How to Build a Dressage Court

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Dressage is a French word meaning "training." It comes from a military tradition and is very regimented and exacting. Dressage is performed in an arena called a dressage court, which is a rectangle, either 20 feet by 40 feet for a short court or 20 feet by 60 feet for a long court. There are letters placed around the court to give a specific place where each movement is performed. These letters and the walls of the court give the rider a boundary, assisting her in riding exact figures. At home, you may wish to decorate your dressage court with flowers, plants and balloons to get your horse used to them before going to a competition. For the latest rules on dressage and competition, visit the USEF rulebook at http://www.usef.org/documents/ruleBook/2008/08-DR.pdf

Things You'll Need

  • Flat and level ground
  • Arena footing—often, a base of decomposed granite with sand on top
  • Rails—these can be made from poles, fence rails, logs, commercial dressage court rails or any other stable materials. For show purposes, they may be no taller than 0.3 meters high.
  • Dressage letters—these can be purchased, or print letters on paper, cones, wood planks or boxes. Letters needed are: A, F, K, P, V, B, E, R, S, M, H, C
  • Optional: flowers or small trees as decoration

Build the Framework for the Dressage Court

  • Make sure your arena area is as flat and level as possible. Remove rocks, shrubs or any other inconsistencies in the terrain, including filling in any holes.

  • Measure out your dressage court and mark the ground where the rails will go. Leave ample space at one end to enter and exit safely while mounted. Lay down your rails and secure them, if possible.

  • Lay down your arena footing. Make sure the base is completely level before adding the top layer.

Place the Dressage Letters

  • For a long court, start with "A" and place it in the center of the short wall where you will be entering. Ideally, each letter will be placed 0.5 meters away from the rail, outside the court. This is required for competition, but at home you can place them anywhere they will not be stepped on (on the rail itself or outside).

  • Standing at "A" and facing the court, measure 6 meters from the end of the court and place the letter "F" on the right wall and "K " on the left wall (make sure they are directly across from each other). Continue moving across the court to place the remaining letters.

  • Measure 18 meters from the end of the court and place "P" on the right wall and "V" on the left.

  • 30 meters from each end should be the center of the long wall. Place "B" on the right and "E" on the left.

  • 18 meters from the other end of the court (12 meters from the center), place "R" on the right and "S" on the left.

  • 6 meters from the wall, place "M" on the right and "H" on the left.

  • Place "C" in the center of the short wall. For a competition, the judge will sit behind "C."

  • For a short court, omit "P," " V," "R" and "S." "E" and "B" will be in the center of each long wall and the other letters will be the same as the long court.

  • Optional: place flowers or small trees at each letter for decoration.

Tips & Warnings

  • Measure carefully! If you practice in a court with incorrect dimensions, you will have a nasty surprise when you go to a competition and your circles are not the right size, or you don't have as much room as you thought between transitions.

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