Travers, half pass and renvers are essentially the same movement, ridden in different places in the school. They are a lateral movement in which the horse steps forwards and sideways in the direction of the bend, unlike shoulder in where the horse steps away from the bend.
Travers is ridden down the side of the school with the horse’s head facing down the track and the quarters brought in away from the wall.
Renvers is the reverse of travers in that the quarters remain on the track, the shoulders are brought in away from the wall and the bend is in the direction of the movement.
Half pass is ridden diagonally across the school with the bend in the direction of the movement.
All these exercise develop the strength and flexibility of the hind leg as the leg steps under the body mass and carries the weight across.
It is common to start these movements by training travers first, although at times I find it can be more beneficial to start with half pass. In travers, sometimes the horse backs off from the movement because they are facing the wall and you lose the forward impetus or the wall acts to hold them on the line and they are not correctly responding to the aids.
In half pass it is necessary for the horse to respond well to the half halt and outside leg or they can just move forward through the rider’s aids and not have any side steps at all. The decision on whether to start with travers or half pass is dependent on each horse and rider combination.
To prepare for either half pass or travers, start when your horse can do shoulder-in well and in balance, begin by developing shoulder-in on a circle. Start by ask for the position of shoulder-in on the long side and then take a few steps through the corner (slowing the shoulder and advancing the quarters) so you are in shoulder-in at exactly the same angle on the next side. Then, when this is coming easily, continue round a large circle, until the horse is able to maintain a consistent correct balance throughout.
To continue with half pass, ride shoulder-in from the long side to the center line. Ensure that the shoulder-in remains light and the inside hind leg leads the movement, not the outside shoulder. Stay in shoulder-in for a few steps on the center line, without altering the position of the aids. Very delicately, with small touches use the outside leg behind the girth and send the horse’s quarters in the direction of the bend. Only ask for 1 or 2 steps to begin with and gradually increase the number of steps as the horse gains confidence and strength. The quality of the steps is more important than the number of steps.
When you are in half pass, the inside leg becomes more important. The horse should remain round the rider’s inside leg and the outside leg is indicative only. The inside rein should not be pulled back as this blocks the horse’s inside hind leg and creates a twisted horse. The outside rein should remain in light contact so that the horse is still inside leg to outside hand.
In my next blog I will look at developing travers.
Lateral work is essential in developing suppleness, balance and collection in your horse, and includes shoulder-in, travers, half pass and renvers. A correct shoulder-in, creates a horse with a lowered hind quarter and raised forehand. In the beginning, use shoulder-in to build a strong supple horse, and later use it to correct problems with more advanced movements. Incorrectly ridden, it only creates a crooked, blocked horse with weight in the forehand.
The movement shoulder-in is described in the book ‘A General System of Horsemanship’ by William Cavendish, Duke of Newcastle published in 1600’s, and was seen as an exercise to supple horses. The following century François de la Guérinière’s work lead him to a full understanding of the benefits of shoulder-in, he also developed it’s use on a straight line.
A shoulder-in is created by moving the horses shoulders off the line of travel, and the horse continues in a sideways movement with his hind legs on the original line of travel and his body evenly bent round the rider’s inside leg.
I prefer to start teaching shoulder-in by using quarters out on the circle. Other trainers favour the use of leg yield or turn on the forehand, which are perfectly acceptable methods, but I find that these exercises can put weight back onto the horse’s shoulder, whereas quarters out on the circle keeps the forward movement, prevents weight dropping into the shoulders, mobilises the quarters and maintains better balance.
Quarters out on the circle can be started as soon as the horse has reasonably good balance on the circle. It is ridden by using the inside leg to send the quarters slightly out of the circle. This aid is supported by the outside rein and a slight turning of the rider’s body to the inside of the circle with a balanced seat.
In shoulder-in it is important that the horse is bent throughout his body, the degree of angle will depend on the horse’s level of training and conformation. The exercise should be ridden slowly, and in walk the steps should not be too wide or the horse’s back will become hollow, and you should feel the horse’s weight remains on the inside hind, not the outside shoulder.
The rider should sit well balanced in the center of the saddle, it is very easy to allow your body to tip to the inside which will unbalance the horse. Move the horse’s shoulders over by a slight movement of the hands to the inside, don’t pull the inside rein as this will block the horse. Use light touches with the inside leg step the inside hind leg across and half halts to help the horse stay on line. Once the horse understands the movement, the rider should stay quiet in the saddle, moving with the horse, and be attentive to the steps ready to make a correction if needed.
Nuno Oliveira from “An Old Master trainer to Young Trainers”
Practice shows us that a horse cannot give his back before being curved (laterally) around the inside leg.
The rider who turns the head to the inside without the horse first relaxing in the inside curve of his body only achieves a twisted and resisting position of the head.
It is the inside leg which is active, and what is necessary is that the horse turns the head around the inside leg without having more weight on either the inside shoulder or the outside shoulder.
Nuno Oliveira from “Horses and Their Riders”
One must enter the circle with the outside shoulder of the rider going forwards, parallel to the outside shoulder of the horse and not with an action of the inside rein.
He [the horse] should make circles, in spirals, making them bigger or smaller by the rider’s legs, which guide and control the horse’s body on each circle.
Diane Followell Classical Dressage Trainer