Dressage Rings, Stone Dust, and Straight Lines

Tomorrow is our next dressage schooling show, and that means that today was the day to set up the dressage ring and complete all the other last-minute details for the arrival of the competitors.  I volunteered to help with the ring set up.  Why?  Because I’m not right in the head.  I also fit in a stop at a local rescue to drop off donations, a last-minute tune up ride, some limited grooming, and trailer loading before it was time to convene at the show grounds.  There were six of us plus the show manager to get the task done.  It seems so deceptively simple.  It is after all just a rectangle constructed of pre-formed plastic pylons and pre-cut rails.  (Thank goodness the days of the chain rings have gone the way of the dodo bird.)

So I just have to ask, how come in this day and age when technology can remotely start cars and keep us connected with friends and family in an instant, setting up a dressage ring is still a royal PITA?  I mean really, it is a physical and dirty task completed using tools that were available to our ancestors.  A hammer and metal spike are driven into the ground, a premeasured wire is walked to the other end of the arena, and then a string is pulled down the length of the wire.  The process is repeated on diagonals and the other three sides to complete the measurements.  Where is the technology to make this all happen in an instant?  Where are the frickin’ laser beams?

Then the fun starts for unloading the arena off the trailer.  By this time the volunteers are all sweaty so the stone dust crust from the rails decides that it would rather stick to arms and clothing.  Nice.  You next walk behind the trailer unloading the pylons and rails, and then you walk around again fitting the pieces together.  The letters are placed (All King Edward’s Horses Can Move Big Fences and don’t forget to RSVP).  Phew, you think you are done, but you are wrong…using the very sophisticated “eye-ball method,” you look down the long sides to check for straightness.  Even with that piece of string as your guide, it is amazing how crooked that line can be.  You then walk down the side again while someone at the corner gives you hand signals directing which way to push the pylons.  Again, so very high-tech and exact.  Is this how it goes at big events like the Olympics or do they have a faster, cleaner way to accomplish the task?  I’d love to know any secrets to successful ring setup that folks want to share.

Time to head to bed – early day down centerline tomorrow.

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