USDF Musical Freestyle Symposium Scholarship Report
by Kathy Parkins

This report is to share with you how I used my VADA/Nova Scholarship to the USDF Musical Freestyle Symposium in Raleigh, North Carolina, in November 2002.

My objective was to increase my knowledge of sound systems and sound engineering overall, with focus on the software used to edit music and the process of melding that edited music with the choreography [the sequence of steps] designed.My goal: Provide more skilled support to VADA/Nova riders in such musical matters.

At the Symposium: I paid particular attention to what each Symposium Subject Matter Expert advised about music selection and suitability for horse and rider; music editing, the meld of music and choreography, and the relationship of music to sound equipment. Heidi Berry's 2002 VADA/Nova Scholarship Report reflects much of what's in my notes on these matters, from her advanced perspective, so I refer you to her article, USDF Symposium , now posted to the Musical Freestyle Page of our website

At the Symposium: I visited the sound booth, talked with the Symposium's Sound Engineer, and observed the equipment in use.I also exchanged ideas with other attendees.I had the opportunity to talk with Michael Matson of Dressage Unlimited on the subjects of: a) including information in the Program about each Musical Freestyle to be performed (Song Titles, Recording Artists, Choreographer, and Sound Engineer); and b) establishing a Musical Freestyle Library. The MFS Library could include, for example, 'outgrown' Musical Freestyles (to include the music, the choreography, and the video) donated to the Library - available for a period of time (such as one to six months) to use and then return to the Library.

At the Symposium I had opportunity to ask Terry Ciotti Gallo and Barbara Gardner about software to edit music. Their fascinating talk (some of which I barely understood at that time) led to my further investigation into software to edit music.The results of that investigation are reported below.

I began by going to the Internet search engine and did a search using the key words: ‘software to edit music’ . Results were immediate — pages of websites.The condensed version for this Report is that I did my first, preliminary investigation of: Audio Surgeon , Cake Walk Home Studio , Sonar 2.0 from Cakewalk , Sound Forge 6.0 by sonicfoundry , and Xgworksand by Yamaha . I reviewed Audio Surgeon first because the website was simple compared to the others, as a retired Nurse, the title appealed to me, and the download version is $29.92. Once I’d done enough preliminary investigation that I was ready to take the next step, I discarded Audio Surgeon because you can’t change tempo — an essential attribute for precise matching of music to footfalls. Some of the software reviewed was for guitar, some for creating sheet music, some for piano lessons, etc., etc., etc.

I chose Sound Forge 6.0 *(1) - a Professional Digital Audio Editor that sells for $349.97 - because I found this software well-referred to in material on other software; an IT professional I work with is familiar with it and advised it would do what I thought I’d need to be doing; and because the website is clear and provides rationale that began to make sense to me for my intended use of editing music for MFSs. It is the website information that was the decision-maker for me. Example rationale include nondestructive audio editing, multitask background rendering [work on one file while Sound Forge processes another], enhanced time zoom for increased editing accuracy, Windows Media format, audio playback and video saving and render options, …The rationale includes Feature Comparison to the previous version — which enabled me to do a bit of feature comparison with other vendor audio editing software.

Sound Forge 6.0 has a wonderful list of: General Editing Features that include features that give you a certain level of comfort that you’ve either seen and used it elsewhere (drag-and-drop) or you can tell already that you will like or need certain features (mix, paste, and cross-fade; undo/redo histories; audio event locator; effects previewing, and crash recovery).Process, effects, tools, and more is discussed.Supported (Macintosh / Windows) File Formats consist of over 10 popular formats including: MP3, MPG, WAV.

The website provides a clear list of Minimum System Requirements — a very comforting place to start!

  • 200 MHz processor
  • Windows-compatible sound card
  • CD-ROM drive (for installation from a CD only)
  • Supported CD-Recordable drive (for CD burning only)
  • 24-bit color display recommended
  • 32 MB RAM
  • 25 MB hard-disk space for program installation
  • Microsoft Windows 98SE, Me, 2000, or XP
  • Microsoft DirectX 8 or later
  • Internet Explorer 5.0 or later.

Please Note: Some features may require product registration.


*(1) Caveat:This, or any other software discussed herein, cannot be taken as a recommendation, as I am a neophyte — no telling what I may miss or misconstrue. This paragraph and the next 2 paragraphs include approximate , partial quotes from the sonicfoundry website for Sound Forge 6.0. Anyone interested must go to the website, read the material, and come to their own conclusions about this software.

The website also includes additional reference material — of which I have acquired and read avidly:

Sound Forge 6 Power, a Complete coverage of Sound Forge and Sound Forge Studio , by

Scott R. Garrigus, Copyright 2002 Muska & Lipman Publishing, a division of Course Technology.

This is a super book!It’s easy to understand [although I’ve not mastered many of the technical specifics yet] the book is clear enough you can picture what you’ll be doing, what’s happening as you do it, the expected outcome, and troubleshooting - just by reading it in front of the fireplace at Starbucks.

The exciting next step: I learned that VADA/Nova Member Kathy Mathers had recently purchased Sound Forge Studio 6.0 (a streamlined version of Sound Forge 6.0 that sells for $69.97), had worked thru installing it on her PC, and was ready to begin editing music for the first MFS she’d do herself.We compared the 2 software applications and found that Sound Forge Studio includes much of the technology found in Sound Forge. We’ve met at Kathy’s several evenings after work and can now: import files (tunes) from a CD to the PC; use the Application to open the files, set up a new file, copy and paste from one file to another; change the tempo at selected points in the file; cross-fade from one side of the ‘splice’ to the other in the file under construction; etc.

Waiting for the shoe to drop?

= = = = = = = = = = Tech Talk follows:

Note: You can leave the technical aspects of editing music to the professionals — you don’t need to do it to ride a winning freestyle!This just gives you the flavor of how software manipulates sound.


So far selecting software, setting it up, and beginning to use it has been pretty straightforward. It gets more complex.For example, the website / Book acquaint the user with the “arsenal of effects” which includes: “three EQ’s Amplitude Modulation, Chorus, Delay/Echo, Distortion, Dynamics, Time Compression/Expansion, Flange, Pitch Bend, Reverb, and more.” The website / Book also acquaint the user with the Spectrum Analysis Tool — to analyze waveforms by frequency and help identify noise problems. Perform precise FFT analysis and display the resulting data in two graphical formats.

This brings us to the nitty-gritty of what’s involved with editing sound.To edit sound, an introductory, notional idea of sound and some of its attributes is helpful.My son gave me a copy of A Digital Audio

Primer — an elementary introduction to sound and its attributes. The Musical Freestyle Page of our website will provide a link to the source of the Primer, which is: .

Sound, according to the Primer , is rapidly varying air pressure caused by a vibrating object, such as a guitar string.Attributes include: Sound Pressure Level (intensity) measured in Decibels; Loudness (subjective differences in sound intensities); Frequency (measured in cycles per second); Analog and Digital Audio (with analog sound waves, such as from variations in magnetic tape or grove depths in vinyl records, there is more variation than with digital audio signals which are sampled at regular intervals by an analog-digital (AD) converter.This stream of numbers represents a digital audio signal that can be stored as a computer file [edited for a MFS using software such as Sound Forge] and transmitted across a network); Sampling Rate (how many times per second the voltage of the analog signal is measured); Resolution (range of numbers of a digital signal that can be assigned to each sample. Higher resolution increases the dynamic range and reduces quantization distortion and background noise); Quantization (process of selecting whole numbers closest to signal level at instant it is sampled which produces small rounding errors that cause distortion); etc. The words of this paragraph can be pictured in the graphics per the Primer Figure 19, that follows - - which is the gist of what manipulating the elements of sound is all about.


 signal graphics


To convert an analog signal to a digital format, the voltage is sampled at regular intervals, thousands of times per second. The value of each sample is rounded to the nearest integer on a scale that varies according to the resolution of the signal.The integers are then converted to binary numbers.

The Sound Forge software application permits you to process the converted signals thru computer manipulation of these binary numbers so you can fine tune the music to better match the music to the footfalls of your horse.

= = = = = = = = = = End of Tech Talk


Now — back to the world of Musical Freestyle as we customarily think of it.Have horse, like music, chose tunes, choreograph moves, combine tunes and moves, [edit the tunes to better fit the moves, if you like], and then practice and show the results — your Musical Freestyle.

Kathy Mathers and I watched videos of her horse Paddy, sampled hundreds of CD tracks, and began the process of counting footfalls and matching them to beats of selected music segments.Our list of possibilities was not long — and we were not within 3-5 seconds in all [or any] cases!But, we took the best we had, loaded the files, established the new file, and slowly began to find, cut/copy, paste, cross-fade to get a 1st rough cut. We had some success with Walk, less success with Canter, and found Trot the hardest of all.Overall — we were not sure if we were counting right — even with the use of her musician husband’s metronome (we got numbers that were close but not the same), we were not sure if we were listening right (we’d hear something we liked and then not be sure we’d found it again, or cross-faded it too long or too short), and even if the fit seemed pretty good, we’d question if the result made the horse look too quick, or that the music could be too heavy for the horse. By now we’d spent about 16 Hours (just with what we’d done together — not researching software, getting a computer ready, loading software, listening to music, thinking about choreography, etc.).

The next step I took was to ask Evelyn Susol of Cool Breeze Farm if she would share some of her knowledge about editing music with me [because as VADA/Nova ‘Sound Engineer’ for the last 2 years, along with Bob Masek our Announcer, I’ve had a front row seat for a number of Musical Freestyles designed by Evelyn].She graciously agreed and spent an entire afternoon with me building a MFS from scratch. We watched a video of the selected horse several times as Evelyn played various tunes — skipping from track to track, various styles, composers, instruments, etc. — with stopwatch and worksheet in-hand, quickly and efficiently counting and comparing musical beats and equine footfalls. After an hour or so of this preliminary search, she’d identified a list of possible tracks / parts of tracks — that each measured to within 3 to 5 seconds of the footfalls she’d timed — for Walk, Trot, and Canter She is this precise because she uses a stopwatch and a mathematical formula to calculate the average beats per minute. It is important to use an average because no horse is ever exactly the same — for any gait in any test.

Evelyn then began the process of editing the selected musical segments to match required movements, choreographed in ways that reflected her knowledge of music — such as keeping phrases intact; and her experience as a competitor and instructor — taking into consideration such things as: The rider’s request about certain music, the strengths, and weaknesses of the horse involved as she understood them, the time it customarily takes a rider to complete a movement for this Test Level, and candidate patterns for the overall choreography that will help rather than hinder what the Rider has to do and remember while riding her test. I watched as Evelyn manipulated the software, set up a new file, listened to the music while watching the computer screen, cut, pasted, cross-faded, removed unwanted noise, added effects, and much, much more than just the tip of the iceberg I’ve shared with you in the preceding paragraphs.She was like a Conductor and the PC [a Macintosh] with its “DECK” musical editing software were her orchestra. The result was the 1st cut of a MFS, burned to a CD and ready to send to the eager Rider.


Reality Check.Important lessons learned through this Scholarship endeavor include:

  • Appreciate the intricacies involved in creating a MFS
  • Understand the range of prices charged and services provided by those who create MFSs
  • Exciting music / interesting choreography can be lost on the Judge and the Audience if the horse’s back is hollow, its head comes up, its not forward, or its behind the bit…
  • Nothing takes the place of good basics, lots of patience, and much practice.


I’d like to acknowledge and thank two other VADA/Nova Members who have worked with me on matters of MFS that are germane to this Scholarship effort.Sally O’Connor, author of Common Sense Dressage , introduced me to the intricacies of the MFS in her Clinic on this subject prior to the Symposium.Her Clinic material gave me a head start on what I’d see and hear and the Symposium — so I learned more and can apply more now.Libby Anderson held a MFS Fix-A-Test this year.Shannon Pedlar rode her nearly completed MFS for Libby. Together, they made improvements in her test and Shannon rode it again.After the Clinic, Shannon asked if I’d provide a bit of critique on a segment she had a new idea about based on her discussion with Libby.I did and found myself working to apply what I’m learning — to critique the music beat-to-footfall aspect of a ride in relation to the patterns ridden. At this Fix-A-Test, several riders expressed to me an interest in coming in the future.They’d not understood that the freestyle could be in any stage of construction, from listening to music while watching the horse; choreographing moves, designing the choreography and music to fit together; riding a MFS for the 1st time; or riding a finished MFS for the critique on the execution of the ride.


The 2003 Musical Freestyle Season is here! Get those Freestyles together and show us.


Thank you VADA/Nova for my Scholarship!

Kathleen A. Parkins, VADA/Nova ‘Sound Engineer’

Musical Freestyle Competitors


This reference list began and is maintained in conjunction with the VADA/Nova Scholarship to attend the 2002 Musical Freestyle Symposium in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Level Resource Horse Comments
Thru FEI

Libby Anderson



VADA/Nova Member

Listed in Directory

All Breeds

Libby is a rider, trainer, and judge who has spent much time training and learning all aspects of the MFS.She assists with choreography and musical phrasing to make the most of a rider’s musical score.She advocates all Judges who enjoy and judge MFSs to become educated on the musical aspects of the KUR.As a dressage trainer, Libby encourages all her riders, who have technically reached the required standard, to develop MFSs for competition because 1) The MFS “is going to become the main-stay of the dressage movement”; and 2) riding a MFS “develops the rider’s inner skills thru interpreting the wonderful artistic side of the freestyle, helping to bond horse and rider as a team — improving harmony, trust and teamwork”.

Libby is a resource on the judge’s perspective, MFS rules, and using the MFS to improve your riding .


Test 2

Kathy Mathers



VADA/Nova Member

Listed in Directory

Hideaway’s Flicker

TB, 16H

Kathy has hundreds of CDs - all kinds of music — different beats, instruments, performers, sounds, moods, etc. She’s an amateur MFS competitor who over the last two seasons has come to appreciate the intricacies of the musical aspects of the freestyle. She is willing to share her music with VADA/Nova members who are beginning the process of sorting thru music to discuss with your trainer, choreographer, & musical editor — or to work with yourself. Her ‘studio’ (better known as the family room) is set up so you can listen and watch a video of your horse at the same time.

Thru FEI

Evelyn Susol



All Breeds

Evelyn does gait analysis, selects and edits music, does the choreography, and gives MFS clinics. Her ‘MFS 101’ Clinic includes such topics as: the MFS defined, components of the MFS, video review, and relevant experiences and ‘gems’ of wisdom. Her website is very informative about the MFS. Since Evelyn is a local rider, you can likely watch her MFS competitions and talk with her [ when she is not busy with her show schedule for the day ] about how and when she could help you with your MFS. Evelyn’s experience includes: Pas de Deux and Quadrille MFSs.

Note: These people that I’ve worked with since the 2002 MFS Symposium assure me you can contact them about the MFS — and they will gladly respond or suggest who to contact.My intent is to maintain this List for a trial period and then assess its value (use versus effort to maintain, etc.).

Musical Freestyle References


This reference list began and is maintained in conjunction with the VADA/Nova Scholarship to attend the 2002 Musical Freestyle Symposium in Raleigh, North Carolina.






VADA/Nova website — with Musical Freestyle ‘Page’.


Article: USDF Symposium

Author: Heidi Berry, VADA/Nova Member, Judge, Instructor, and Competitor.



Michael Matson, VADA/Nova Musical Freestyle Championship Sponsor, manager of the MFS Library on this website, and MFS competitor.


Key Words: ‘software to edit music’ via


Links you to websites with information on software to edit music.



Website for Sound Forge — the software used to edit music under this Scholarship.


Article: A Digital Audio Primer

Source unknown.I keep a copy with me when sound equipment is set up — just ask me, if you’d like to peruse it.



Evelyn Susol,MFS Clinician, MFS Article.


Terry Ciotti Gallo, Presenter at the 2002 MFS Symposium in Raleigh.


Book: Dancing With Your Horse

By Leigh Ann Hazel-Groux, designer of MFSs (choreography & edit music), MFS Instructor …and MFS competitor, and Libby Anderson, MFS Judge, MFS Clinician, and MFS Competitor.


Book: Common Sense Dressage

Author: Sally O’Connor, VADA/Nova Member, MFS Judge, MFS Clinician, MFS Instructor, and MFS Competitor.Note: This reference is included because Dressage fundamentals are the foundation on which a MFS is built.


Symposium Resource: Barbra Gardner

Designed the USDF 2002 Musical Freestyle Symposium Demonstration MFS from scratch (choreography, music selection, & fine tuning); and has created competition and exhibition MFSs — including World Cup and Olympic competitions.


Symposium Resource: Marlene Whitaker, Custom Freestyle Inc .

830 Bent Oak Drive

Columbus, NC 28722


Held Symposium Session on Choreography (with helpful general striding count and movement worksheets); and has designed freestyles represented at the Olympics, World Cup, Pan Am Games, and World Equestrian Games. Is a MFS competitor with regional and national USDF titles.



Glen, of Homestead Hitech, New Zealand, does professional sound recording and sound mixing, and is a MFS, Pas de Deux , and Quadrille rider. He has a MFS page, has compiled MFS CDs from Novice to Grand Prix, and has a “Music Compilation Sheet for Freestyle Dressage”.His website includes a link to Halt@X - a neat site that includes: “An Animated Guide to Dressage” and “Dressage Arena Geometry” [which I am using big-time!] and more…