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Freestyle Music – Dressage to Music

Updated: Dec 25, 2020

Postscript: FREE MUSIC

We used to give you free copies of our most popular songs, however  there are now so many FREE music sites on the net. Just search for FREE RIDING MUSIC, and for (roughly) 99BPM or 152BPM and you’ll have more free music, than we could ever give you! And for a great site to get you started for only pennies…you can get GREAT MUSIC HERE

What our top riders REALLY do!

We have all heard that the FEI Rules explain how a horse should maintain a regular rhythm, and maintain a consistent tempo, not getting faster in extension and slower in collection. It’s easy to read what we SHOULD do, keeping the same tempo or speed throughout all the movements.  However what do the top dressage riders REALLY do?

This wonderful piece of research by Sonya Paxton, AISRB, Registered Coach looks at the top riders in dressage and measures their tempo (or speed, or beats per minute) and the variations in the pace.

It is truly ground-breaking research and well worth seeing what the top riders do (or don’t do!)



Written by Sonya Paxton, AISRB

The No. 1 thing the judge looks for

Ah yes, regularity – what we all hope to achieve in our personal lives and most certainly what we hope to achieve in our riding!  Why?  Because it is the number one thing that judges are looking for.  That’s right, it even comes before lightness, harmony, engagement, impulsion and submission.  If we read in the FEI dressage rule book it specifically lists “freedom and REGULARITY of the paces” (emphasis added) as the first things of importance. So why, you might ask, is there so much irregularity of the paces in the sport of dressage? Even in the beginning of our training our equine friends, we strive for rhythm and regularity before we ask the horse for impulsion or submission.

The purpose of this article is to show that even at the Olympic level there is an extreme lack of regularity within the paces.  That is somewhat disconcerting considering that most of us will never reach that high of a level of riding – but it certainly doesn’t mean that we don’t aspire to!  So what must we do to make sure we follow the “rules” of the game and focus on what the Rule Book states to be the most important aspect of dressage?

What do the rules say?

First, let’s take a look at what the FEI Rule Book actually does say.  In Article 401, page 11, subsections 6 and 7 it states, “(6) Cadence is shown in trot and canter and is the result of the proper harmony that a horse shows when it moves with well-marked regularity, impulsion and balance.  Cadence must be maintained in all the different trot or canter exercises and in all the variations of these paces.  (7)  The regularity of the paces is fundamental to dressage.

In Article 403 (The Walk), subsection 1 it states, “…regularity combined with full relaxation must be maintained throughout all walk movements.”  Moving on to the trot it reads in Article 404, subsection 3, “The quality of the trot is judged by general impression, i.e. the regularity and elasticity of the steps, the cadence and impulsion in both collection and extension.  This quality originates from a supple back and well-engaged hindquarters, and the ability to maintain the same rhythm and natural balance with all variations of the trot.”  And finally, in Article 405 (The Canter), subsection 3 we read, “The quality of the canter is judged by the general impression, i.e. the regularity and lightness of the steps… – and by the ability of maintaining the same rhythm and a natural balance, even after a transition from one canter to another.” (Emphasis added)

Based on that information, let’s look at the results of the study done on the top five riders/horses at the US Olympic Trials in 2008 for the Grand Prix Freestyle held at Collecting Gaits Farm/USEF Dressage Festival of Champions.

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Huge variation in the tempo


What was discovered was that all of the horses were inconsistent in the walk with tempos ranging between 98-116 bpm. One horse even changed his tempo by 14 bpm within the pace, starting out at 102 and speeding up to 116.  None of the walk music was at the appropriate pace of 95 bpm, however the horses showed on exit without interference from the rider the exact pace of 95 bpm.

Trot – the worst of all:

The trot paces produced even more astounding results.  With music ranging from 57 to 145 bpm and all variations in between; some of it even having ¾ time, which all of us know a horse does not travel at ¾  time in any pace.  Walk is a four-beat pattern, trot is a two-beat pattern (ridden to 4/4 music) and Canter is a three-beat pattern with a moment of suspension where all hooves are suspended in the air adding the extra beat, therefore making it a four-beat pattern.  What was fairly consistent in the trot paces was that most passage/piaffe movements were ridden within the 106-119 range with piaffe tending to be the faster pace.  The difference between the passage/piaffe and extended trot ranged from 106-149 bpm – a whopping difference of 43 beats per minute!  That is rather significant.  Again, none of the music was at the appropriate pace of 150 bpm.


Although the FEI does mention that a SLIGHT lowering of the tempo MIGHT be acceptable (although elsewhere in the rule book it mentions, several times to maintain consistent tempo, this does not explain the huge differences seen.  Most of the music ranged from 89-97 bpm. The most notable drop in pace would be with rider number five whose canter was 99 bpm and the pirouette was ridden at 64, and the extension at a whopping 129 bpm – almost DOUBLE the speed!

What do we learn from this?

Was the music set to the horse’s pace?  Some of the music didn’t even correlate with the horse’s movements, or the horse was ahead of or behind it.  That would be the danger of having music altered to “fit” the horse as the horse does not ride the same every day. Not anywhere near to riding at the Olympic level, how would I, as a rider/trainer, try to resolve such irregularities within each pace?

The solution, is to ride to music that is a set tempo for each pace.

Walk:  music ranging from 95-97 bpm.

Trot: music ranging from 150-155

Canter: music ranging from 95-99 bpm

What do we want?

Our goal is to ride collection AND extension at the same bpm. There is little point of rushing the pace, or having it labored and slow as the horse will be marked down anyway, so in fact it is better to have the horse have a little LESS overtrack/undertrack of the footfall and maintain the same tempo, and achieve higher marks!

How can I find free music?

This music is everywhere with every style that you might want.  Look within your own library of CD’s and you will be amazed at what you find.  It is fun and exciting to ride to music that gets your horse moving forward and rhythmically.  There isn’t a training session that I do on my own that I don’t ride to music.  So, just plug in the ear phones, turn on that iPod and ride your way to the ultimate goal of REGULARITY!

#horsesubmission #dressagefreestyle #freestylemusic #horseirregular #dressagemusic #SonyaPaxton #dressagekur #dressagetomusic #horserhythm

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