Travers is an exercise in which the horse’s quarters are brought off the track while the shoulders remain on it. The horse is bent uniformly from poll to tail around the inside leg, looking in the direction of travel.

The horse’s outsidelegs pass and cross in front of the inside legs, to give two or three lines of footprints – you should be aiming for an angle of about 30 degrees to the line of your track.

Aids for travers

  • Inside rein opens a little to indicate bend/ask for flexion.
  • Outside rein is kept close to the neck, controlling the energy, guarding against excess bend, and keeping the shoulders on the track.
  • Inside leg used on the girth to ask for bend, forward movement andimpulsion.
  • Outside leg used behind the girth to move the hindquarters over.
  • The rider should place a little more weight on the inside seat bone and face the direction of travel.

    How to start

    Warm up witha few transitions and plenty of circles. Then, if your horse is going well, ask for some leg yield before progressing to shoulder-in in walk and trot to encourage greater collection.

    Go back to walk and ride a few shoulder-ins down the long side, starting and finishing each long side with a 10m circle. Then, at the beginning of your next long side, set up the bend as you ride around the short end, as if you were going to ride another 10m circle. As you come out of the corner, once your horse’s nose is level with the track, apply the aids to ask the hindquarters to step in on an inner track. It may help to carry your schooling stick in the outside hand.

    You should aim to maintain the energy level without losing rhythm or balance, sofrequent half-halts will be required to check your horse and maintain a good outline. This is quite a strenuous movement so go for quality rather than quantity. If your horse shows you a few good strides, ride away and reward him.

    How to finish

    If the movement has not quite gone to plan, then circle away to re-establish the bend and angle.

    If your horse has done the movement well and has shown some quality steps, straighten him by moving the quarters back in line with the shoulders. This reinforces the idea of moving that part of the body first in one direction and then returning it.

    One school of thought advocates finishing travers by bringing the shoulders off the track and re-aligning them with the quarters.

    However you choose to finish the movement, make sure your objective is clear, and ride forwards positively.

    This exercise can be ridden in walk, trot or canter, but take care with the canter as some horses use swinging their quarters in as an evasion.

    What can go wrong?

  • Excessive head and neck bend, or wrong bend altogether, is usually a result of poor riding.
  • Not enough or too much angle. Use a mirror or a knowledgeable assistant to help you check your angle.
  • Sideways rather than forwards movement, possibly due to lack of impulsion. The rider needs to use both legs more strongly.
  • Loss of rhythm or balance because not enough half-halts used.
  • Horse panics through lack of understanding. You need to go back a few steps and make sure you are giving the correct aids.
  • Ridden too quickly/ horse rushes. This is usually due to a combination of the two faults just described .
  • Not enough collection. The rider should return to shoulder-in to encourage the horse’s outline to shorten and the hindquarters to engage.

    Rider’s position faults

  • Collapsing hip.
  • Not sitting straight.
  • Tension and stiffness.
  • Drawing legs up and back.

    Try to establish why it went wrong and address any problems before asking again.