Dressage to music: how to get started

  • In freestyle to music at its best, horse and rider dance together in perfect harmony – think Blue Hors Matine and Andreas Helgstrand, or Totilas and Edward Gal.

    First introduced to international competition at Goodwood in 1979 and then compulsory at the Olympics since 1996, the freestyle (or kur) was an instant hit. It’s now possible to contest freestyle to music from prelim upwards.

    Getting started

    • Choose some music and design a floorplan
    • A simple internet search will bring up a number of websites that explain how to do dressage to music yourself – make several copies of your compilation
    • Try to choose music that suits your horse and marries up with footfalls
    • Consider following a theme: eg music from a certain composer or movie
    • Print out the music performance agreement from the BD website, complete and return to BD, which will then post you stickers to put on your CDs
    • For more detailed information on dressage to music, visit the BD website.

    Freestyle to music dos and don’ts


    • Choose music that fits the tempo of the horse’s footfalls and that matches his personality.
    • Practise. Know your music really well, then you can adapt it to changing circumstances – you need room for manoeuvre.
    • Leave room for mistakes. If you go wrong you can make it up as you go along – the judge doesn’t know what you were planning.
    • Make your floorplan interesting but clear, so the judge can see what movements you are attempting. Draw it on a piece of paper to see if it looks balanced.
    • Label your CD clearly and have spares – you can borrow a bridle but not someone else’s music!
    • Look at BD’s guidelines for judging dressage to music on their website. They are notes for judges, but are very detailed and tell you exactly what judges are looking for.


    • Make your freestyle look like an existing test – it’s your chance to do it differently.
    • Use non-compulsory movements like rein-back that stop the flow of the pattern.
    • If things go wrong, don’t chase the music – cut corners or use a shorter route across the diagonal.  

    Read the full feature on freestyle to music as well as an exclusive interview with Edward Gal and Hans Peter Minderhoud, and find out who the upcoming stars are in this week’s dressage special out today (22 March 2012)

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