No matter how you ride, arena letters are useful. If you ride western and never plan to ride a dressage test, arena letters can help you plan your schooling. 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 pleasure trail riders, jumping and others can find a marked ring or arena useful.
Standard 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 you can stake out the larger arena size. If you 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. Indoor arenas can be marked with signs from the ceiling for the letters that indicated points within a dressage ring, such as the X in the middle of the ring.
Letters and Placement for a Small Dressage Arena
The letters you’ll need to make or buy for the small arena are A K E H C M B F. (See image 2) (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 isn’t generally marked unless you have a way to do it overhead.
Letters and Placement for a Standard Dressage Arena
The letters for the larger arena are A K V E S H C M R B P F with D L X I G 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 in 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. You could also simply paint the letters on the walls. If you own a personal CNC like a Silhouette or Cricut, you’ll be able to cut your letters from vinyl or design stencils.
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 in. (5 cm) thick fence planks into sixteen 12 in. (30 cm) sections. Paint 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.