If you know how long it takes for your horse to trot around the outside of a dressage arena, it could help to reduce one small source of anxiety you might have while showing.
When the 60-second rule to enter at A after the judge’s bell was reduced a decade ago to 45 seconds, the first thing I did was time my mare (16 hands, normal-length stride) since I didn’t want to be glancing at my watch at that moment. I knew it took about 60 seconds to make a complete circuit, so I wanted to know what the sweet spot for 45 seconds would be. Turned out that spot was near E or B. That meant that the “norider zone,” where I would need to do a 180-degree turn when the bell rang, was between A and E/B, and elsewhere I could just continue with the track I was on.
Here’s the deal: I am beginning to suspect that many riders either don’t know about the 45-second rule or overestimate how far their horse can go in that time. It’s not that judges are hot to eliminate someone for this rule before he or she has even entered the ring. They aren’t. And they can’t eliminate someone unless they are paying close attention to a stopwatch, which they won’t be when busy writing comments on the previous test, checking the day sheet, sorting out rider numbers and dodging the occasional wasp dislodged earlier from the booth’s rafters.
Therefore, riders fudge this issue in many instances when unknowingly taking a lot longer than 45 seconds or even 60 seconds to locate the gate at A. The ugly moment of truth could come, however, at a show when the ring runs really late or maybe at a championship when the judge at C will be directed by show management to be more on top of this.