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Choosing a Freestyle Designer

© MatchnRide.com:

© MatchnRide.com:

By Terry Ciotti Gallo, Klassic Kur

There have been many articles on the process of putting together a freestyle. However, restrictions sometimes prevent riders from doing it on their own, and they feel that it is time to call a professional.  But where do you find one and which professional should you choose?

An online search using terms such as "dressage musical freestyle" or "kur" yields a number of results. Pros also use local or GMO newsletters to let riders know of their availability. Just as importantly, if you see a freestyle that knocks your socks off, ask the rider if a freestyle service helped and if so, get the contact information. Read more...

During your search, you will find a wide range in the prices being charged. So why the differences?

The majority of designers will graduate their fees depending upon the complexity of the project. For instance, as we go up the levels and a larger number of choreographic elements are added, the greater the challenge in coordinating music and movement.  Also, some services are more elaborate than others. You may have selected your music, done your choreography and simply need assistance pulling it all together; or you may want help with the entire project from soup to nuts.  You can expect that the greater the complexity, the more hours it takes to complete the freestyle, and therefore the higher the cost will be. To give you some idea of the magnitude, famed German freestyle rider Gabriella Grillo once said it took her 80 hours to put together a kür. 

© MatchnRide.com:

Another variant is that a few designers provide more depth in their services than others.  Some may offer limited music selections, while others provide several genres of music with multiple choices within each genre. One designer may go straight from music selection and choreography to the final CD, while another may offer a rough draft that can be adjusted after you have tested it. A designer providing a rough draft with audio cues to guide you is also likely to send a video of your choreography with the music dubbed over.  These study materials represent additional time on the project and in many cases, an investment in software as well. Recouping that investment is incorporated into the price structure.

Beyond the services themselves, individual designers will charge at different rates.  A smaller, local, or newly-established business will tend to ask less, while a longer established provider with greater experience, more "tricks of the trade" up its sleeve, and a large music library representing a large expense will tend to ask more. Only a handful of designers run dedicated freestyle services, while others use it as a secondary business. The latter will be quite competitive in their pricing. As might be expected, dedicated professionals have higher rates than those whose services are supplemental to their income. Depending on your needs, a local person may be fine. For those with an eye toward a championship, the more experienced designer may be the ticket.  

Consumer Responsibilities
If you choose to commission someone to help with all or part of the project, you will still have responsibilities to uphold. First, be as informed as you can be. Know the rules yourself and get a copy of the actual score sheet for your level. They can be found online at usdf.org for Training through Fourth, and at fei.org for young rider through Grand Prix.

Be honest with the designer regarding your music taste (give examples) and your expectations. If you are not doing your own choreography, be truthful about what the strengths and weaknesses of the horse are. Consider getting input from your trainer as to choreographic content and level of difficulty. Make sure all the combinations you suggest to the choreographer are viable, i.e. you have successfully ridden them in practice.

When it comes time to selecting the music, ride—don’t just listen—to the choices and be sure to have eyes on the ground to help determine what enhances the horse’s movement. Do not make choices based on your taste alone. Keep an open mind. You may prefer rock n’ roll, but your horse might look better to swing. 

© MatchnRide.com: If the designer has provided you with a video and a voice-over audio, study them before you ride. A strong visual image is a huge help in grasping what the musical interpretation should be, and it will help you know when you are “on” the music. Once you understand the freestyle, practice it. During those sessions, become aware of places you can make up or lose ground should you get in front of or behind your music. This will help you be prepared for the unexpected at a show.

Once you have your final competition music settled, make several hard copies of it for practice, as dust is deadly to discs. Always bring two discs to a show (USEF rules stipulate that CDs are required) and have them properly labeled. You should also consider digitizing your music and keeping copies in several places such as your computer’s iTunes library as well as your mobile devices.

Finally, realize that your designer wants you to be successful and will work to help you achieve that goal. Make sure you reciprocate by being prompt with your payments.

After you put in many hours trying to be expressive and unique, you go to a show only to find that someone else has your same music. It is likely that you may have the same trot as another, but different walk and canter. These things can happen since good music is very alluring. If you have chosen a popular theme like Pirates of the Caribbean, it is very likely that there will be others who have shared your attraction to that particular soundtrack.

© MatchnRide.com: However, if you hear an identical program, something is not kosher. Talk to the person whose program matches yours to find out how this may have happened.  Be polite. If it turns out that the same designer issued both programs and you paid a premium price for a customized service (see below What You Should Ask), you both should confront the designer.

Choreography is somewhat different. It is quite common to see similar patterns from rider to rider, especially if you are at the same level and trying to use the same elements to increase your score for Degree of Difficulty. Freestyles have been in existence for a long time, and whereas you may be a newbie and think your choreography is all that, chances are it has been done before. However, if someone’s choreography is identical to yours, you might want to ask about it.

The main concern of this article was how to engage professional services. Nonetheless, for those of you who prefer to at least start by doing it yourself—a commendable task—there are many resources at your disposal, especially at usdf.org. 

If you are interested in the choreographic aspects, check out youtube. Even if you don’t see a freestyle at your level, watching rides may trigger your imagination.

You Should Be Dancin’ Yeah
Whether doing it on your own or hiring a professional, developing a freestyle is a great way to explore the sport you love. It brings new clarity to the terms rhythm, tempo, and cadence simply because the music educates you in a relaxed but meaningful way. Besides, it’s fun.

What You Should Ask
Before making your choice of designer, understand what you will get for your money. Ask your prospective designer:

     - What is included in the services you provide
     - Do you charge a fee or by the hour
     - What are your professional credentials
     - Are there examples of your freestyles
     - Do you work long distance or onsite
     - Are there additional onsite charges--expenses, time in travel
     - How long will it take to complete the project
     - Do you archive the project
     - Do you charge for adjustments made after the project is completed
     - Do I have exclusive use of the music
     - Do I have exclusive use of the choreography
     - How and when is payment expected

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