Thinking of trying Dressage to Music in 2019? Trainer Jenny Richardson shares her tips…


Dressage to music gives a really fun element to dressage competition, and is great for the spectators. Many professional riders have their Kur music composed, but it is possible to compete successfully by doing the preparation yourself. I love helping clients at my base, Castle Leslie Estate, hone their dressage to music freestyle tests!

Here are my top ten tips:

(Some facts and tips sourced from the book ‘Dressage to Music’ by Claire Lilley.)

dressage horseChoose the content of your test – you must show all the required movements described in the British Dressage (BD) test sheet for your chosen level. You can also use additional movements currently in use in tests at this level.

Work out your compulsory movements and whether you are riding at a prelim, novice or riding club level event (40×20 arena), or at elementary level or above (60×20 arena). You will ideally create one CD with music edited for a smaller arena, and one for a bigger arena.

Write your test down as if it were a normal dressage test sheet, with planned movements at specific points in the arena. Include a halt at the beginning and end.

Now break your test down into the various movements that will fit the different music choices, and time them using an assistant and stopwatch. (You may also like to film the test; also useful when choosing music.) Write the time down next to each movement or section. (You may like to include a section for your entrance, and use music for this too; always enter the arena within 20 seconds of your music starting.) Ascertain the minimum and maximum length of test for your level, timed from ‘move off’ to halt – usually four to five minutes.

Next, establish your horse’s beats per minute (BPM) per section of music, for walk, trot and canter – bandage one equine leg and count how many times it touches the ground in a minute, or ride with a digital metronome, adjusting it until it matches your horse’s gait.

Now the fun part – choosing your music. There are many CDs available full of suitable music to ride to, that list the BPMs, or you could scour i-tunes (or another provider!) for songs that suit.

dressage pic

There are music websites that list song’s BPMs (eg –; you may like to download a shortlist, and then play them as you watch a video of your test, or just play the song as you run your metronome at your horse’s relevant BPM. Pick songs that fit together, for example a reggae mix. (NB your songs need to fit British Dressage’s licencing requirements – contact the organisation for further details.)

Now pick out a suitable section of your music, e.g. a chorus, to fit the length of the relevant movement, which you have written down. You may have to adapt your test – by adding a circle for example – to fit the music.

Use a computer editing programme to edit the music – save the music as WAV files, before burning to a CD for competition, and to your MP3 player for practice.

Obtain a BD music licence (via Full or Music Membership), and attach the stickers you will receive on the CDs. Label them with your name and any instructions, e.g. ‘Press play as I enter the arena’.

You’re good to go! Practice loads so you know the routine off by heart.

Useful sites

If you would like some personal dressage tuition, why not check out Castle Leslie Estate’s riding holiday breaks – this is where I am based as Head Instructor (BHSAI). Visit

Leave a Reply