Dressage Arena – Diagram With Sizes and Dimensions

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The Components of a Dressage Arena

Dressage is an incredibly disciplined sport where horse and rider must work together to execute an incredibly intricate set of performances. It is this complexity and entertainment value that has so many people hooked, watching with bated breath as the routine is completed. While the horse and the rider are the stars of the show, there is one element that is rarely noticed. This is the arena where the sport is performed. If you have ever attended a dressage event or watched one on television, you will have noticed that it is unlike most racetracks. Well, here are some interesting details about a dressage arena:

Dimensions of a Dressage Arena

There are two main types of dressage arenas – the standard arena and the short arena. The short arena is used for training purposes as well as holding introductory examinations. The standard arena is limited to higher examination levels.

The short arena, as the name suggests, is slightly smaller than the standard version. This arena measures 40m in length and 20 meters in width. The standard arena is 60 meters long and 20 meters wide.

There are letters that denote distances with these type of arenas. With the short arena, at the widths, you have the letters A and C. These are placed right in the middle, with ten meters on either side of these points. On the right hand side, there are the letters F, B, and M – with F and M on the sides and B in the middle. There is a distance of 6m from either ends of the arena to both F and M. The distance of M to B and F to B is the same – 14m. On the left hand side, K is directly opposite F, E is immediately facing B, and H mirrors M.

A and C, divide the arena into perfect halves. Along this center line, there are the letters D, X, and G from A to C. D is in between F and K, X between B and E, and G in the middle of H and M.

The Standard arena is longer and therefore, there are more letters in between. Since the width is the same, the center line remains in the middle, separating the two 10m halves. There is also a quarter line on either side of the center line, however. These lines divide the 10m halves into 5m, creating four divisions of equal length and width.

There is still six meters from the end to F. However, the letter P exists between F and B in this arena. There is 12m between P to both F and B. M is still 6m away from the end but is 12m away from R which is placed in the middle, 12m away from B. V and S on the other side intersect at precisely the same distance. On the center line, L and I are in the middle, parallel to P, R, V, and S.

What Is the Dressage Arena Made Of?

On the surface, it may appear that a dressage arena is actually quite uncomplicated. However, there has been a lot of thought, design, and construction that has gone into it. This is because of all that such an arena needs to provide to both the horse and the rider. For instance, the ground needs to minimize the amount of impact on the horse’s legs and joints as its hooves hit the ground. Also, the floor needs to be as even as possible so as to not throw off the horse’s gait. Also, the horse needs to be able to get a good grip on the ground as the animal moves across the arena.

This is why a typical dressage arena is made up of three layers. The bottommost layer is known as the sublayer, the one on top of it is called the middle layer, and then, there is the top layer which is also known as the footing.

The sublayer is made from compacted dirt and soil. This layer consists of built-up subsoil. The middle layer is usually about 4 to 6 inches thick. With this layer, the soil has to be of a better grade and the grains need to be of a particular size.

The footing can vary from arena to arena. It is quite common to find footing that is made from both organic and inorganic materials. The inorganic components are clay, silt, sand, and similar quarry products. The organic materials can include horse manure. Then, there are synthetic fibers added to this, so that there is more evenness among the particles. Rubber pieces are used quite often.

The Evolution of the Dressage Arena

Since horses have been used in battle for longer than anyone can remember, dressage actually has quite early beginnings. In fact, something resembling modern day dressage was actually mentioned by the Greek military commander Xenophon, around 400 BC. Therefore, it is no surprise that the arenas weren’t nearly as complex as they are today. While there is no written proof, it is quite probable that the horses were trained on large, even areas.

The Imperial Spanish Riding School of Vienna was perhaps the first official dressage arena and even today, many of the regulations still stand firm. However, it was not until around 1932 that the dressage markers made their formal debut. This was two decades after the sport had become an Olympic sport! After that, the markers actually became quite commonplace.

There are several theories as to why those particular letters were chosen, with the origins branching out to both Prussia and New Castle. As for the field itself, it is difficult to pinpoint the exact moment when it transformed into what you are familiar with today.

Nonetheless, there are two main reasons for why the various arenas are constructed the way that they are. For instance, compact dirt is used to ensure that the horse has even terrain to perform upon while being able to dispel the impact that its hooves make on the dirt. The actual composition of the layers changes from country to country as it depends on what is most available to that particular region. The flooring largely remains the same although here as well the materials are used to ensure that the horse has enough of grip upon the ground during the tests.

Tracks Similar to a Dressage Arena

Most equestrian arenas are built in a similar manner to a dressage arena. Of course, if the arenas aren’t following the official dimensions of the dressage arena, the size is sure to be different. The construction of such arenas, however, are surprisingly similar. This is because these arenas need to perform the same function for both horse and rider. Therefore, they have similar layers, footing, and drainage systems.

Of course, horse racetracks and dressage arenas are vastly dissimilar to one another. Not only are they larger and longer, the racetracks tend to be an elongated rectangle with curved ends.

These are some facts about official dressage arenas. What might look like a flat piece of land to you, actually has a lot more going on beneath the surface. There is a lot of care and maintenance that goes into such arenas to enable horses to perform to their full potential, as safely as possible.

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