An Exerpt From Dressage for the Not So Perfect Horse - Chapter 10: Travers and Renvers

Tuesday, November 4, 2014
Posted by Janet Foy


Both travers (haunches-in) and renvers (haunches-out) ask the horse to move in the direction of the bend. These are the first exercises that do so, and therefore, they are more difficult than leg-yield or shoulder-in. These two movements are required in the USEF Second Level tests. In travers, the forehand is on the line of travel and the haunches are displaced to the inside track. In renvers, the haunches are on the line of travel, and the forehand is moved to the inside track. Travers is one of my least favorite movements. I think it can put the horse on the forehand quite easily. It is also one movement where very few riders can really sit in the correct position. I have never given a “10” for a travers. Renvers on the other hand is very useful for many evasions. It can help put the horse more on the outside rein from the inside leg. It can help teach the horse not to push through the outside shoulder.
Don’t take your horse’s mistakes personally. Don’t train via emotion. Feel with your heart and ride with your mind.
Here are a couple of my Training Exercises and Solutions:

Exercise One: Testing the Outside Leg
Start with the horse’s shoulders going straight down the long side. You do not want as much neck bend as in a shoulder-in. Make sure your weight is to the inside and your inside leg is at the girth. Use your outside leg behind the girth actively for a few strides and move the haunches to the inside. You need your horse to give you a quick reaction to this aid. If not, go back and review the head-to-wall leg-yield.

Before the horse loses impulsion or tries to move the shoulders to the outside, ask him to go straight again and also use your inside leg to reinforce the “go-forward” aid. Do this three or four times down the long side.

For the rider, it is important that you keep your shoulders and the horse’s shoulders perpendicular to the long side. It will feel a bit as if you are ready for a Cirque du Soleil contortionist act. Your shoulders stay perpendicular, while your outside hip goes back, and your weight goes to the inside. You will feel quite a lot of stretch through the outside of your rib cage. You have to be aware that one direction will be very uncomfortable, and you will sit crookedly and incorrectly if you do not pay attention to this. We all know that the horse should be equally supple laterally, but for some reason, riders do not think about their own body being stiffer on one side.

Exercise Three: Maintaining the Line of Travel while Changing the Bend
This exercise helps with the transition from shoulder-in to renvers.
The main issue in riding the shoulder-in to renvers (as is required in the 2011 USEF Second Level 3), is maintaining the hindquarters on the rail while changing the bend.

I suggest you do this exercise at the walk first, until you can control the angles. Start out of the corner with a three-track shoulder-in. Do about 12 meters. Then take away the bending as you increase the angle to a four-track movement. You are really now in a tail-to-wall leg-yield position. Keep this for about 6 meters. During this time, move your weight and change your leg position. It is important that you secure the haunches on the rail first, before changing the bend.

Once you are in the correct position with your seat and legs, very slowly ask the horse to bend in the direction of travel or into a renvers. Remember, the shoulder-in is a three-track movement and the renvers is a four-track movement. That difference must be kept in mind when riding the changeover.

Want to learn more?
Dressage for the Not-So-Perfect Horse
Riding Through the Levels on the Peculiar, Opinionated, Complicated Mounts We All Love
by Janet Foy