Some helpful points on arranging your own dressage to music plan

 DRESSAGE TO MUSIC - THE NEXT STAGE...

So you've got your music chosen, and it suits your horse (try videoing yourself while you are riding to your music - I find just running the camcorder in the corner of the school works and a remote control on your music player is a great help. Make sure the music rhythm is correct for your horse - watch the inside hind hoof and make sure it lands on the beat. Also the music genre should suit your type of equine and keep the same music theme through the test.

The next stage - do you work out the ground patterns and fit the music to it or do the music and work out a pattern to suit. I always do the music first - every arena rides differently even if they are technically the same size and for that professional sound the music needs to be smoothly blended from track to track finishing at the end of a phrase and starting at the beginning of one. While we're on that topic, try to use the beginning of a track for the start of your test and the end for the finish - it just works.

So how do you decide how long your music tracks should be? Basically for a novice freestyle test the walk will be about 45 seconds (medium walk and free walk), the trot work about 2 minutes and the canter about 1min 30 seconds. This gives you an overall test time of between 4 and 4 mins 30 secs. When deciding where to start your music, time yourself from halt back down the centre line to where you would like to start and adjust your music accordingly.

Check the compulsory requirements for your chosen test level (test information available from the Wessex Classical Dressage Coordinator) - remember that movements of higher level will attract penalties!

Keep the ground pattern simple. Show the judge the compulsory movements clearly (it's actually quite hard to judge freestyle since as a judge you don't know what's coming next or in what order), but also remember it is freestyle so an extra loop or even circle can be included if you get ahead of yourself. The main point to bear in mind is to ride to your music - don't make a transition to another gait ahead of your music just because you have reached a marker. One of the benefits of riding to music is that it will help you to keep to a rhythm and doing a change of lead in canter through trot with the canter music playing makes for a lovely smooth transition.

Play your finished music CD over and over again, whether you are riding or sitting in the car or even (perish the thought) doing household chores, so that you know it really well, and know when the transitions are coming up. Test riding can be a little stressful, but knowing your music well is comforting when you are in the arena. If you are making your own CD, do a fresh copy for the competition since some players may not read a well-used copy.

Final note - don't forget to join BD Riding Clubs Music section just to keep things legal.