A Proper Space For Your Dressage Practice
You need an accurately measured and set up arena to practice accurate riding, especially if you’re practicing for a dressage test. In this article, we will guide you step-by-step through how to build a dressage arena.
Gathering Supplies Build Your Dressage Arena
Before you get started, you’ll need to acquire the proper materials for setting up your arena:
- Arena letters
- Four stakes
- Arena diagrams
- Arena fencing
- A helper
- Two 20-meter measuring tapes
- Two 60-meter measuring tape
The Steps to Successfully Laying Out Your Dressage Arena
Now that you have all the items you need to set up the arena, here are the steps to setting up your dressage arena:
1. Choose a Suitable Location
Considering the arena’s safety is critical before you begin the set-up. It will save you the energy, time, and resources of having to relocate your arena after completing it. So, if you intend to construct your DIY dressage arena on grass, ensure the ground is even. There should be no obstructions like rocks or holes that can make the horse trip or compromise your measurements.
Most importantly, evaluate the surroundings and do away with anything that may be hazardous. For example, the trees that may drop branches during the show and injure people or horses.
2. Ensure the Space is Enough
Make sure that the arena space is big enough. A standard competition-sized dressage arena has dimesions of 20 meters by 60 meters. A “short” dressage arena is 20 meters by 40 meters. Your space should also accommodate about 6 feet of buffer.
If you plan to host a dressage competition in the future, your arena should be the standard 20 x 60 meters. Also, ensure you set up a judge’s table or stand. It should be strategically placed where the dressage judge can see the whole arena. The judge should also not face the sun, especially during the morning shows.
3. Consider Drainage
The space must also have proper drainage. To be safe, choose the high point where water will easily flow out of the arena. Poor drainage will cost you a lot of money and time removing water from your dressage arena. It will also put you and your horse at risk of getting injured.
4. Measure Your Arena
Set up the first corner using one of the stakes. The right angle must be perfect because your dressage arena will be rectangular. To achieve this, you will need to make a 3-4-5 triangle. From Pythagorean Theorem, when a triangle’s sides are in this ratio, “3” and” 4″ sides form a perfect right angle. Here is what you should do:
- Place the first stake in the ground where you intend to put the first corner.
- Lay the other two stakes out in what looks like 90 degrees. Use your measuring tape to measure 3 feet on one side of the angle and mark that point. Ensure that the measurement is in line with the stake.
- Using the same procedure, measure 4 feet on the other side. The distance between the 3 feet mark and the 4 feet mark should be 5 feet. If not, make adjustments until they are 5 feet distance away from each other.
After this, now it’s time to measure the long side. As earlier stated, dressage arena dimensions vary depending on the type of arena you want. A 60-meter arena will be the best option for a dressage competition. However, if you have limited space and only need an arena for casual purposes, you can go with a 40-meter arena. You can also consult your trainer to help you come up with the best measurement.
From the first stake, which you used to form your 90 degrees angle, use a measuring wheel to mark your decided distance. Place the second stake on this mark. Measure the distance between these two stakes once more to be certain that it is correct.
You are now done with one side. Use the same process to mark out the other long and short sides. In each instance, ensure you measure the distance twice to be sure because missing out on measurements can mess you up badly in the long run.
5. Assemble Your Materials for Fencing
A DIY dressage arena is never complicated since you can use various materials for fencing, including a relatively cheap wooden fence. However, if you want a classic arena, you can acquire a dressage arena kit from a specialty equestrian retailer; these kits typically include fencing, lettering, gates, and accessories to create an accurate and polished-looking riding space.
Once you have the fencing, you need to place it along the previously measured lines and marked lines. The fencing must be straight. It also should have a gate which the horses will use to get in and out. In many dressage arenas, the gate is placed on the short sides. You can decide to put two gates, one on each short side, or only one.
6. Measure Out Where the Letters Will Go
Each middle of the short sides needs one letter. Then, using a measuring tape, measure and mark 10 meters from each short side’s corner. This will mark the center since the short sides measure 20 meters long.
You will also need to measure where the rest of the letters will go. For a standard arena, the long side should have five marks where you will place the letters. Start by measuring 6 meters from one corner of the short side and put a mark. From the 6-meter mark, measure 12 meters and mark. From that point, measure another 12 meters and mark. Measure also 12 meters from this mark and mark. The last mark should be 6 meters from the other short side.
Repeat this process on the other long side. Once done, you should have 17 marks to place your letters. The procedure is also the same for a small dressage arena. You measure 6 meters from the short side and mark.
Then measure 14 meters from that mark and a proceeding 14 meters from that one. The last measurement should be 6 meters. A small arena will have 11 marks once you mark all the sides.
7. Place the Letters
The purpose of letters in a dressage arena is to help you memorize and execute patterns perfectly. As such, they are always placed in a specific way. From the previous description, it is clear that small arenas and standard arenas have different patterns of letters.
Therefore, ensure that you place them in the correct order. This way, it will be easier for you to memorize and execute patterns. They will also raise your confidence in competing in an arena with similar patterns. So, how then do you place them? Below is the answer.
- You can use arena diagrams since they provide the most accessible guide on placing dressage letters. They are available on the internet. You can look at them, and they will give you a clear picture of what should be done.
- If your arena is a standard one and you want to place letters for the long side, you should begin by placing A on the middle of the short side. Moving counter-clockwise, place K, V, E, S, and H letters on one of the long sides. C should come last on the other short side. The other long side should have M, R, B, P, and F. On the center line, away from A, you should place D, L, X, I, G. 
For a small arena, the placement is somehow different.
- Place A at the center of one of the short sides. Move counterclockwise and place K, E, and H on the long side. Finish by putting C in the middle of the other short side. Then, place M, B, and F on the other long side. The center line should have A, D, X, and G.
The above steps should guide you in setting up a DIY dressage arena that fits your needs. Whether you need a dressage arena for hosting a dressage show or personal practice, the steps can help you put up one. Be sure to follow each of them diligently to avoid raking down your arena after setting it up.
Once your arena is set up, you can start training and schooling with the confidence to work toward your dressage goals.