Get into Dressage to Music
Alanna Clarke is a 16 year old British Dressage Youth rider (2018), equestrian vlogger and equestrian blogger based in South Yorkshire. Alanna does regular monthly vlogs for PONY! Magazine readers and ad hoc info vlogs for British Dressage Northern Region and Trailblazers Championships. Alanna competes in British Dressage with the handsome Van Halen II, a KWPN gelding and her bay mare, Katrina. After competing just a handful of times they were selected to represent their region at the U25 Sheepgate Championships, finishing on an individual and team podium! Alanna and Van Halen have qualified for Winter Regionals at Novice and Pet Plan Area Festivals 2019 at Elementary Level.
As well as competing, Alanna spends a lot of time working in promotion with brands such as Equerry Feeds, Gatehouse Hats, Equiclass Boots and more. Alanna hosts the very popular #HorseChatHour on Twitter at 8pm on Thursday evenings, which has nearly 20,000 followers.
Here Alanna shares some insight into riding dressage to music. Whether you’re new to dressage and fancy a dabble, or a seasoned dressage competitor who’s interested to get into dressage to music, here are some great pointers to help you get started.
Dancing to Music
by Alanna Clarke
Ever wonder how to get started in dressage to music? I took part in an Equivisions Dressage to Music clinic at Bishop Burton College and afterwards couldn’t wait to get out out competing! But if you can’t find a dressage to music clinic near you or you’re unable to get your horse there, it’s quite possible to devise your own music and floor plan at home. If you’re curious to get into dressage to music, it’s well worth having a go!
Attending a clinic
The night before I had spent ages getting my horse, Katrina, clean and shiny. I was so excited about the clinic. I’d already had an email asking me to tell them about which level we were competing at, which movements suited Katrina best and where she was weaker. This was so that they could prepare a floor plan to suit us. The email also asked me to think about what music I liked and thought would suit Katrina.
The day came and I wanted to look smart and comfortable so I wore my nice boots and my lovely pair of Tottie Maven knee grip breeches. After a long drive we arrived at Bishop Burton College with time to spare, and made our way to the international arena. It was quite daunting and poor Katrina, who barely copes with the judge at C, was forced to face five judge’s boxes as the arena was set up for a big para competition the next day. This was going to be fun!
First, Steph went through the test that she’d already planned for us, telling me where to go and different ways I could change it in the arena if it all goes wrong. I was completely lost of course, as we all know I can get lost in my own bedroom anyway but it was really interesting to talk through all the tips for avoiding a spook or making it less noticeable in the test by just knowing your music inside out and moving movements up or down the arena.
We just hacked through the test first, and this was when Katrina decided to throw some shapes, spooking at judges stands, markers, the gate, it was all a bit hectic really, she does make me laugh!
The second time we went through the test we were timed to see how long everything took for how long the music needed to be. This time Katrina improved massively, and her medium canter felt amazing. We haven’t quite got the hang of the counter canter as she kept changing leg but it got to a point where it was simply funny!
Finally, it was time to video the test to match the actual movements within the test to the music. It was going really well, I’d done my best to de-spookify Katrina but just as we cantered past the entrance someone walked right into the arena! Of course Katrina didn’t hold with that! However like a trooper she carried on, completely bossing the more difficult parts.
The ridden part of the clinic over, we made Katrina comfortable with some hay and Chloe, our driver, kindly stayed with her while we went to the office which was set up to play the video and choose music to match. I’d already decided that I wanted something fun, I wanted to make people smile and enjoy it with me. Lots of riders use classical, and I was worried pop would go out of fashion, so I chatted about my idea with Julie who really took it on board and added some really fabulous suggestions of her own. The beginning is epic, and it only got better with Julie’s ideas, leading to an equally awesome end!
Making up your own music and floor plan
What you’ll need:
- A video camera and/or someone to video you riding
- A CD or MP3 player with speaker
- A marked out dressage arena (jump poles or guttering pipes will do as boards)
- If you wish to compete or display publicly you’ll also need a “music licence”, which is easy to get.
Choosing your music:
Firstly, you need find music that fits not only your horse’s paces, but also him/her personally.
- Big booming music won’t suit a fine, light-footed horse, and may even make it appear heavier in it’s movement.
- Light, skippy music won’t suit a heavier cob with a workmanlike way of going.
- Dressage judges don’t tend to like music with vocals as the general consensus is that it detracts from the overall performance/image of the horse. Your horse is the star of the performance, not P!nk, Take That or Michael Buble! 😉 Karaoke soundtracks can be a convenient way of finding more modern music without vocals.
- You’ll need to assess if the rhythm of the music matches your horse’s rhythm at the intended pace. This is easiest to do by watching his/her hind leg footfalls – each footfall should land on the beat of the music.
If you wish to compete or perform in a display you will need a “music licence” to play your copied and edited music publicly. If you send your music away to a specialist company to edit into the finish product, a music licence should be included (always double check this), but it is easy to get your own music licence through British Dressage. What you’ll need:
- At least a £30 British Dressage Club Membership (even if you’re not competing in an affiliated show).
- Music that is registered with PPL (Phonographic Performance Limited). You can check that your tracks are registered with PPL by typing just the artist and track name into the PPL Repetoir Search Facility here.
- The forms to complete and send to British Dressage to register your music. You can download these here.
Devising a floor plan:
If you wish to compete you can purchase a British Dressage test sheet for the level you wish to compete at, from Preliminary (walk, trot and canter) right up to Grand Prix! The test sheet will tell you all of the required moves for the test and how they are marked.
- You can purchase individual dressage tests directly from BD here.
- If you compete at dressage a lot you may find Dressage Diagrams useful – you can even create your Dressage to Music floor plans to print out as a test!
- Setting up a video camera or getting a friend to film you riding required movements will help you work out a floor plan and set your music to it.
Editing your music:
- You can send your music away to professional companies that will simply edit your music, or devise the whole routine for you too, but this can be costly depending on the company.
- If you’re a dab hand on a computer you can edit your music yourself using apps like Garage Band on a MacBook or iPad, or an online editor like Soundation on a PC.
- Your test sheet will tell you the time limits for your music. For example, you might have 20 seconds of entry music > pause for entry salute > 5-6 minutes from moving on from entry salute to final salute. The time allowed is different for each level of dressage as the tests require more movements.
Riding your routine:
Once you have your routine drafted out you need to ride it through plenty of times and work out where you are in the arena at distinctive bits of music (eg “I’m always right by B when the key changes/the chorus starts/the symbol sounds”). These audible markers throughout your routine will enable you to assess whether you are ahead or behind your music, and will not finish at the right point! If the dressage arena at the show is just 12″ wider or narrower than your arena at home your music will not ride the same, so you’ll need to shave a corner off or take a wider sweep on a non-required, unmarked movement to get you back in the right place at the right time! As with all things, practice makes perfect, and the more you do it the better you’ll get!
Take two CD’s of your music to all your shows/displays, because if one fails you have another as back up. Give both to the show secretary so they have your spare to hand in the worst case scenario.
Don’t forget to collect both your music CDs from the show secretary before you go home! 🙂
I am buzzing with excitement about my music and hope its loads of fun. Sports are so much better if they don’t take themselves too seriously all the time!
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