Renvers on the spot
Posted by Irina Yastrebova on Friday, March 28, 2014 08:49 PM
We have been having a cold spill in Alberta. The temperatures are below 0C and everything is hard, icy and bumpy. The only place left to ride is the gravel road. Even though it is rather hard, it is flat and even and a layer of gravel creates a bit of a give. Thanks to natural barefoot trimming Santo's feet are very good and he crunches over the gravel like it is nothing. While I have a long list of things I can work on at the walk I wanted to talk about one particular exercise. In Russia we rode it a lot and it was considered a routine part of our training. Here, in North America this exercise is very seldom ridden if ever. To eliminate confusion I called it "renvers on the spot". In reality, this is just a turn on the forehand with the bend into the direction of travel. For example, if horse's haunches are moving to the left, the horse is also bent to the left. In Russia the usual turn on the forehand that is widely practiced in North America was a quick stage in training of young horses mostly done in hand. As soon as a young horse understood the idea he was kept completely straight and then flexed into the direction of travel.
A simple and straightforward way to teach this exercise is to spiral in while doing renvers on a circle. This gives a rider the flexibility to spiral in only as much as the horse can handle without becoming too stiff, slow or apprehensive. This allows to keep the rhythm and flow of the walk, plus stretches the time the horse is in the movement to develop strength and flexibility. In time, you want to spiral to the very centre of the circle where horse's front feet will be stepping virtually on the spot while haunches are coming around. The horse looking and bending into the direction he is moving. Phillipe Karl describes this exercise in his book "Twisted Truth about Modern Dressage". It is a great way to gain more control of your horse's shoulders and haunches. It, also, teaches horses to focus and enhances the half-pass.
Here are few things to be aware of while executing the movement:
  • The horse must already know how to execute a shoulder-in and started to learn about travers/renvers
  • The challenge is to effectively and effortlessly control the path of the horse's shoulders, guiding the horse like guiding a dance partner
  • The outside leg for the renvers must request the haunches position without effort, stiffness, holding or pushing. It is just a light touch in the rhythm of the walk. If this is not enough help with the tap of a spur or a whip
  • Inside leg helps the inside rein to keep the horse from falling to the inside. In this exercise it is incredibly tempting for a horse to do it Also, the rider may not catch it right away if she/he looking down rather than seeing the path of a spiral-in
  • Inside rein acts as indirect rein, outside rein balances inside rein and supports and guides outside shoulder. Ideally, the horse is light on both reins. The moment the horse pushes into one of the reins he is leaning on that side of his body
  • The rider must sit into the direction of the travel and keep her/his shoulders strictly above the hips. Even slight leaning to one side, especially out will disturb the horse's balance.
When your horse learns to easily spiral in and execute couple revolutions at the very centre you will want to ask for renvers on the spot anywhere in the arena from any other movement. For example, from turn on the haunches, from shoulder-in, from trot to walk to renvers, from canter to walk to renvers, from half-pass to renvers on the spot. Use this exercise to straighten your horse, supple him, keep his focus and attention on you, etc
Happy riding...
Comment by Marjatta on Thursday, April 10, 2014 11:49 AM
Thanks, Irina, for these insightful exercises. I will try this one, as soon as we have done some 'legging up' first. Down the road is the only chance now... Still lots of snow - the riding ring is half bare but wet.
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