Music in Lessons

A great conversation was held on the Facebook Riding Instructor’s Forum about music use in lesson. So I’m organizing the ideas in a post! Enjoy, and add your own thoughts in the comments!

Music Activities

Relaxing Music

Use music to relax the riders by playing it while they ride and/or during warm ups. It can help them breathe better, release tension, and ease fears. It can help the horse relax too. Use music in warm ups with hand motions and singing to calm and focus certain riders before the lesson. Asking the rider to hum or sing keeps them from holding their breath.

Musical Freeze

Walk your horses while the music plays, and stop when it turns off.

Hokie Pokie

Do the Hokie Pokie on horseback with a group lesson, incorporating movements such as yielding the hindquarters (for one foot in, one food out, and shake it all about!) and turn on the forehand (turn in all around!). One instructor suggested painting circles on the ground, one for the forefeet and one for the hindfeet, to keep the horse’s feet in for the movements.

Musical Horses/Poles

Set up poles that the riders ride around until the music stops, then they must get to a pole, like musical chairs.

Practice to Music

Use songs to mark of periods of time, such as asking students to practice trotting for one song.

Instructions to Music

Turn instructions into a silly song (“Thumbs up, heels down, best pony in the town!”) to make them easy for kids to remember.

Sing for Tempo of Gaits

You or your student or both together sing a song that goes with the beat of the horse’s gait to help them maintain tempo and timing, prevent speeding up or slowing down or breaking gait. It also keeps the rider from holding their breath. For the walk: Ninety-nine bottles of pop on the wall, Achey Breaky Heart. For the trot: Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Dory’s Just Keep Swimming (or Just Keep Trotting), Jingle Bells, Frere Jacque, Old MacDonald Had a Farm, any marching tune. For the canter: Row Row Row Your Boat (one beat per stride), Glory Glory Hallelujah (“da-dum”). If your rider rides better with music, when no music is available (such as at a show) have them think or recreate it in their head.

Rhythm Beads

Rhythm beads are beads and bells on a horse necklace that bounce and make noise as the horse moves, helping you hear the rhythm, and can calm the horse and the rider. It can help a rider hear the rhythm. To buy them, just Google it, there’s a lot of sellers out there. To learn how to make them on your own, click here.

Music Lesson for Tempo of Gaits

Explain how some music is 4/4 like the walk, 3/4 like the canter, and 2/4 for the trot. For homework ask them to find a song they like that matches the tempo of their horse in the same time signature. 3/4 for the canter can include waltzes. Alternatively use 6/8 for the canter, which most marches are in. However, a singing student might speed up and rush a march, but is less likely to do so with a relaxed waltz.

Musical Freestyle

Choreograph dressage freestyle routines to music. Count that particular horse’s beats per minute and find a song that matches (such as using this website).


Not exactly music, but also works. You can use a real one or get an app on your phone. The trot is somewhere in the 80’s, and the canter in the 90’s.

Music Tools

  • Speakers that hook up to your iPod/phone/lapton
  • Portable speaker with Bluetooth for iPod/phone
  • Kareoki machine
  • Sound system with a rechargeable battery and microphone (harder to carry back and forth to the arena)
  • Musical Ride Co. for music tracks

The Use of Music in Therapeutic Riding Lessons

There following are situations in which you can use music in TR lessons, ideas from a seminar given at the 2015 PATH Intl Conference by sister Anne Frances Thompson. The PATH website has handouts and sheet music from her seminar, check them out here!

  • Assist in effecting behavioral changing
  • To teach a concept
  • To cue a next activity (help transition)
  • To assist in memory
  • To assist in focusing and listening (some listen better to words in songs than in talking)
  • To sustain and enhance activity
  • To reinforce teaching in the moment (explain, then sing a song about it)
  • To add enjoyment to activities (musical games)
  • For people with speech issues it may be easier to sing (because it’s right side brain)
  • For people with difficulty expressing themselves it may be easier to sing about it


  • A rider with ASD would only listen to directions when they were sung. Now transitioning to spoken.
  • Teach steps of dismounting through song.
  • Teach grooming through familiar song, “If you’re happy and you know it groom your horse!”
  • Rider learns to post and keep beat by posting to a song while singing.
  • A seniors group visits the barn and sing familiar cowboy songs, then leads horses to music (matching the beat), then share memories and stories these songs and horses bring up.
  • A drill team must focus and work together to choose music and create their pattern.


Not all riders will like music. Some may not learn or understand in that way, or be able to focus on so many things, so be respectful of this.

Not all horses will like all music. If a horse is irritated by a particular song, or frustrated they can’t follow the tempo, don’t push it.

Make sure all horses are desensitized to music playing in lessons, and the apparatus you use, before using it with students.

How do you use music in lessons?


Note: This is not professional advice, this is a blog. I am not liable for what you do with or how you use this information. The activities explained in this blog may not be fit for every rider, riding instructor, or riding center depending on their current condition and resources. Use your best personal judgment!

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