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What are the letters in the arena for, anyway?




Outside of High Hopes, the letters are used in the discipline of dressage as markers for specific movements and gaits during a dressage test. For consistency sake, we use the same letters in the same places, though we are generally not completing dressage tests during our lessons (even though it might make more sense to some to just do letters in alphabetical order). In lessons, instructors often use these letters to indicate where a rider should halt, circle, walk, or trot. Instructors might say something like “cut across the arena from E to B”, “come down the quarter line” or “stay on the C side of the arena”.

Below, please find some other common terms you might hear instructors use in a lesson. If you’re in a lesson and encounter a term you have not heard before, ALWAYS ask!


  • Change Rein- Change directions
  • Half circle to reverse- these are used to change direction. Please be sure to bring your half circle just about to the quarter line so as not to ask the horses to make an overly tight turn.
  • Figure-8 (in green): Two connecting circles with a change of direction in the middle. Can be done from both directions.
  • Serpentine (in red): serpentines can be done with one, two, three, and four loops and from both directions. The one shown above in red is a 3-loop serpentine.
  • 2-horse space- To maintain safe spacing, there should be enough room for two horses between each horse.
  • A horse train- When horses walk one after the other in a line, doing the same activities.
  • On the rail- horse is walking/trotting within a couple feet of the wall
  • On the inside track- horse is walking/trotting 10-15 feet off the wall
  • Track Left/Track Right- tracking left is when the horses right side is against the wall (on the outside). Tracking right is when the horses left side is against the wall (on the outside).
  • Across the diagonal (blue lines)- When tracking left, should occur from H to X to F to change direction. When tracking right, should occur from M to X to K to change direction.
  • On the Outside-relating to the side of the horse that is closest to the wall
  • On the Inside- relating to the side of the horse that is closest to the arena center
  • When the mounting ramp is down– Please stay on the C end, not crossing the E-X-B line

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