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.
Diane Followell Classical Dressage Trainer
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