Dressage Arena Dimensions - To the Rail versus To the Rail Support?

I am setting up a new 20 x 60 meter dressage arena. For the borders I am using vinyl rails held by pyramidal rail supports. These supports, pictured below, extend 6 inches in front of the rails themselves.

Are the arena dimensions measured and set up to the bottoms of the rail supports, since they extend into the arena riding space, or is the arena dimension measured to the rail, regardless of the impingement of the rail supports into the riding space?

I am getting mixed answers from my experts at home, including riders, judges, and clinicians. Answers are (1) to the rails, of course, (2) to the bottoms of the supports, (3) take your pick, it really isn’t critical; it’s only a one foot difference, and (4) that’s never come up before, I don’t know…

What’s an arena builder to do?


If the rule book doesn’t clarify, then to the rail.

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I would think that 20x60 would be measured to the inside of the rail. Not the rail support.

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I am impressed that someone has such fine control of their horse’s path that 3 inches makes a difference. I sure don’t . :stuck_out_tongue:
But seriously, the rails and the supports help you make the arena the proper size.


Interesting dilemma! My totally uninformed tendency would be to measure to the rail, figuring that if it were a vertical wall you would always be slightly inside to allow room for the horse’s barrel and your leg!

I hope somebody with experience setting up rings for shows will answer. Surely some of them have similar bases?

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I’m pretty sure my college has the exact same ring. Whenever we set it up, we just knew how many boards it was supposed to be across each end. Unfortunately, I can’t recall what that number was.

The boards are generally 4 m. So 5 across the short ends, and 10 (small) or 15 (standard) on the long side. But there is some flexibility on the clearance between the boards ( in the rail support) so you could still set it either “to the rail” or “to the support”.

I have always assumed the measurement was “rail to rail”. ignoring any intrusion by the “support”. But I am not an authority on setting up arenas. I have always considered that is is far more important that

  • the sides are really straight
  • the corners are really 90 degrees
    than the exact inches to the dimensions of the arena.

I was avoiding real work today. The rules are written as if the rails are just rails and tape on them mark the letter. The letters are outside of the rails. Measure to the rails.

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Just a point, my rails are 3M. Makes setting the letters really easy. It’s a really old Dressage USA (?) arena, three rail sections that attach to each other. (and it’s for sale in Ocala…)


I am using 16 foot vinyl fence boards purchased from Lowes. They were way less expensive (and no shipping) than the shorter boards that come from Burlingham - which I believe is the supplier/manufacturer for the dressage arena kits marketed by Premier Equestrian , Dover Saddlery, and other middlemen arena equipment retailers. So I can adjust my new arena size as I install it.


If your rails are really 3 meters, it is easy to make 60 meters, but how do you make 40 meters and 20 meters?

They are “Really 3 Meters”.
The 20M short side is made by 6 rail sections leaving a 2M opening at both A and C.
I dont make 40… so, not an issue. If I had to I would just move the short side rails in. the “corners” do not connect together so that would not be a problem. \

Perhaps this is why these rails are no longer made…?

How are you supporting the rails?

As I watch the dressage rider I sponsor work with my horse, I see frequently a few hoof prints that are partially under the rail. This happens without the rail itself actually being touched. But the same action where there is a rail support would move the support and rail. Is this “leaving the arena?”

I have a Premier Equestrian Wellington arena. The white vinyl support pyramids extend into the arena 6 inches beyond the inner face of the arena boards.

no. It is not leaving the arena. Horses can in fact touch the rail, even knock it down - and that is not leaving the arena either… although it does say something about steering and/or response to the aids and/or crookedness…

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Interesting - I had the chance to ask an experienced dressage judge this question last week, and she told me that all 4 feet must be outside the fence to be “ leaving the arena.”

I have been watching dressage tests for 40 years now, and have seen this happen exactly one time.

Just remembered something about the typical rail/support system - the supports have a “flat side” and a “sloped side”. The “flat side” only protrudes a few inches into the arena past the rail; the “sloped side” is deeper to support the system.

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Hmmm. I’ve done it twice at schooling shows. First time, it was the first test on an ex hunter/jumper. As we approached the corner, I asked for the canter (training level). He kindly picked up the canter and cantered straight out over the end rail. Second time, horse did a dirty duck out the in gate.

Same here. Second show switching a hunter over to a dressage career, and as I was approaching the corner in canter, it didn’t even occur to me that he might think it was a jump. He lifted his front end over, saw the outer fence beyond the one he was jumping and paused to figure out what was wrong, then awkwardly lifted the hind end over, too, and stood there.

The judge was lovely and let us come back into the ring and finish our test even though we were eliminated, and even scored our remaining movements. Not sure if that made it better or worse, since it turned out we would have won had we not been eliminated (thankfully I reminded him he needed to turn in the following class and we redeemed ourselves).

The Wellington dressage arena, from Burlingham Sports, and sold by drop shipment by many places such a Dover, Premier Equestrian, and SmartPak, and which is used by most dressage shows I have seen, has the supports you describe. I have a Wellington dressage arena myself. The inner portion of the rail supports protrude exactly 6 inches at ground level into the arena space. If, of course, the arena space is defined by the inner faces of the rails.