Half pass, travers and renvers and are all excellent exercises for developing suppleness, performed in different places in the school.
Introduce travers with care or your horse will not produce travers but a twisted contortion. Start at the beginning of the long side of the school and maintain a slight inside bend with your inside leg. Do not over bend the horse. Lightly touch with your outside leg back to bring your horse's quarters to the inside. As with half pass use intermittent touches with your leg, and only use the leg as necessary so you don't rush your horse in the movement. Don't over bend them to the inside or the outside shoulder will fall away.
The wall on the long side can prevent forward movement, to resolve this ensure your horse is carrying the movement from the inside hind leg not the inside shoulder.
Renvers is the reverse of travers, the quarters are to the wall and the shoulders are on an inner track with the horse bent in the direction of the movement. To position your horse for renvers, turn on to an inner track on the long side of the school. Change to bend towards the outside of the school. As with travers use your outside leg (outside to the bend, which will be on the inside of the school) to move the horse's haunches towards the wall.
Travers and renvers can be ridden on a circle and are both very beneficial to the development of a horse’s suppleness, engagement and collection. Care must be taken to ensure that the horse is correctly round the rider's inside leg and not just crooked.
The picture below shows the position of a horse in half pass, travers and renvers. The red line represents the wall and you can see how in each exercise the position of the horse is the same.
Renvers is the final exercise in this quartet of lateral movements with shoulder-in, half pass and travers. Like travers, it is the same as half pass, but this time it is performed down the side of the school with the horse’s shoulders to the inside and, unlike shoulder-in, the bend is in the direction of the movement. If the travers and half pass are well established, renvers is a natural progression of these movements.
One way to start renvers is from half pass. Begin with a good well balanced half pass. As you approach the wall, gently step the quarters over a little with your outside leg, while slowing the shoulders with your inside rein towards the neck. Do not pull the rein back as this will block your horse’s hind leg and place him on the shoulder. The rein and leg action will advance the quarters the track, and once the quarters are on the track, maintain this position and angle down the side of the school.
An alternative method is from the long side. Ride a good corner so your horse is well balanced on the long side of the school. Change the bend to the outside and then bring the horse’s shoulders in with a delicate movement of the hands towards the inside of the school. The outside leg sends the outside hind leg under the horse’s body.
With some horses I find that transitions between shoulder-in and renvers have a good suppling effect and can significantly engage the quarters. To ride this, start in a good walk shoulder-in and then after several steps, change the bend so the horse is positioned in renvers. Be very careful that you can retain the balance or the horse will drop into the shoulder again.
As with half pass, travers develops the strength and flexibility of the hind leg as the leg steps under the body mass and carries the weight across. Travers is essentially a half pass ridden down the long side of the school, the main difference being the entry to the movement. In this exercise, the quarters are brought to the inside with the shoulders remaining on the original line of travel. The horse is now bent in the direction of travel with the outside hind leg crossing the inside hind leg.
If the horse has been taught a correct shoulder-in this movement is easy to perform. Start with a good circle at the beginning of the long side, ride the corner very correctly with the horse well balanced and round the inside leg. Maintaining an inside flexion, have a moment of straightness as you come out of the corner and then, lightly ask your horse to bring the quarters to the inside with delicate touches from the outside leg behind the girth. Stay balanced and move in the direction of travel. It may help to drop your inside knee down a little so you stay with the movement and don’t tip to the outside.
When the horse is confident with travers on the long side, bring him on to a large 20m circle in travers. This further engages the hind quarters and is a developmental exercise for pirouettes. Travers on smaller circles can only be performed in walk and canter due to the mechanics of the paces.
Diane Followell Classical Dressage Trainer