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Building a Partnership with Your Horse: WESTERN DRESSAGE Mathematics of the Dressage Ring by Lynn Palm

Lynn Palm

Lynn Palm

You might have thought you left math behind once you finished school. Not quite! I’ve found that the “mathematics” of the dressage ring make riding with accuracy so much fun and also build your skills as a rider so I want to share some tips that I’ve found helpful.

Lynn Palm, I will use the “math” with the size of dressage ring that is most commonly used, which is 20 meters by 60 meters.

First, as Americans we have to know that 1 meter equals 3’3”. I use the 3-foot measurement to make it easier. (Those extra 3 inches don’t make that much of a difference when you are riding within the arena and doing figures.)

1. The lines that are defined are the Short Side (width and only has letter A & C), and is 20 meters or 66’. Also the Long Side (length which has 5 letters), is the 60 meters or 198’.
2. Along with the defined lines, there are also some imaginary lines in the arena, starting with the center line from A to C dividing the length of the arena. There are several imaginary letters on the center line, with X being the first you’ll learn.  X is the center of the center line and also the center of the middle of the width within in the imaginary line from E & B.
3. There are two imaginary quarter lines. Each quarter line defines the distant half way between the long side of the arena and the center line. This imaginary line runs the length of the arena on each side of the center line.
4. There are also imaginary lines within each distance of the length of the arena at each set of letters; meaning there are imaginary lines between K & F; V & P; E & B; S & R; and H & M.
5. Math of the center line: it divides 10 meters on each side of the center line.
6. Math between the letters on the long side: there are always 6 meters from the first letter from the 4 corners of the arena. Then there are 12 meters dividing each other letter on the long side of the ring. These are the basics of what you need to know to ride your side figures with the correct size and with accuracy.

In your first levels—Introductory and Basic in Western Dressage—you have to learn to do figures such as a 20 meter circle. Let’s ride one at A, which is in either level.

You have 6 meters from the corner, or the short side line with A. There are 12 meters at the imaginary line of K & F. That equals 18 meters. To ride an accurate 20 meter circle, you have to make it 2 meters bigger, past the imaginary line of K & F or approximately 6 feet. The size should mark the 6 feet larger at the first half circle on the center line. This is doing the “math” to ride with accuracy.

Start and finish any figure or transition when your horse’s shoulder or your leg meets the letter, near the rail.

I can’t recommend highly enough the Dressage Illustrated books for the various levels. I use them all the time myself. They have so much valuable and necessary information about all the levels and tests, which you can use as your guideline to learn figures, transitions, and where to “do the math” within the size of the figures. These Western Dressage level books all have laminated pages, making it convenient to take them to the barn.

I always tell riders to learn to ride figures first and then the whole test. The best way to do this is to walk the figures on the ground without your horse. You have to use your vision to find the correct distance and where to go. Once you feel confident, then mount up and walk the figures with your horse before you move on to a jog. And of course, any lope is the most difficult and should only be done when you can do the correct size of any figure at the walk and trot first.

Understanding the “math” of the dressage ring gives you a plan to have a perfect practice with your horse.

We love to share our dressage backgrounds and knowledge with you and would love to have you come ride with us. You can join us at our farm in Ocala, Florida, or at one of our Ride Well Clinics on our USA Tour at a location near you.

If you would like to train with Lynn & Cyril at home with Western Dressage, take advantage of the following supportive training materials:


Head To Toe Horsemanship
Western Dressage – A Guide To Take You
To Your First Show
A Rider Guide To Real Collection


“Dressage Principles for the Western Horse & Rider” Volume 1, Parts 1-5
“Dressage Principles for The Western & English Horse & Rider” Volume 2, Parts 1-3
“Let Your Horse Be Your Teacher” Parts 1 & 2
Books:                                                                                                                                     Head To Toe Horsemanship                                                                                               Western Dressage—A Guide to Take You to Your First Show                                                   A Rider Guide to Real Collection
DVDs:                                                                                                                           “Dressage Principles for the Western Horse & Rider” Volume 1 Parts 1-5                        “Dressage Principles for the Western & English Horse & Rider” Volume 2, Parts 1-3               “Let Your Horse Be Your Teacher” Parts 1&2


For more information on these training materials and more, as well as clinics, please visit or call us at 800-503-2824.




This article was printed in Performance Horse Digest, Volume 9, Issue 6

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