To help dressage riders study their dressage tests, I created this dressage arena PDF. This printable dressage arena is great for printing actual paper copies of a dressage arena layout so that you can study and memorize your dressage test by tracing a pen or finger around a tiny paper dressage arena printed from this PDF.
Download A Printable Dressage Area PDF
I created this free printable dressage arena because I know just how frustrating it can be to be in the process of trying to prepare for horse show, bathing horses, bleaching tails, and cleaning tack, and have my attempts at downloading dressage study resources be blocked by paywalls that require payment.
As an alternative, this printable dressage arena can be downloaded free for anyone seeking a blank dressage arena that they can print and use for practice or test memorization at home. You don’t even need a printer to use this dressage arena template – you can open it in your favorite drawing tablet and practice your test using an apple pencil or stylus.
About this Dressage Arena Diagram PDF
This dressage arena represents a standard dressage arena and includes both a large dressage arena and a small dressage layout.
A full-size dressage arena, like the type used in Olympic competition, measures a full 20 m wide by 60 m long (that means the largest official dressage arena should be no more than 66 feet wide and x 198′ long) however, most dressage riders start out riding in a much smaller arena. The standard small dressage arena measures just 20 m x 40 m (that’s 66 feet – the same width as a large dressage arena – by 132 feet long).
The difference between a large dressage arena and a small dressage arena is in length, not width, since both layouts of dressage arenas are 20 m (66 feet) wide, but the smaller dressage arena is 20 m shorter in length than the Olympic size dressage arena. Dressage arenas are often (but not always) fenced, and dressage arena fencing can range from small pylons connected by thin rope to full-size standard fences.
How to Memorize a Dressage Test
How to Memorize a Dressage Test
Study your Dressage Test Digitally
Use a printed copy of an empty dressage arena as a digital background for digitally practicing your dressage test. You can use a tablet-based app like Procreate to open my printable dressage arena file in a drawing app.
Set the dressage arena as the background, add a layer, and use the pen or stylus to practice your test over and over on the layer overlaying be the dressage arena in the background.
The advantage of digital practice for your dressage test is that you won’t need to waste paper tracing your test over and over on a physical sheet of paper. A disadvantage, however of practicing a dressage test on a digital drawing out, is that some research suggests that study on screens is not as effective as a study using printed materials. While the original research on this focused on students studying academic material that they would later be tested on, it’s reasonable to assume that the same results would bear true for riders studying dressage tests.
Print and Study a Blank PDF Dressage Arena
Probably one of the oldest ways to study for a dressage test (other than riding the pattern so many times the horse might become too familiar with it!), is to use pen and paper to trace your dressage test by physically moving your pen across a printed or drawn dressage arena.
This study method has the advantage of putting physical pen to paper, a practice which has been shown to boost test scores in academia, and has been trusted by dressage riders as a way to memorize a dressage test for generations.
By spending a few minutes printing out this printable dressage arena, you can have a plain printed dressage arena to practice your test at home without even needing to saddle up your horse.
Use Mindfulness to Memorize your Dressage Test
Using mindfulness practices to study this printable dressage arena is likely the most effective way to study for dressage tests, since researchers have linked mindfulness practices with improvements in working memory (i.e. the ability to recall important information when we need it). It’s how I recommend that the riders that I coach memorize their dressage tests.
To harness the benefits of mindfulness and visualization to make your dressage test studying more effective, began by printing out this printable dressage arena. Sit in a quiet space where you can concentrate, with the printed dressage arena on a table in front of you. Now, use a pen or simply the tip of your finger to run your finger along the printed dressage arena in the pattern of the test you are studying.
As you progress through each movement of the dressage test, use your imagination to visualize each movement. Instead of thinking “begin 20 meter circle”, as you study your dressage test, think to yourself about the body sensations you feel when you begin a 20 m circle on your horse. Combining imagining a sensory experience with studying using a printed dressage arena can be an incredibly effective way to study dressage tests for more effective, and faster memorization (source).
- A printed dressage arena
- Pen, pencil, or your finger
- A quiet space to study.
Growing up in the Midwest, dressage arenas were anything but commonplace. As a kid growing up in a town that was far more familiar with rodeo arenas than dressage rings, these unique horse riding arenas were a rare sight.
While other kids my age memorized the divisions of a football field, theater stage cues, or three-point lines of the basketball court, I was committing the layout of a dressage arena to memory. Although I didn’t start riding dressage until my early 20s, from a young age, I knew that I wanted to experience this unique form of English horseback riding.
Riding in dressage arenas struck me as a more elegant and human form of riding than the small-town rodeos I’d seen in my rural town. Dressage seemed elegant and lovely – everything I wish to be as a horse crazy kid that drove my parents crazy with endless talk of horses, horseback riding, what to wear horseback riding, and dressage.
When I began riding and competing in dressage on my first Bashkir Curly horse in 2005, all that book knowledge paid off – while it took a lot of hard work to develop the coordination and muscle strength needed for a good seat, my study of dressage and the dressage arenas – both big and small- was a huge leg up in preparing for dressage competitions.
Dressage competition requires that riders memories a series of movements within an arena. Many riders ride their tests in practice a few times, as a way to help memorize the order, but avoid too many repetitions. Riding the pattern too many times can result in a horse that, when it comes time for the actual test, is less responsive to a rider’s cues.
When studying for a dressage test, memorizing your tests, and where you’ll be required to ride the rail, where you’ll need to make circles, and what diagonals you’ll be expected to ride along the arena are essential for getting high scores from the judge. One of the most effective ways to study for a dressage test is by drawing or printing out a blank dressage arena and tracing your test patterns over and over on the printed dressage arena.
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If you need a break from studying dressage arenas, you can check out these books to help prepare you and your horse for riding! The Equine Listenology Guide is helpful in cultivating a deeper bond and knowing how to best work with your horse, while the You Can Train Your Horse to Do Anything! book helps you – well, train your horse to do anything. 😉