Musical Freestyle Clinic
by Kathleen Parkins

The Musical Freestyle Clinic with Sally O'Connor, an S Judge knowledgeable about freestyle here and abroad, took place February 9th at Morven Park. In this unmounted clinic, Sally identified specific elements to consider when putting a musical freestyle together. She discussed plusses and minuses associated with each element and reinforced her points with audio-visual aides, including sample music and winning rides. Sally sprinkled her discussion with key definitions and chalk diagrams. She answered many questions, including critique of attendee musical freestyle material. The following is a recap of important points made.

Know your Basics: Although a musical kur (a performance) can be to a wide variety of music - from conventional classical music to less conventional new-age music - the Judge looks first at the basics: #1: Are the gaits are regular? #2 Is the horse always willing to go forward? #3 Is the horse accepting the bridle and going into the contact, sufficient for the level? #4 Is the horse straight - with the hind feet in the tracks of the front feet on the circle? #5 Is the horse in self-carriage (balanced) appropriate for the level? #6 is the test accurate throughout? It is because these basics are essential that a 58% at the highest test for the level is now required to ensure that competency in the basics underlies the freestyle. Riding to music is absolutely fabulous atop competent basics.

Know the Musical Freestyle Rules: Dressage is comprised of movements and figures. Movements above the level are prohibited. But figures can be 'outside the box' - that is, more than 'just another test'. Be creative. A circle is not a movement, it is a figure - be imaginative and innovative in when and where you use it. Use the whole arena. Be creative in how you change the diagonal. The convention today is to start on the center line - but you need not halt at X.

Plan Ahead: There are two ways to plan your test: Find the music and make up the test; or make up the test and find the music. It can be up to 80 hours of experimenting, and refining. It's an interactive process and one in which you should really know your horse and your music. But this interactive refining is fun too - it's how you show off what you and your horse do best. Consider using a metronome (when horse is well warmed up and on several different days) to help match music and horse. Ballpark Beats per Minute: Walk = 96-112, Trot = 144-160, Canter = 94-100, and Piaffe & Passage = 112-118. Pick all one type of music (show tunes or new-age) but don't mix. Have a theme, use compatible keys, and beware vocals - hard to get just right. Music should talk to you - let you know something is coming - don't cut off in the middle of a phrase [usually 8 bars to phrase]. Do a practice video and practice tape and put them together. Computer software / professional assistance is available to fine-tune the match of music and horse - but is not essential, particularly as you are getting started. You'd be surprised at how close at hand musical freestyle help can be - - consider the ballet teacher, choir director, piano teacher near-by. Many musical folks have had fun helping riders match music and horse. Libraries, friends, and the Internet are good sources of tunes. The more you do the easier it gets - 'Just Do It'.

Consider Pluses and Minuses of 3 Musical Freestyle Elements:

Choreography    

Plusses

Minuses

Practical Considerations

  • Balanced use of Space (both sides, both ends, & middle.
  • Need not be an immediate mirror image.
  • Trot & Canter have equivalent weight (walk can be less)
  • Lopsided
  • 1 Minute of Canter, rest Trot and Walk
  • Do not go over Time Limit
  • Fit in all the Compulsories
  • Stay practical (no rule against riding one-handed - but does that really make sense for you and your horse?)
  • Creative (out-of-the-box thinking that is balanced)
  • Boring (too Test-like)
 
  • Transitions flow
  • Choppy
 
Degree of Difficulty    

Plusses

Minuses

Practical Considerations

  • Movements are as Required for the Level.
  • Figures are as interesting as horse can handle
  • Forbidden Movement included
  • Figure more than horse capable of
  • Lopsided Degree of Difficulty if Figures for Canter are hard but for Trot are easy
  • Risk: Can I do it? If yes = Plus
  • Risk: Can I do it? If no = Minus
  • Weigh Risk - don't get too risky: Presentation can maintain the harmony, easy of movement of horse and ride and musical impact throughout ride.
  • Fair to horse
  • Ask horse to do figure not ready for yet
 
Musicality    

Plusses

Minuses

Practical Considerations

  • Has Class - Says Something
  • Mixed Types; No Theme
  • Vocal very hard to do well.
  • Basic music - with Beat
  • Elevator Music

 

  • Suite Horse & Rider Personality
  • Wagner for small, light mare and petite rider
  • OK to have small amount of Humor
  • Suites Rhythm of Horse's Gaits
  • Mis-match of music to gaits
  • OK to use same music in 2 different places
  • No Cut Phrases
  • Cut Phrases

 

  • Does have clear Transitions
  • No or unclear Transitions
  • Leave segues so can have space for where to stop/start upcoming moves/figures
  • Quality of Recording is Good (recommend CD)
  • Poor quality tape, long blank leader, no backup, etc.
  • Web Site coming with recording help suggestions

NOTE: The suggested guidelines above are just that - suggestions, and as such are intended for your use as you find appropriate.