Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Building your Cowboy Dressage court

Dan and I have been busy putting together our Cowboy Dressage court for the upcoming season of Lucky Duck Ranch's CD ride nights.  We began hosting Thursday night ride nights a few years ago and they have grown into a summer Thursday evening tradition that we all look forward to.

Last summer we started playing with the Cowboy Dressage challenge court pattern.  We didn't work on any set tests but worked on different elements using the Cowboy Dressage challenge court as our play ground.  It was so much fun to have a play ground to play with. We would take turns making up different patterns to challenge each other with.  This year we will have a new and better court set up so that we can ride both regular tests as well as challenge tests.

I thought it might be helpful to talk about how we went about setting up our court so that we might save a step or two for other folks out there getting their CD court all set up.

Last year we used ground poles and cones for our court.  This year we are using  PVC pipe.  We had a little bit of trouble finding the right kind of PVC when we went to Home Depot.  For the plumbing uninitiated the pipe that you are after is the light weight drain pipe in either the 3 or 4 inch.  We decided to go with the 3 inch in order to save just a little bit of money and because the fittings that we needed in 4 inch were low in stock.

In order to put together the CD challenge court you will need 10 5' sections.  Conveniently they come in 10 foot lengths, so you will need 10 of those.  For the ground poles I recommend end caps on each end so they are more stable and don't fill with dirt and water.  12 of those 5 foot sections will be ground poles so you need 24 end caps.  To build the octagon you need 8 5 foot sections and 8 45 degree elbows as connectors.

We cut our 10 foot sections with just a chop saw.  They are easy to cut through and I imagine a hand saw would work just as easily if you are opposed to power tools.  The lengths of drain pipe have a plastic adaptor at one end.  We cut those off and then cut the lengths in half.  It ends up being slightly less than 5 feet, but that won't matter in the long run.

After cutting all our pipe sections it was time to get our letters ready to go.  We purchased the large set of Cowboy Dressage vinyl letters from Cowboy Dressage World.  We searched and searched for the most economical way to make markers.  You can purchase large cones that the markers can be added too.  What we found was that most of the markers that are made for dressage already have the letters on them.  So, we chose to use 5 gallon buckets.  They are economical and hardy and sturdy and the letters fit on them well.  We had to search a little to find the buckets that didn't have the logo of the large hardware store already on them.  Our local hardware store had plain white buckets.  We were going to buy the orange ones from home depot and paint them but were lucky to track down the plain white ones.

If you buy your letters from Cowboy Dressage and are going to be putting them on 5 gallon buckets, be sure they will fit!  I had to trim down all of our letters to make them fit on the buckets we were able to find.  It won't matter in the long run, but a few of my brands are missing the points at the top and bottom.

Next come laying out the court.  We use our arena for various other activities besides Cowboy Dressage and want to be able to quickly and accurately set up our court.  We have decided to use a marking system similiar to what the PRCA uses for placing the markers for barrel racing.  They hammer a large stake with flagging into the arena.  It is driven down below the surface so there is no risk of metal causing an injury to the horse, the flagging is the only part that rests on the surface of the arena.  You can work your arena right over the markers without trouble. We used bailing twine and horse shoes buried at the corners, middle, and mid points on all 4 sides.

Obviously there are other ways to go about setting up your CD court.  Last year we had just ground poles cleared from our property and letters stapled in the approximate areas around the arena.  Our arena was "eye-balled" and not exact.  We are excited this year to upgrade to a more dimensionally correct arena and easy to move arena pieces.  I can tell you that the tighter court is much more of a challenge! Below are the diagrams of the measurements both in feet and meters to help you set up your own court.

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