Before you can understand what a Musical Freestyle or Musical Kur (from German kur meaning “freestyle”) is, you must understand what Dressage is.
The word Dressage comes from the French word dresser, to train. To the untrained eye it looks easy but like many equestrian sports it is anything but. Dressage teaches the horse to be obedient, willing, supple, and responsive. The object of dressage is to achieve the harmonious development of the horse in both mind and body. The graceful movements performed in competition may look effortless, but are the result of years of training. The highlight of a ridden dressage competition is the Musical Freestyle or Musical Kur.
Musical Freestyle or Musical Kur is when dressage movements or paces are set to music to create a competitive “dance” whereby giving the impression that the horse is dancing to the music. Movements and figures are choreographed to meet the technical requirements of the particular level with carefully chosen music that highlights the horse that is being driven. The freestyle is a creative expression of the relationship between the horse, the driver, and the music.
The different gaits that you will see used in a driven Musical Freestyle or Musical Kur are:
Working Walk-the horse walks energetically, but calmly, with evenly spaced steps.
Lengthened Walk-this is a more ground covering walk and the horse is allowed to stretch out his frame and cover more ground with each stride.
Collected Walk-here the horse becomes more compressed and the balance is shifted to the hind quarter for more impulsion.
Working Trot-a regular and unconstrained trot in which the horse shows proper balance and remains on the bit with even elastic steps. Your horse should sound like a metronome.
Extended Trot-the horse lengthens his stride to cover as much ground as possible showing greater impulsion from the hindquarters without speeding his steps up.
Collected Trot-the horse becomes more compressed while showing more impulsion and engagement while trotting. You will see the horse’s neck and head raise higher and his center of balance will be shifted to the rear. The horse’s steps become shorter and elevated giving the appearance that he is moving slower but he is actually covering the same amount of ground at the same speed.
Depending on the level that your horse is driving at, will guide you in picking the moves that you can do in your Kur at that level. For example, at training level your Kur should include working walk, free walk, working trot and a 40 m circle. As you go up in levels then more movements are required, whereby you will include some or all of the above listed movements as well as smaller circles and half circles, serpentine’s and deviations of various sizes along with some cantering in circles.
There are three sections that you are scored on. First, your technical scores (total of 60 points) for how you execute the gaits, walk, trot, canter and lengthening. Second, your movement scores (total of 40 points) for accuracy of circles or half circles, consistency of your serpentine’s and the final halt and salute at the end of the test. Third, is the artistic scores (total of 100 points) for rhythm, energy, and elasticity, which includes impulse and relaxation. The harmony between the horse and you the driver. The choreography, use of the arena, and inventiveness (phrasing of the music and movements into a cohesive pattern). Degree of difficulty for the level that you are driving, and the choice of music and your interpretation of it throughout the test.
Now that you know what it’s all about how do you put it all together. There are several ways of doing this:
1) Pick your music first and let it guide you as to what gaits and movements you need to do at certain places in the music.
2) Diagram your movements first using a scale layout of an arena and put a movement in each diagram. This will look somewhat like a traditional dressage test.
3) Connect the music to the movement that will fit it. A dramatic movement has a greater impact when the music crescendos’ and is best when prior movements are less compelling before and after it.
4) First design the choreography or movements, then find the music that will go with it. In this method one is able to fit several songs or pieces together to enhance the Kur.
This method is the way that I have always put my Freestyle together. I think a lot depends on the individual and how you process things in your brain. No one way is better than the other, so choose the way that works best for you.
Probably the hardest thing to do is to pick music to use in your routine. This might sound easy, but it’s not. First, you need to have someone video you while you are driving your horse. They need to video the horses legs and feet so that you can count the number of foot falls in a fifteen second length of time. If you put a colored polo wrap on one front leg, it will make the counting easier. You will need to do this in all of the gaits (walk, trot, canter, as well as collected and lengthened). Every time the front leg
touches the ground that is considered one “beat”. Once you have done this for all gaits, you will then have the beats per minutes (bpm) you will need to pick your music.
The easiest thing to do now is to go to www.equimusic.com and put the bpm into their search option and it will give you music that matches your horses gait. For example, when you put in 84 bpm for a walk you get a list of many songs that will fit that movement. You are also able to see other songs by the same musician. Then if you want to listen to the piece of music, just go to www.youtube and type in the title.
Once you have your routine down and your music picked out and pieced together, then go hitch up your horse and start practicing. Sure along the way you might find that you will need to add or subtract some movement or bit of music to make it all fit. But, of course this is the fun of doing a Musical Freestyle, and when you have it down perfect, start showing it to your family and friends and then, maybe do it at an event as a demonstration or even a driving competition. The oneness that you obtain with your horse when doing this is as much fun for the horse as it is for the driver. There is something about the music that really enhances the experience that you share with the public.