From Endurance to Dressage
While I don't have a true dressage court, I will never complain about my riding space. The ranch where my boys live is on the river which means we have fabulously sandy footing with some extras. When this arena was built, the ranch owners created a level area, and then brought in a DG top layer that is firm without being hard packed. To make it even better, every other year or so, she applies ArenaKleen, a product that virtually eliminates dust.
I use round fence poles, two by fours, PVC pipe, and water jugs to create my court. The arena is wider than the 20-meters we need, but short 10-meters making it a 20- x 50-meter court. My corners are accurate, but the rest of the letters on each long side are separated by 9.5 meters instead of 12. It's a bit short, but for everyday riding, it works well. The one thing we don't get to do too often though is drag it. Removing all of the poles and letters is just too much work for frequent dragging, but with only three riders and firm footing, it really doesn't need it more than two or three times a year.
This winter, we've had way more rain than normal, and since we don't have a tractor implement with tines, we haven't been able to drag the surface to let the water drain through. This meant our K corner had standing water for the past four months. When we finally got a break in the weather, we decided that Monday was the day for an arena makeover. The wind was howling anyway which made for less than ideal riding weather. On Sunday afternoon, I dragged everything out so that we were ready to start work by 8:00 a.m. on Monday morning.
With a plan in place, we presented our idea to Reggie who does most of the maintenance at the ranch. He listened politely, but we quickly realized he had some better ideas. The main problem we had was that we had worn a groove down the long sides, especially in the corner at K. Our plan was to use the tractor's bucket as a blade to scrape the DG layer back into the groove. After a few trial passes, Reggie showed us how much DG he could safely drag without exposing the base layer. While he got to work, we watched raptly as he slowly transformed our riding space. Watching a tractor at work is a very Zen-like experience.
Reggie made his way around the arena, slowly but surely scraping the DG away from the edges of the arena and into the groove that we had created over the past several years. Most of the time, Reggie simply uses a heavy bar to smooth out the hoof prints. This was the first time we had asked him to move the footing back into place. The ranch owner and I were quite impressed with how carefully he was able to reposition two inches of footing without breaking through to the base layer.
Once Reggie had dragged the wayward dirt in from the edges, he was able to drag the tractor bucket over the top of the mounded dirt to fill in our groove. By the time he was finished, the groove was gone and the footing was once again level and smooth.
Once all of the dirt had been dragged in from the edges and the mounds smoothed out, Reggie attached the heavy bar and dragged it around knocking down any little bumps. By the time he was finished, we had a smooth sheet of DG that was level and smooth. All that was left was to remeasure the court and replace our "rails" and letters.
The ranch owner and I have measured out this court so many times now that we can get it all put back pretty quickly. We use a couple of giant T-squares, rocks as place holders, and a very long meter tape. We usually start by getting the short side at A measured out and then one of the long sides. The hardest part is getting the diagonal measurement, the hypotenuse, correct. Once we have that right, we know we have one proper corner which makes getting the other three pretty easy. The entire project, including the tractor work and relaying out the court, took us right about two hours exactly. Practice makes perfect.
Despite the blustery day, I couldn't resist riding on that freshly smoothed and leveled footing. There's nothing like laying down the first hoof prints in a recently dragged arena. I have at least one friend who knows exactly what that feels like. A freshly dragged arena is similar in feeling to a freshly filled hay barn.
Things only horse people can appreciate.
About the Writer and Rider
I am a lifelong rider.
I began endurance riding in 1996 where I ultimately completed five, one-day 100 mile races, the 200-mile Death Valley Encounter, and numerous other 50, 65, and 75 mile races. I began showing dressage in 2010.
Welcome to my dressage journey.
About Speedy G
Speedy went from endurance horse to dressage horse. After helping me earn a USDF Bronze medal in the summer of 2020, he is now semi-retired. Speedy is a 2004, 15'1 hand, purebred Arabian gelding. His Arabian Horse Registry name is G Ima Starr FA.
Izzy was started as a four-year old and then spent the next 18 months in pasture growing up. I bought him as a six-year old, and together, we are showing at the lower levels. He is a 2008, 16'3 hand warmblood gelding. His Rheinland Pfalz-saar International (RPSI) name is Imperioso.
National Rider Awards
State Rider Awards
State Horse Awards
CDS Sapphire Rider Award
Third Level: 63.514%
Third Level: 62.105%
2023 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
2023 Show Schedule
2023 Completed …
2023 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
Qualifying Training Level
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%: