Have you ever thought about riding to music? When you watch freestyle tests, do you ever think, wow! that looks like fun.
It is, and you can easily do it, too.
Enter Michael Matson
You can do this without the clinic, but I think you'll find the following information useful.
(If you disagree, go to The Takeaway section:) )
A friend of mine organized a clinic with Michael Matson, an equine music man with a database of over 1400 songs to choose from. Intrigued, I signed up.
This is my genuine preference, but research at Hartpury College in England has determined that horses respond positively to classical or country music! So I'm on the right track.
(I remember my heavy horse van sinking into the mud while I was competing in a one day event at Hartpury. It had to be towed out by a tractor. My life is never simple!)
Letting the Horse
Michael said Cruz would let me know when we found the right melody. I thought this was pretty far-fetched, but rather than argue I carried on trotting while he searched for music to fit Cruz’s BPM in that gait. A few songs came and went, with no approval from my bay.
Then, bingo! he suddenly began to swing to the rhythm of the next tune, with new energy, cadence and lift. It was just as Michael had said: Cruz was loudly pronouncing "this is the track, Mum!" It was astounding.
He was so into the beat that I relaxed and ‘rode with the flow.’ We were - at last - a dancing partnership, moving in sync and enjoying the music. I had a silly grin on my face: Cruz tends to be the exception which proves the rule and I had worried that we would never find ‘our song.’
He was pickier about the right tunes for walk and canter, but he did discover them. :)
It was exciting to watch for those aha! moments with my friends' horses, too. We had a terrific time at the clinic. Michael is great fun to work with and patiently takes as long as necessary to find the perfect melodies for each animal.
He concluded our session by giving me a CD with my three tracks on it, plus information on how to find local experts on putting a freestyle test together. But he also included a link to free software - called Audacity - to download and use for producing my own freestyle test CD.
Although I thoroughly recommend putting one together, you don’t need a clinic to get this information. Michael has an awesome website where you can learn how to determine your horse’s beats per minute and find music to match his walk, trot and canter.
Michael's resources page gives the link for the Audacity software plus the Freestyle webpage at USDF where you’ll find instructions for creating your own freestyle test at every level.
The Next Step
I immediately put Cruz's music on my iPod. At Walmart, for less than $10, you can purchase a small portable‘boombox’ for iPhones and iPods. Attach it securely to your belt (you’ll need to use more than the original clip to keep it from moving) then you and your horse can both hear the music while you ride: it’s way more beneficial than just listening to it by yourself.
At home I’ve been playing the music during my regular riding sessions and it has hugely improved my sense of rhythm, as well as relaxing both of us. We keep in sync when we hear our songs.
Using the Audacity software and the USDF instructions, I've put together a First Level Freestyle Test to use for my team ride at the PVDA Chapter Challenge in November. We need lots of practice before then, but it’s gonna be fun, and I will update you on how our competition ride goes.
Meanwhile, how about finding that special song in walk, trot and canter for you and your horse?
Here are those links again: