Musical Freestyle or Musical Kur (from German kür, "freestyle") is a form of dressage movement setting the horse's "dance" to music. Movements and figures are choreographed to meet the technical requirements of the particular level with carefully chosen music that highlights the horse/rider combination. Musical Freestyles are entertaining and offer great audience appeal. In the United States the tests are offered from First to Fourth levels through the USDF and at Prix St. Georges for Young Riders, Intermediate I and Grand Prix through the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI).
Riders can design musical freestyle programs for any level above training level, USDF or FEI. Each level has its list of mandatory movements and paces that must appear in all programs. Their order and timing is free to the rider's choice. Incorporating movements of a higher level than the intended level is forbidden. The penalty in USDF competitions for riding a movement above the chosen level is four points from the final score. Additionally, in FEI competitions, an Intermediare I rider is not permitted to include passage, piaffe, or a pirouette greater than 360 degrees, and a Grand Prix rider may not do a pirouette that exceeds 720 degrees. If a rider does so, he or she receives a zero for the element, and in addition the core for Choreography and Degree of Difficulty will not receive a score higher than a 5.
Any movement not specified as higher level than relevant is allowed, as well as any transition and figure, as they aren't classified as movements. In the same vein, a Third Level rider could perform half-passes on a steep zigzag, because this is a figure, not a movement. The difference isn’t arbitrary, and the USDF publishes a Freestyle Guidebook, which defines the specific movements. Different countries have different rules to govern tests below FEI levels.
Musical Freestyles are a component of the dressage competition at the Olympics, and the World Equestrian Games. Freestyles are a creative expression of the relationship between a horse and rider.
The technical requirements of each level mirror the level of training and balance expected in the compulsory tests at that level. The technical components in freestyle affect more than half of the score; competence and ease in the execution of the movements is crucial to a successful program. The technical components of rhythm, energy and elasticity and harmony between horse and rider are scored on the artistic side.
The music chosen will depend on the horse's movement, type, personality, and the rider's own musical tastes but should serve to accentuate all of them. Music for freestyles can be found in a variety of styles. Classical music, show tunes, movie scores, orchestral versions of pop and contemporary music are common choices. The music should enhance the horse's way of going and match the tempos of his gaits. The music should suggest the movements; transitions should correspond to the transitions in the music. Music for all three gaits should to be of the same genre.
The choreography must incorporate all the technical requirements for the level but is otherwise open to creative choices and highlighting the horse's strong points. It is imperative that the choreography interpret the music. Movements and figures should be started at the beginning of obvious musical phrases. The level of difficulty should correspond to the horse's abilities so that the ride looks easy. A good freestyle program is entertaining to the audience and pleasing to perform.