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Riding travers and renvers correctly - important building blocks in horse training

After taking a closer look at the leg yield and shoulder-in in previous blog posts, this time we would like to take a look at the travers (croup walk) and renvers (croup out). You will find out why these two lateral movements are other important building blocks in horse training and what mistakes can be made. We will also look at the correct execution and precise aids.


What is Travers?

Travers (croup walk) is a lateral walk in which your horse is placed and bent in the direction of movement. As the name suggests, the horse's hindquarters (croup) are led into the arena. The degree of stance depends on whether it is to be performed on three or four hoof tracks. The forehand, on the other hand, continues straight ahead on the outside hoof beat. When performed correctly, the outside hind leg takes on more weight. Travers can be ridden at the walk, trot and canter, both on a straight and curved line.

What is Renvers?

While most riders are familiar with travers, renvers is often met with questioning faces and there is a lot of confusion when it comes to execution and aids. Renvers is actually the counter-lection to travers, only the position to the rail is reversed. In this lateral movement, the four-legged friend is also positioned and bent in the direction of movement. However, the hindquarters (croup) remain on the outside hoof beat and the forehand is led into the inside of the arena. Bringing the forehand into the inside of the arena is also what most riders find difficult and a real balancing act.

Tip: The movement sequence is always the same for travers, renvers, traversals, piourettes and the piourette renversé, only the stance to the rail/fence or where in the arena it is performed changes!

Sense and purpose of travers and renvers in horse training

These lateral movements are excellent for improving the longitudinal bend and have a gymnastic effect on the horse's entire body. When performed correctly, the outer hind leg takes on more weight, which also promotes the ability to collect. These lateral movements are also a perfect tool for straightening your four-legged friend more and more over time. Travers and renvers can also be used when working on or improving certain lessons. But more on that later...

Caution: Travers and renvers will always be easier for your horse on the hollow side due to its natural crookedness and always much more difficult on the stiffer side! This means that the rider needs a lot of sensitivity and patience on the heavier side. This is because your horse has to use a lot of muscles that it would otherwise not use and change its balance accordingly! 

The aids for travers in handwork

If you want to work on travers in hand with your horse, it should already know the basic exercises (starting, stopping, backing and tempi variations), keep enough distance, pay attention to you and be able to perform leg yields and shoulder-in safely. You can develop travers in two different ways in work in hand:

1. traverse away from you/lead from the outside:

In this variation, you walk on the outside hoof beat and your horse on the second hoof beat. Now you can start with a leg yield. The whip, which points at the horse's knee height, acts as a lateral aid. The hindquarters should not be led more than 45 degrees into the arena. In the leg yield, your horse is positioned against the direction of movement (towards you) and remains straight in the body. For the travers, use the inside rein to position the horse in the direction of movement (away from you) and give a little ground on the outside rein. Instead of starting from a leg yield, you can also start from a volte. Here you already have the necessary position and bend for the travers and only need to bring your four-legged friend's croup into the arena. Make sure that the forehand stays with you and that your horse doesn't take you into the arena. Be content with just a few strides and then ease back into the straight and forward.

Rider demonstrates with her horse in handwork the travers from the outside at Picadera
Travers from the outside: You walk on the outside on the outside hoof beat, your horse walks on the second hoof beat.
Photo Stefanie Blochwitz Photography

Tip: The difficulty with this variation is that you have little influence on how much your horse takes the croup in, as it is not possible to limit it, as is the case when riding with the inside leg. If it takes the croup in too much, you only have the option of stopping the exercise, going straight again and starting again!

2nd traverse towards you/led from the inside:

In the second variation, you walk on the inside and your horse on the outside hoof beat. Now try to skillfully limit the forward impulsion and bring the horse's inside hip forward. It is helpful if your horse has previously learned to walk towards the outside of the croup when touched with the whip. A great deal of sensitivity is required for this variation! One disadvantage is that many horses unintentionally enter the arena with their hindquarters, which can become a real problem when working on the piaffe. So try to distinguish the whip signals as clearly as possible for your horse!

Rider shows travers with her horse in handwork led from the inside at Picadera
Travers from the inside: You walk on the inside and your horse on the outside hoof beat.
Photo: Stefanie Blochwitz Photography

Tip: Don't look at the horse's hindquarters, but observe it as a whole! Make sure it doesn't bend in the neck or twist in the poll!

 The aids for renvers in handwork

The easiest way to develop the renvers in hand is from the shoulder-in. Your horse walks on the outside hoof beat and you on the inside. In the shoulder-in, the horse is positioned and bent against the direction of movement, with the inside hind leg under the center of gravity. Now you come out of the shoulder-in to halt and turn your horse in the direction of movement (i.e. away from you). The stance to the rail remains the same as in the shoulder-in, i.e. the forehand on the inside, the hindquarters on the outside hoof beat, only the position and bend change. Now lead your horse in walk again. The difficulty in the renvers is initially to keep the forehand on the inside, i.e. to maintain the stance. Your four-legged friend will probably try to dock to the rail or fence again. Maintaining rhythm and tempo is also not so easy at first.

Tip: Praise a few correct steps at the beginning, stop again or release your horse back into the shoulder-in!

The aids for travers when riding

Practice the travers at the rail or fence first, so you have more visual orientation. Stay centered over your horse and put more weight on your inner buttocks. Your shoulders and hips remain parallel to those of your four-legged friend. The inside leg remains on the girth and your horse should bend around it. The outer leg drives sideways as required, ideally whenever the outer hind leg leg drops. The inside rein ensures the position and briefly becomes the leading rein until the horse has achieved the desired longitudinal bend in its body. Then you should soften the inside rein again and only give small half halts as required to achieve the desired bend in the travers.

Rider shows the travers ridden on the center line at Picadera
In travers, the horse bends around the inside leg, the outside leg drives sideways like an impulse.
Photo: Elena Hofstede

Tip: For all travers-like lateral movements, it can be helpful to carry the inside hand higher, as your horse will always follow the higher hand. This also makes it easier to maintain a correct position!

The aids for renvers when riding

The aids in renvers are the same as in travers, except that your horse is bent outwards instead of inwards. This means that you also sit centrally over your horse, put more weight on the inner gluteal bone, your horse bends around your inner thigh and your outer thigh is the one that drives sideways. Your inside rein gives position and the outside rein limits the bend in the horse's body. If you want to include the renvers in your riding program, you have various options. You can start from the shoulder-in, as already described in the aids for the reinvers in the work in hand. You can also turn into a simple serpentine line and then continue in the renvers. You can also switch from a short turn before the forehand arrives at the hoof beat to the renvers. The passade, a baroque exercise, can also be helpful. Here you ride a small about turn and then continue in the renvers on the parallel to the long side or on the long side.

The rider shows the renvers ridden on the center line at Picadera
Andrea shows the Renvers exercise with her horse Mardi.
Photo: Elena Hofstede

Tip: Carry the whip on the outside to support the lateral leg drive! It can also be helpful to walk the travers and renvers beforehand without the horse and imitate the aids!

What errors can occur?

A common mistake with the travers and renvers is a drop in the poll. This is usually caused by too much "pull" on the inside rein. So keep a close eye on whether the horse's ears remain at the same height. If one ear tilts sideways, give way on the inside rein and possibly lift the outside hand briefly. Over-bending in the horse's neck is also usually due to an overly strong inside rider's hand or a lack of restraint on the outside rein. So make sure that the horse's mouth remains in front of the chest even in lateral movements. If the bend is lost, the inner leg around which your horse should bend is usually missing. Don't stretch the inside leg away from the horse, but stay in contact with it.

Tip: Many riders find it difficult to sit on the inside in travers and renvers and they keep slipping onto the outside gluteal bone. As your horse will always try to get under your center of gravity in order to balance you better, you are making it unnecessarily difficult for him! In this case, it can be helpful to stand up in the saddle before the lateral walk and place yourself clearly on the inside!

Caution: Your upper body should always remain centered over the horse in travers and renvers and not lean to one side! Always keep your belly button level with the crest of your horse's mane!

Travers and renvers as aids in horse training

In further horse training, travers can be an ideal partner exercise for the canter. Walk-gallop transitions in travers are a great strength training exercise for the hindquarters and can improve the transitions and the canter so that it is jumped more uphill. Travers is also ideal for working on canter pirouettes. If you canter on a small travers volte and reduce the line more and more, you will end up in the first pirouette jumps almost automatically. Renvers can also be very useful in many areas of training. Not only does it help your horse to become more upright and collected, it also makes him incredibly skillful, balanced and light in the hand. You can also use renvers to improve the outside canter and "tease out" flying changes. Many horses find it easier to jump a flying change from the counter canter into the hand canter with an idea of renvers.

Tip: Renvers can also be used to develop the piaffe. In the "Piourette Renversé", the horse moves on a small volte in renvers. If you incorporate short, crisp walk-trot transitions here, the first half-passes will come almost automatically!

Straight ahead from time to time

Without question, riding lateral movements is incredibly fun! If you can use leg yields, shoulder-in, travers and renvers in your training, you have an infinite number of variation options, can improve a lot and optimally gymnasticize your horse. However, many riders fall into a veritable "side gait frenzy" over time. So don't forget to also include some straight ahead sections in your program from time to time! This is a great way to check whether your horse is already straighter with the help of lateral movements!

Here you will find great products for your next workout:

Andrea Blochwitz
Andrea Blochwitz

I am Andrea, licensed trainer B for classical-baroque riding and examiner for mass sports. Under the motto: "Fun with horses" I am a mobile trainer in Kiel and the surrounding area. A versatile and fair horse training is important to me. From classical-baroque dressage, in-hand work, long reins, lunging at cavesson, double lungeing, circus lessons, riding side-saddle, with the garrocha or neck ring, Working Equitation, free work, composure training and seat training, everything is possible. I am a passionate show rider and have had the pleasure of taking part in many horse events and trade fairs. My heart beats especially for my Welsh Cob gelding "Arvalon Mardi Grass", who I trained myself. I am delighted to be able to support the Picadera team as an author and will be happy to help and advise you!

Photo: Stefanie Blochwitz Photography

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