Preparation for travers/renvers
Posted by Irina Yastrebova on Saturday, December 29, 2012 09:45 AM
Travers/renvers exercise is a lateral movement and considered a collecting exercise. It is more difficult than a shoulder-in because a horse has to bend into the direction of the movement. This is not easy, it requires very supple haunches. It is not easy for a rider neither, requires ability to create a twist through the whole spine and control of the posture during the movement. I will not go here into details on what travers/renvers are and how exactly ride them. Please find that information in the books, dressage competition rules or Youtube where you can watch them.
However, there are exercises that can introduce a horse or a rider for that matter to the challenges of travers without actually asking for one.
Turn on the forehand
Even though most riders are very familiar with this exercise there is another version of it not well-known in North America. This time you ride a turn on the forehand with the flexion into the direction of the turn. To be ready to do it you need to make your regular turn without much help from the reins. If your horse requires you to flex him away from the direction of the movement before he responds to your leg aid you are not ready for this exercise. Work on teaching your horse that only leg aid is the primary aid for the turn. Hands control the position and balance of the forehand.
When you start to feel your horse understands and moves off the leg easily ask him for the flexion while asking him for a turn. For example, you are turning haunches to the right, ask your horse to flex his head to the right so you can see the corner of his right eye. He must continue the turn. Eventually your turn should look like this:
    We are riding a turn on the forehand with haunches moving to the right.
  • Walk on a bit on a straight line away from walls. Ask for a flexion to the right. The flexion happens at the poll, the horse is not bent. Shorten or collect your walk strides.
  • Bring your left leg behind the girth and ask your horse for a turn on the forehand without halting.
  • Control the forehand enough so horse's front legs keep walking almost on a spot. Keep the right flexion.
  • Start with quarter-turn. Eventually train your horse to do a full turn.
Leg-yield along the wall
If your horse knows how to perform a regular leg-yield head toward the wall you can ask him to change his flexion toward the direction of the movement. Most likely in the beginning you will realize your horse is not straight through his shoulders and more or less falling into leading shoulder of the leg-yield. Work toward making him absolutely straight so he moves along the wall at 30 to 40 degree angle with no flexion at all. This is not as easy as it sounds. Prepare to spend some time working with your horse every ride until you and him learns to stay straight. Teach the leg-yield in walk, practice enough in walk to develop your feel and build your horse's suppleness. Now you can change his flexion into the direction of the movement and he should continue to move sideways along the wall. This exercise is a good preparation for travers where you need to ask your horse to fully bend into the direction of the movement.
Positioning of the shoulders
This exercise teaches you to position and control your horse's shoulders in relation to his haunches. You will not just develop a better feel of your horse's body but also supple him and teach him to be more obedient and straight. Here is how to ride it:
  • Walk along the wall keeping your horse absolutely straight. Especially, pay attention that the shoulders, neck and head are aligned in a straight line.
  • Taking both of your hands slightly to the inside ask your horse to move his shoulders ever so slightly to the inside of the arena. Do not bend him to the inside. His head should be straight, forehead facing the direction of the movement.
  • Your inside leg should be slightly behind the girth to stop the haunches moving to the inside.
  • Pay attention to keep your shoulders and seatbones level. Your posture is very important for proper execution of this movement.
  • You can say you are asking your horse to perform a mini renvers.
  • After you get good at mini ranvers you can ask for mini travers.
  • After you get good at walk ask in trot.
Happy riding...
Comment by Lina on Wednesday, January 2, 2013 05:33 AM
Hi Irina, I just recently found your blog and I just had to post a comment and say that I enjoy the reading very much! Nice with a "useful" blog for a change ;) Keep up the good work!
Comment by Irina Yastrebova on Wednesday, January 2, 2013 10:21 AM
Thanks, Lina!
I am glad you found it useful. Knowing this encourages me to write :)
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