What do the Dressage Letters REALLY mean?

remembering your dressage test

Recently, at our very first workshop, we were asked what the dressage letters mean. Or more specifically, why aren’t they A-B-C-D etc?

And it left us both a little stumped. Why isn’t it simple, and what do those letters mean? To start, let’s look at the dressage arena and the position of those letters.

In the 40x20m arena, the letters read A-K-E-H-C-M-B-F with D-X-G in the centre. In the 60x20m arena, there are a few extra letters: A-K-V-E-S-H-C-M-R-B-P-F with D-L-X-I-G in the centre. It’s certainly not straightforward, and no rhyme nor rhythm to the layout.





So where do these letters come from?

There are several theories as to where the letters came from, but unfortunately, the exact origin is no longer known.

dressage arena letter placements

The most plausible of the theories is to do with the Imperial German Court. Before 1918, markings where found on the walls of the stable yard of the Royal Manstall, which was used as an exercise yard and coincidentally measured thrice the length as the width – 60m x 20m! It appears these markings where to indicate the spot the groom would hold the horse in anticipation of his rider. The riders where (with the exception of A, which stands for Ausgang (exit) and C, which has no correlation):

  • K – Kaiser: Emperor/King
  • V – Vassal: Squire
  • E – Ehrengast: Honoured Guest
  • S – Schzkanzler: Chancellor
  • H – Hofsmarshall: Lord Chancellor
  • M – Meier: Steward
  • R – Ritter: Knight
  • B – Bannertrager: Standard Bearer
  • P – Pferknecht: Groom
  • F – Furst: Prince

There are no definitions for the centre line marker letters.

How can you remember the dressage markers?

When the letters have neither rhyme nor reason, it makes it difficult to imagine your dressage layout in the arena, and therefore your test. Unless you have a photographic memory (oh how I wish!), you may end up resorting to the use of a mnemonic – a phrase or short sentence that helps you remember initials or letters.

There are many examples of this, and feel free to share yours, but here are a few:

  • Clockwise from entry: All King Victor’s Expensive Show Horses Can Manager Really Big Plastic Fences
  • (or my personal favourite) All King Victor’s Expensive Show Horses Can Make Really Pongy Farts
  • Centre Line: Doing Lots Xtra Is Good

How do you remember the letters?



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