winner of Prelim Bronze class

Astrid Holcke

Astrid Holcke, Winner of Prelim Bronze class

"Never thought I would ever get to the finals never mind win, this was my biggest ambition. I would highly recommend everyone to try dressage to music as it adds another dimension to your competing and is fun to prepare and do"

Winner of Novice Bronze class

Julia Case

Julia Case, Winner of Novice Bronze class

"My husband and I are living and riding our dream. If you don't go down the centre line and salute you won't achieve your goal - Such a fantastic venue for this event at Arena UK and will hopefully try and qualify at Novice level this year, I would love to repeat this."

Winner of Prelim Silver class

Sarah Moor

Sarah Moor, Winner of Prelim Silver class

Keep up to date with the festival fever on the Petplan Equine Area Festivals Facebook page.

Area festivals facebook banner