The combination of music and horses is always a crowd pleaser. The most popular event of today's large dressage shows nowadays has to be the dressage Musical Freestyle, or Kur. The performances of the Spanish Riding School are ridden to musical accompaniment, as are the Musical Rides of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
Up until 1986, the dressage Musical Freestyle was little known. In 1986, the Dressage World Cup was established and the scores for the championship were divided 50/50 between the Grand Prix and the Kur (freestyle). Since that time, the popularity of the freestyle has grown tremendously and in 1996 it was added, for the first time, to the Olympic Dressage competion in the Atlanta Games.
The dressage Musical Freestyle can be compared to Figure Skating, in that the rider is free to select music which compliments his horse's way of going and to choreograph a program using required movements depending on the level of competion, ranging from First Level to Grand Prix.
Choice of music, and the way it is edited together, is just as important as the technical aspects of the freestyle. The music can be anything from classical to show tunes and anyone who has seen a tape of Robert Dover peforming a freestyle to the theme tune of Star Trek, the Next Generation will know how the music can really move and excite the audience.
The actual program you develop should show your horse off to best advantage. It should make the most of your horse's best gaits and movements and be appropriate for the level you're showing at.
In the Elsewhere on the Web section at right you'll find some excellent articles on choreographing your program, from assessing your horse's gait and tempo and choosing appropriate music, how the musical freestyle is judged and also a database with literally hundreds of music choices.
If you don't feel up to performing a musical freestyle in a competition, I can tell you from experience that it's a great way of introducing a little fun into your daily schooling sessions. With a boombox sitting on the arena fence, you can perform your daily workouts to the strains of Jupiter, from the Planet Suite, as I used to with Annapolis.
With a little practice, you and your friends can put together a musical ride, or Quadrille, and pretend you're the Royal Canadian Mounted Police! It doesn't have to be complicated and in fact, if you've got some novice riders in your group, simple is definitely better.
Although this article is entitled Musical Freestyle, I hope I've made the point that anyone can enjoy riding to musical accompaniment, whether they are Training Level or Grand Prix, or even if they ride Western. Imagine doing a musical ride to the theme of Rawhide or the Magnificent Seven!