From Endurance to Dressage
I've never kept my horses anywhere that had a true dressage court. Maybe someday... At the last barn where I boarded, the owner was fine with me laying poles from Home Depot on the ground to form a short dressage court. When I moved to the current ranch where my boys live now, I just never set my poles up again. For First Level, and even Second Level, the lack of a measured space didn't seem to have too much of an impact on my dressage scores. The same can't be said of Third.
After last weekend's show, I showed up bright and early to the ranch and asked if it would be okay to assemble a dressage court. The ranch owner is a kind woman and supports Speedy and me however she can. She instructed Reggie, the ranch's doer of things, to drag the arena and bring my poles over with the tractor. I spent the next two hours measuring and placing poles. I ended up with a 20 x 48-meter dressage court.
With my poles laid out, I added my orange cones that have the letters taped to one side. Since it's not 60-meters long, I had to decide where to modify the length. I subtracted 2.5 meters from each 12-meter section, and 1-meter from each 6-meter section. While it's tight at H,M,F, and K, it will feel like I have oodles of room once I am back in a standard length court.
The first day I rode in my new space, I wanted to kick myself for not setting up my poles THREE YEARS ago when I first moved to the ranch. It was a whole different experience riding from letter to letter and actually using a measured-out center line. I could see how this is going to improve my test riding accuracy as well as the over-all quality of our movements.
With my spaced measured out, I decided that the cones weren't a good every day solution. I've used them before, but not only are they hard to see, any time there is a puff of wind, they get knocked over and blown away. I've had to hunt them down after a windy evening, and I didn't really relish the idea of looking for them every morning. I went back to the ranch owners and asked if they had something heavy that could serve as my letters. No they didn't but what about using ...
A quick trip to the grocery store, and I had just what I needed. I bought square water jugs and printed two of each letter on a piece of paper so that I could apply a letter to the "front" and "side" of each jug. This way, I was able to angle the jugs so that I can see the letter no matter from which direction I ride.
I cut the letters to size with a paper cutter and affixed them to each jug with packaging tape. For less than $10 (I already had 4 jugs), I had new letters that wouldn't blow over, were essentially water proof, and were cheap to replace if kicked or damaged.
The whole project took me less than an hour, and they look really good! I even added the center line letters in red although I can't see them when riding. That's something I can always fix later on.
I was pleasantly surprised by how easy they are to see while riding. If I thought having long sides and a 20-meter short side were helpful, having letters is a game changer! As I rode, I was able to keep my figures much more round and even, particularly on Izzy. Even he seemed to like the new set-up. It was like driving a car out in a field versus driving on the freeway with marked lanes. Izzy just seemed to know where I wanted him to go!
We're supposed to have one last lesson tonight before Sunday's CDS-show. I can't wait for Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, to see my new work space. Hopefully it will help me improve my geometry. It certainly can't make it any worse!
If you're interested in using water jugs yourself, or some other similar material, I'm leaving a pdf of the arena Ietters I created. Just download and print.
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%: