Musical Freestyles Highlighted in the NYT

Laura Graves and Verdades – Shannon Brinkman Photo/US Equestrian

So excited to see this rarified art form featured in the New York Times (see link below) because THIS IS WHAT I DO!!!  Like the 1 designer interviewed, for me, it too began quite accidentally, when I needed music crafted for an exhibition ride (the person who was to help me, flaked out) at a breed inspection Gala.  How does the saying go?  “Necessity is the mother of invention.” Republic, Greek philosopher-Plato.

Dressage musical freestyle is a wonderful amalgamation of many talents, where musical performance and equestrian pursuits combine.  To do the job well (the design aspect) is time consuming, challenging, but exciting and fun too! You get to explore all musical genres and eras, must be a audio software pro (steep learning curve there) and incredibly patient to listen to phrasing over and over again to get it just right.
A great eye for what the horse and rider do well, really helps (my time @UT learning Equine Anatomy & Biomechanics comes in handy), so you’re sure to highlight that in their choreography. You also need to know the rules (which can change annually), so riders don’t end up getting penalized for things like taking too long to enter the arena once their music starts, doing movements that are not allowed for their level, or being over the time limit. (I thank my time as a banker, involved in compliance issues and guest auditing for being a stickler on this.)
Success really depends on many factors, not the least of which, performance-wise is, “How is my horse feeling today?” If both rider and designer have done their respective jobs and work together, their super musical freestyle is sure to be a “hit out of the park!”  It’s a great feeling!!!

Assuring a Successful Freestyle Experience

A while back, I’d been asked to write something beyond understanding the “musical freestyle process,” and more on “how to successfully collaborate with a professional freestyle designer” for the best outcome.  While not all-encompassing in its list of components, in my experience, these are the most important.


In general, I have found the most successful freestyle competitors are ones who:
  1. Are realistic about their timeframe.  Even using pre-recorded music, a freestyle requires 80-100 hours of pain-staking work.  The higher the level, the more complicated the choreography and musical matching needs, requiring more time.
  2. Know what musical genres you do and don’t like, not necessarily individual selections.  There are many genres of music (rock, pop, classical, jazz, movie soundtracks, country, etc.).  If you’re not sure, your designer can help.
  3. Understand that the best music enhances your horse’s movement and strengths with tempi, (meaning “plural of tempo” not “flying changes”) closest to the gaits, matches his strengths and character, and enables you both to successfully perform a dance worthy of the story you’re trying to share with the judges and audience.
  4. Are willing to consider music outside their immediate ideas and honest in their feedback.  One of the biggest misconceptions inexperienced riders of freestyle have, is thinking that the music they like to listen or dance to, will work perfectly with their horse’s gaits or enhance his/her movement.  This error can be avoided by allowing your designer to guide you in the quest for great sounding music that works well, giving enough time for the music search process to find music that you really like that also gives you the best match for your horse to achieve your goals and maintain great satisfaction with the overall process.
  5. Most important of all, communicate clearly and respond promptly throughout the process. The number #1 pitfall and cause for dissatisfaction in either the process or the end result, is lack of clear communication.  Being timely and honest assures everyone is a winner!

There is both art & science in creating a masterful freestyle🎵. We want our horses and riders to succeed in their dressage dance, scoring highly, and for clients to enjoy the collaborative freestyle experience.  Follow the guidelines above and you will set yourself up for greatest success and a most satisfying outcome😉. -Leslie Berro, MM – Musical Freestyles By Leslie© – 2018 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

I hope this is helpful to you.  Feel free to let me know! 

Choreography Is Most Important

When you carefully examine the Technical and Artistic Marks whether under the FEI, USDF or WDAA musical freestyle rules, you can’t help but realize just how important it is for a musical freestyle to have well planned, well balanced and innovative dressage choreography is to receiving the best scores possible.
While music is vitally important, it does not override the fact that choreography is most important!

There are many conditions that must be met even after considering requirements, not the least of which is including the clever incorporation of those movements, figures, gaits, etc. that the horse does particularly well. Till next time……..

Whistle, grin, and ride! -Ray Hunt

Life Is Exciting!

Horse Shows, Exhibition Rides & More

2013 IFSHA World Championship Ribbon - Dressage AA
2013 IFSHA World Championship Ribbon – Dressage AA

Summertime is break time from competitions and clinics for my bold Friesian partner in crime, Gunnar of Honor Bright. It’s just too hot for the fellow, but that doesn’t mean we’re slacking off at home. I still attend dressage and horsemanship clinics. There is always something to be gleaned. I too am using summer to get in better shape, which I’m finding more difficult with each passing year.

Plus exciting things are on the horizon. My biz, Musical Freestyles By Leslie©, is being featured later in the year on our state’s Horse Council cable TV show, and we’ve been asked to perform as many as 4 exhibition rides at this year’s State Fair.

In September, I hope to start earning qualifying scores for my USDF Master’s Challenge rider awards. And I can’t wait to see my freestyles being performed at the Friesian World show this October in Lexington, VA. It’s such a great show with hundreds of beautiful Friesians from all over the country. Why not come join us? The costume classes alone are worth the trip!

Have a great week, everyone!

Wow, What a World!

Yep, I’m learning it’s a whole new world out there in terms of technology, blogging, marketing, social media and there’s no end in sight!

While I’m having fun discovering the many ever evolving ways we can reach out and connect with one another, the time consumption is surprising. I’m hoping that this steep learning curve will taper off soon.

Yet because my job as musical freestyle designer is rather rarefied, and my equally rarefied target market is around the globe, I’m left little choice and happily embrace it. It’s all quite worthwhile when I get messages about fabulous scores for client performances of my freestyles at important rated shows and see the wonderful Artistic Marks section comments in their score sheets.

It’s a great feeling to create something that uniquely expresses a horse and rider relationship expressed in performing art. It gives the rider such a wonderful platform to share with others, their special journey with their beloved equine partner as they dance together before the world.

Not sure I can think of many things much better! Enjoy your horse. Enjoy the music. Enjoy the dance of life!

Notably yours,
Leslie B