Every equestrian discipline seems to have its own lingo, its own priorities, and its own movements. I don’t know that any is more confusing than dressage.
I’m trained to ride hunters. I know all about jumping impulsion, oxers, rollbacks, broken lines, and hunter carriage. We also always worked in a little basic dressage, asking our horses to round up and carry themselves more and move away from our legs.
But it was only a few years ago that I learned a haunches in was not the same as a leg yield. And then they started throwing in those foreign names just to make it even more confusing.
I’ve spent the last few years attending dressage clinics at Equine Affaire, reading Practical Horseman articles, and otherwise studying up on the topic just to get these most basic elements of dressage figured out. I’m finally starting to really get it after watching Steffen Peters and George Williams at Equine Affaire.
It’s taken a long time for me to solidify the differences, so I wanted to share what I’ve learned for all you other riders in non-dressage disciplines who are wondering the same thing.
Differences Between the Basic Movements Used In Dressage Training
I discovered that the biggest differences between sideways movements in dressage is the direction of the bend and which legs cross. Here are some definitions:
Leg Yield: your horse moves slightly sideways away from your leg while flexed in the opposite direction from which he’s moving. His body remains straight with a slight flexion at his poll. Both front and back legs should cross as he moves. For example, you are on the rail going to the left. You ask for slight flexion to the right and push him away from your right leg so that he is on an angle with his head closer to the wall.The horse’s movement is always more forward than sideways.
Turn On The Forehand: a type of leg yield. Your horse pivots on a point directly under his poll, bent the opposite direction from which he’s moving. If you do a turn on the forehand to the left, he is bent to the right and moving away from your right leg. A key point here is that he pivots on a point under his poll as opposed to a front hoof, which means that his front legs are supposed to move as well as the back. Front and back legs should cross as he moves.
Shoulder In: the horse’s body is bent around the inside leg, causing his front end and hind end to move on different tracks with the front legs crossing as he moves. The inside hind leg is placed in front of the outside hind. In a shoulder in when you are moving around the ring to the left, your horse should bend around your inside leg with his front legs to the inside of his hind end.
Haunches Out/Renvers: the horse moves with his haunches on the outside track and his shoulders on the inside track and is bent in the direction he is moving. He should be bent so that his feet are moving on three tracks with the hind legs crossing. For example, if you are moving to the left around the ring, he would be bent to the right and moving off of your left leg with his tail closer to the wall. If you stood directly in front of him, the three tracks would be the right hind, left hind/right front, and left front.
Haunches In/Travers: the horse moves with his haunches on the inside track and shoulders on the outside track, bent in the direction he is moving. Again, his feet are on three tracks with the hind legs crossing. For example, if you are going to the left around the ring, he would be bent to the left, moving off your right leg with his head closer to the wall. The three tracks would be the left hind, right hind/left front, and right front. Travers is the basis for many of the upper level movements, including the half pass and the canter piroutte.
And there you are! All of these are finally starting to make sense to me, and I hope they are to you too. If you are a non-dressage rider and still don’t quite get it, please ask your questions in the comments. If you are a dressage rider, please leave a comment and let me know how accurate these explanations are, or answer questions. I really look forward to hearing all of your feedback on this topic!