Even if you never plan to ride a dressage test, arena letters are handy to have. They mark the outside of your riding ring and give you focus points so you can make turns, circles and other maneuvers more accurately. Even western riders can find a marked ring or arena useful.
Arena SizesStandard dressage arena dimensions are 20m x 60m (66' x 198') and small dressage arena dimensions are 20m x 40m (66' x 132'). If you are building a riding ring and have the space, stake out the larger arena size. If you actually plan to ride dressage tests, you will probably start out riding in the smaller arena. You can move in the end markers for the shorter distance. However, the larger arena is nice to have for general schooling, or if you plan to jump and don’t have room to build a separate ring for your fences.
Letters and Placement
The letters you’ll need to make or buy for the small arena are AKEHCMBF. (See image 1) (Remember this by the acronym All King Edward’s Horses Can Make Big Fences or make up your own.) The letters A and C mark the center point of the short side of the arena at 10 m (33’). Place letters H, M, F and K 6m (19’8”) from the ends. E and B mark the middle of the long sides and are 20 m (65’ 7”) from either end. Down the center line between A and C are letters DXG with X the center of the arena. DXG aren’t generally marked unless you have a way to do it overhead.
The letters for the larger arena are AKVESHCMRBPF with DLXIG assumed but not marked down center line between A and C. (Remember this one with All King Edwards Horses Can Manage Big Fences with an RSVP). (See image 2) Place H, M, F and K 6m (19’8”) from the ends.
B and E on the middle of the long sides are 30m (98’5”) from the end of the arena and the other letters RSVP are spaced 12m (39’4”) on either side of B and E. X is the center of the arena and D lines up between F and K with the other letters lining up with the letters on the sides of the arena.
Making or Buying Letters
You can buy letters or you can make your own. In an indoor arena, laminated computer printed letters work great and lamination for eight letters will probably cost less than $20. Just tack the letters up on the walls.
For outdoors you can buy nice letters, or be creative and make your own. Alternatively, try stick-on letters on upturned buckets, garbage cans, or on pylons. You can also recycle lumber, such as cutting broken 2 inch (5 cm) thick fence planks into 16 12 inch (30 cm) sections. Paint them them and nail them into T’s so turned upside down, they stand by themselves. (See Image 3). They look nice and recycle old wood that wouldn't otherwise have a use.