Musical Freestyle or Musical Kur is a form of dressage movement setting the horse's "dance" to music. Movements and figures are choreographed to meet the technical requirements of the particular level with carefully chosen music that highlights the horse/rider combination. Musical Freestyles are entertaining and offer great audience appeal. In the United States the tests are offered from First to Fourth levels through the USDF and at Prix St. Georges for Young Riders, Intermediate I and Grand Prix through the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI).
Riders can design kürs for any level, USDF or FEI, above training level. There is always a list of mandatory movements and paces, however, the rider is free to design the order, and add other movements should they choose to do so. The only hard and fast rule is that riders are not allowed to add movements in a level higher than the one for which the test is written. For example, a Second Level rider could include a leg-yield in his or her freestyle, because leg-yields appear in standard First Level tests, but if a Second Level rider added a half-pass, he or she would be penalized, since this movement doesn’t appear until Third Level tests. The penalty in USDF competitions for riding a movement above the chosen level is four points from the final score. Additionally, in FEI competitions, an Intermediare I rider is not permitted to include passage, piaffe, or a pirouette greater than 360 degrees, and a Grand Prix rider may not do a pirouette that exceeds 720 degrees. If a rider does so, he or she receives a zero for the element, and in addition the core for Choreography and Degree of Difficulty will not receive a score higher than a 5.
Other than these few rules, though, anything is legal. It’s important to remember that transitions and figures don’t count as movements. Even though there is no canter to halt transition in a First Level test, if a rider is capable of doing so, it would be permitted, since it is a transition, not a movement. In the same vein, a Third Level rider could perform half-passes on a steep zigzag, because this is a figure, not a movement. The difference isn’t arbitrary; instead, the USDF publishes a Freestyle Guidebook, which defines the specific movements. Of course, different countries have different rules to govern tests below FEI levels, so it’s important to check with the national associations for their specific rules.
Musical Freestyles are a component of the dressage competition at the Olympics, and the World Equestrian Games. Freestyles are a creative expression of the relationship between a horse and rider.
The components of musical freestyle are: the technical requirements, the music and the choreography.
The technical requirements of each level mirror the level of training and balance expected in the compulsory tests at that level. The technical components in freestyle affect more than half of the score, revealing the need for competence and ease in the execution of the movements. The technical side of the score sheet and the artistic side of the score sheet both count for 50% of the score, but the technical components of rhythm, energy and elasticity and harmony between horse and rider are scored on the artistic side.
The music chosen will depend on the horse's movement, type, personality, and the rider's own musical tastes but should serve to accentuate all of them. Music for freestyles can be found in a variety of styles. Classical music, show tunes, movie scores, orchestral versions of pop and contemporary music are all good sources. Music should be chosen that enhances the horse's way of going and matches the tempos of his gaits. It is important that the music suggest the movements. Transitions should correspond to the transitions in the music. Music for all three gaits needs to be of the same genre. It is not pleasing to the listener to use a classical piece for the walk, a jazz piece for the trot, and a rock and roll song for the canter. A cohesive flow of musical style throughout the freestyle is the best choice.
The choreography must incorporate all the technical requirements for the level. Freestyle offers the opportunity to be creative, to show what the horse does well. It is imperative that the choreography interpret the music. Music crescendos support movements of strength, like extended canter. Movements and figures should be started at the beginning of obvious musical phrases. The level of difficulty should correspond to the horse's abilities so that the ride looks easy. Good freestyles are fun to ride and fun to watch! The choreography and the music should flow from one movement to another while the horse and rider appear to be dancing easily through the technical elements of the level.