The local venue where Henry and I sometimes go for winter combined tests is offering a whole new type of event this winter.


Yep, a very very low key, super chill dressage freestyle show. You can make your own test, pick your own music, do it solo or with a partner or as a team, and even wear a costume (I’m pretty sure that’s Timon and Pumbaa in the picture). If you’re trying to make me way more interested in dressage, you’re doing a good job. They even said that equipment rules will not apply, so I’m welcome to do my test bareback and bitless. Which is kind of my dream. Henry is much easier to ride bitless in general, and I’ve always felt like it would be fun to play around with a test that way. I do bareback and bitless “dressage” rides with him at home pretty regularly. Yeah I know, I can feel all the DQ’s screaming internally at the idea and/or principles of bitless dressage. Take the whole dressage part of this to be a very loose description of what’s really happening and do some deep breathing, it’ll be ok.

Image result for breathe into bag gif
There there, DQ’s, there there.

I’m a little less into the musical aspect of things. That seems like a lot of work. I honestly just want to do my test to Pink’s “Raise Your Glass” and have fun with it, even though the music does not at all work in the real dressage freestyle format. Unless my horse was trotting a few thousand miles per hour. Which technically he probably IS capable of, but pretty sure no one wants to experience that, especially his bare back and my pelvic region. Raise Your Glass is my favorite song on my horse show play list, though, very fitting for us, and if I can’t make that work then I don’t know if I’m interested. Unless a Missy Elliot song is also possible. Then maybe. Omg, what if I could weave together Raise Your Glass with Get Ur Freak On or Work It???

But anyway, I’m torn. I think the show sounds super fun until you get to the dressage freestyle aspect of it and then it feels suspiciously like hard work. I feel like I have to get into tempo and beats per minute and make all the music line up right and have a test that makes sense and flows and BLAH BLAH BLAH. I don’t know if I’m into all that, and honestly the dressage freestyle boringness has never been very interesting to me. I just wanna go be dumb and incorrect and do a bareback and bitless dressage test to a fun song like an oblivious idiot because why the hell not. I have enough real work to do right now related to our attempted move-up (my brain is at max capacity), so I just want something silly and fun that feels like the opposite of real work. Which I guess I could totally do if I just ignore all the rules of dressage freestyles and how they’re supposed to work. That’s definitely an option.

But then we circle back around to the effort required to figure out a test and music and I start questioning my commitment again. I don’t even have a dressage arena at home, how would I figure out and practice the timing? That seems complicated. Then again… where else will I ever get a chance to make up my own bareback and bitless dressage test?

I just wanna do this, but like, markedly less fancy

What to do, what to do. Is anyone out there good at this kind of thing? How do I make this work, with a minimal amount of time/brainpower invested and no arena in which to practice?

30 thoughts on “Freestyle

  1. Can you make it up as you go once there or do they need the test submitted in advance? Pick your song, enter at A and then figure it out. It sounds low key and fun so nobody will even know you didn’t have every move figured out weeks in advance.


  2. I’ve never done a dressage freestyle, but I did a LOT of drill team stuff for years at the riding camp I worked at in high school/college. We’d pick a song (usually Ain’t Going Down Til the Sun Comes Up or tracks from the Matrix or Pirates of the Caribbean soundtracks), rough out the choreography on foot, practice it in an open field a couple of times, and then do the thing! It actually always worked out better than I thought it would?

    Of course, we weren’t trying to match pace to music beat, but we did coordinate the more daring moves with changes in the songs.

    Considering how well you judge time on the XC course, I bet you’d actually do a pretty good job of guesstimating how long it would take Henry to do a maneuver!

    (Oh, and I did scores tabulating at Salado Creek Riding Club’s very casual holiday dressage show last year. Happy to tell you about it, if you’re interested!)


  3. Do it!! I would pick a test that you like to ride, and make changes to that. Then you don’t have to start from scratch. Maybe ride that a few times and the song will magically come to you??


  4. This sounds like something I’d really want to do too. Perhaps this is my “minimal effort” side coming out, but I’d pick your favorite test, or a test that you find the most flowing. So like, test A has the best flow here for Henry, and test B has the best flow here for Henry, and then combine the two-ish and voila! Freestyle lol. Then I’d just have them blast Pink’s song you linked here. No need to REALLY make it match, right? Plus I find that when I listen to music like that that I love, I feel super confident lol. But music helps me with that anyway, so I dunno lol. Hopefully that helps a little!


  5. I honestly think you’re way over thinking this lol. Most of the dressage “freestyles” I’ve seen that are not at a recognized level are not that well thought out or matched to the music. People just pick a song, sort of put together a test, and go in there and have fun. I highly doubt anyone will put a whole lot of effort into it, especially for a fun show. So rock it out to Pink! You could maybe try to time some of your transitions to tempo changes in the song, but honestly, no one will probably notice if you don’t 😉


    1. I agree with Nicole! Plus any Pink song people will be rocking out and not paying attention to your movements corresponding to the music. I know you’re type A, but maybe try Type B out for this one show?


  6. This sounds like so much fun! I don´t think anyone will care if the bpm matches the horse´s movement…
    I think you should totally go for it, completely tackless and “wasted” to fit the song (that I love, too. though my faves are “Sober” and “Perfect”).
    I really hope you´ll do this because I wanna see that Freestyle. I *need* to see it.
    Oh, what about a pas de deux with Bobby?


  7. I rarely comment on any blogs, but I’ve recently started following you and love everything about your blog 🙂 I couldn’t hold back from commenting on this though. I’m sure you’ve thought about this and maybe it beats the point of the whole thing, but what about an instrumental version? After reading, I googled one and I can imagine a test to this:
    Might not match perfectly, but you could figure out something that would go gracefully enough.


  8. It’s honestly not that hard to come up with a simple lower level Dressage freestyle. Like at all. You get a list of required moves, you pick a song (which for this doesn’t need to be perfectly matched), you match it up and voila.
    Specially for a show like this, it doesn’t need to have the DQ feel at all.


  9. Not to make you crazy (I thought maybe I shouldn’t post this 😉 ), and as you probably already know, it is about timing the song and how long it takes ride each movement, and smashing them together. Which of course, on the day, won’t work out the way it does at home. 🙂

    I’d just break the song and the pattern into three or four sections of “here I want to trot, here canter”. Make your transitions wherever you are in any movement, chucking “conventional dressage” out the window. 🙂

    I’d ride a test that is roughly the same length as the song. Id edit one I know to make it fit, more or less, as the USEA has kindly put an average time to ride them in each test.

    I’d have a plan that at a certain point in the song, near the end, i’ll head for the final halt at X, it doesn’t matter how i get there. That way it ends with the song, more or less.

    Haven’t tried it myself, though. Dunno how it will work out. 🙂

    Looking forward to video! 🙂


  10. You have a field therefore you have a dressage ring. Honestly it works pretty well if you take a tape to measure out a regulation size dressage ring and use pylons or marking flags to mark the locations of the corners and each letter. You don’t need an actual fence. As people above have said, ride out there to the song you want to do and figure out what kind of pattern matches the length of the song and has some transitions/movements in key parts. Disclaimer: I have never actually done a freestyle though I have marked out a dressage ring with pylons.


  11. Most likely most people will be doing exactly that: throwing together a few movements their horse does really well, putting on a costume, and doing it all to a song they love.

    You may have a few people using it as an opportunity to practice their actual freestyles for competition, but I think those are going to be the exception, not the rule.


  12. I did a freestyle once, it was actually pretty easy and fun…but I also love dressage :p

    Watch a video of your horse at liberty, walk trot and canter. Then play music and pick what makes your horse look better, because some music will. Or if you are using that song you picked already, play around with it to see what gaits look best at what part. Include the things you are best at and also what shows off your horses best skill set. A good flowing test with some challenge is what the judges like. Although this show sounds like it will be pretty laid back so Im sure whatever you guys do will be awesome.


  13. Ill post more details about scoring soon but that song sounds like a fun one to just ride straight thru! Don’t take it too seriously – no one here is – except for me when finding the ribbons and prizes! My judges know us well! ❤


  14. This is amazing. I’m sure you can come up with something simplistic enough to remember without too much effort. The opportunity is too good to pass up!


  15. I used to go to a charity show every year that my trainer let me do my own thing for the musical freestyle. My first year I didn’t tell her at all my plan. I trotted into a nice classical song, stopped to salute, then “REGULATORS…MOUNT UP!” My trainer back then was extremely conservative but she must not have been too mad cause she let me make my own for the same show the next year which included some Eminem and 50 Cent. Lol. It is fun to let loose sometimes. I will never forget the judge laughing when the music scratched Regulators came on and I know that I was grinning ear to ear the whole time.


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