R.J. Classics Melody Mesh Show Coat Review

An AA Freestyle Noobie Creates Her Own

As an AA who started dressage later (after 30 years old), I have for years said to myself “Freestyles come later.  Freestyles are for high levels.”  I wasn’t ever really sure when that later was, but I knew it wasn’t for me yet.  I was inspired to start thinking about it a few years ago when I “met” Sandra Beaulieu in spring of 2021. I did a feature article on her on Decidedly Equestrian and enjoyed her as a person so much that I went out and purchased her book Freestyle: The Ultimate Guide to Riding, Training and Competing to Music.  I read through it, felt a little inspired to print out the freestyle requirements, and then it sat on my bookshelf for a long time ignored because it seemed too intimidating to go further.

The book that started it all.

Then came 2022 – the year of struggling through lead change hell.  Then came early 2023 when it was clear we were still not solid in the changes.   While we played around with 4th at home, we struggled to nail the changes consistently and it was clear moving up was going to be a while.  As a goal person I needed something else to focus on to take my mind off our lack of progress.

At the same time this was going on, I remembered how much I enjoyed Sandra and thought she’d make a great Zoom clinician for the CDS East Bay Chapter (I’m on the board) and we put that together.  That Zoom clinic was on February 26th (available here free to watch).  I was reminded again about how inspiring Sandra is and her enthusiasm for having fun doing freestyles caught me again.


Jax and I managed a decent showing at 3rd in February and again in March…so I quickly shelved 3rd level and shifted my plan for the rest of the show season to focusing on a 1st level freestyle.

In the last weeks of March I started working on my freestyle choreography.  It went smoothly.  I actually quite enjoyed this portion of the work.  I read through the required movements, additionally allowed movements and Sandra’s book again.  I watched a handful of high scoring freestyles at the level and I started playing with a floorplan that showed off Jax’s strengths.  I had the first floorplan written up in a few hours.  I rode it a few times…realized I had left out a required movement (one direction) so reworked it a bit.  I showed it to my trainer.  We made a couple of minor tweaks and it was set. After that I was pretty sure my next job was freestyle designer.  It was fun so far.

The music part took that enthusiasm away quickly.  Getting the BPM we needed for Jax wasn’t hard and I had an idea about the music I wanted.  However I was quickly thrown roadblocks.  It was almost impossible to get the music due to it’s lack of popularity and age.  On top of that…I’d need to find alternative canter music to go with the trot and walk I’d wanted as nothing from the soundtrack I wanted to use would work.  I knew I’d have to adjust the BPM on the music I had selected (to speed it up a touch).  We tried other music options and my trainer wasn’t sold and asked me to go back to the original idea.

Learning to use Audacity wasn’t hard…but it had some bumps.

Recording the test in a full court took some time due to that arena being closed for footing work for about a month. When we finally got a video in a proper court, I went through and timestamped all the movements and had everything ready to edit the music. My husband managed to get the music for me, but with little time to spare (a week or so into June).  I should mention here that I was signed up for a show July 2nd…and still didn’t have music.

I used the free program Audacity recommended by people on Sandra’s Facebook Group.  It was not too hard…and I was able to figure a few things out quickly and had my music edited together and on a CD (that was another difficulty as who has a CD burner anymore?).  I only messed up the file a few times and had to go back and make changes again. HA! Make sure to save a lot and save each new version as a new file so you have a good back up (I learned that lesson).  I rode through the music twice with my trainer the week before the show.  She said one portion was weird and I should redo it (but not before the show as there was no time).  I got a usable CD just a few days before the show.

Our Robin Hood Freestyle…having fun!

On July 2nd we debuted our 1st level freestyle.  I had a blast.  It was fantastic.  It was cooking hot, but I didn’t notice.  I was all smiles in the final salute.  My trainer was right about the one section…it was weird…and the judge wasn’t a fan.  We ended up with a 67.389%.  Not bad! Our technical scores were better than our artistic marks, so I quickly learned the lesson that a solid ride is one thing, but if the music isn’t great you’re score will be limited.  I was happy with the score, but went home and immediately reworked that section in the canter so hopefully that helps the next show.

I’m looking forward to showing it again in September and then reworking it for 2nd level.  It was stressful at times to create my own I admit (especially with the short timeline I set myself).  There were moments I almost gave in and paid someone to do my music, but I’m happy now I went through that effort.  I learned a lot in the process about a whole different area of dressage I am new to.  I also had a lot of fun.

If you’re thinking about doing a freestyle…give it a go.  If I can do it, you can do it.  Promise.  If nothing else, create a floorplan for yourself and your horse and see if that inspires you.  It will help teach you more about where your and your horses’ strengths and weaknesses are in a level.  If that goes well…try the music.   Freestyles aren’t for later.  Freestyles aren’t for higher levels.  Freestyles are for everyone…now.

More freestyle!