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A Guide to Arena Size and Letter Location

Updated: Apr 11, 2021

The letters around a dressage arena are used as markers for where to perform set moves during a test. Knowing the location and proximity of these markers will help you perform accurate movements enabling you to reach those high marks

Dressage as we we know it today originated from training of cavalry horses. The movements in the dressage test were designed to test the natural athleticism and trainability of the horse, skills which were necessary on the battlefield

As well as movements still seen today such as extended and collected gaits, flying changes and pirouettes, the original calvary dressage test involved jumping five obstacles, including a barrel rolled towards the horse. Imagine the scenes if that was reintroduced to the modern sport!

The letters around the arena are thought to come from the Imperial German Court. The markings around the walls indicated where each horse should be presented to await their rider

A Ausgang (Exit)

K Kaiser (Emperor)

F Furst (Prince)

P Pferdeknecht (Groom)

V Vassal (Squire)

E Edeling (Honoured Guest)

B Bannertrager (Standard Bearer)

S Schatzkanzler (Chancellor of the Exchequer)

R Ritter (Knight)

M Meier (Steward)

H Hofsmarshall (Lord Chancellor)

There are two standard size arenas used for dressage tests; Short Arena and Long Arena. Eventing dressage follows the same size and layout as pure dressage

Short Arena

20m x 40m

Short arena dressage tests are used at Prelim, Novice and some Elementary level

Short arena eventing dressage tests are used at BE90, BE100, and some Novice level

Unaffiliated events will likely use a short arena unless the test states otherwise

Long Arena

20m x 60m

Long arena tests can be used from Prelim level upwards in dressage and from BE90 upwards in eventing

At the lower levels, long arena tests are usually reserved for the latter stages of the level or for championships

Unaffiliated shows may use long arena tests at their discretion

There are many mnemonics used to help riders remember the location of the markers

All King Edward's Horses Can Make Big Fences is a common one taught to riders learning in a short arena

I actually find that you just get used to where the letters are after a while, although I can still find myself mixing up my Ks and Ms or my Ds and Gs!

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