RENVERS or Haunches-Out
By Anne Wilson
The Renvers (pronounced ‘ron-vare’) is the last in the classical lateral exercises. It is often described as a mirror image of shoulder-in and is sometimes referred to as haunches-out or tail to the wall. It is really the twin exercise to Travers, although a little different. The main difference lies in the position in which the exercises are executed, in particular their relationship to the wall or a straight line.
The Horse’s Movement in Renvers
To understand the mechanics of Renvers it is helpful to first think of the horse’s position in Shoulder-in, say on the right rein.
In Shoulder-in right the horse’s quarters are on the track with the forehand brought in from the track, with the horse bent right from poll to tail, around the rider’s right leg. To produce Renvers from Shoulder-in the positioning of the quarters on the track and forehand in from the track remain the same. The difference is that the bend is changed, so the horse is bent to the left from poll to tail, bending around the rider’s left leg.
The horse’s driving and crossing leg also remains the same. In right Shoulder-in it is the right hind which crosses over and in front of the left (towards the centre of gravity of the horse). In Renvers the hind leg action remains the same; although the horse is bent to the left, it is still the right hind which crosses and drives the movement. In this way it is similar to half-pass. In Travers or quarters-in (which was covered in August Equi-Ads), although the bend remains the same as in Shoulder-in, the driving/crossing hind leg changes; so in right Travers the horse’s left hind leg becomes the driving/crossing leg, as it is in right half-pass.
If all this sounds very complicated, if you study the overhead diagrams and think about the footfalls, it should become clear.
The Rider’s Aids for Renvers
A useful way of introducing Renvers is to create it from Shoulder-in, since you already have the required positioning of the quarters on the track and the forehand in from the track at the required angle of approximately 30 degrees (although I would advise that you allow a shallower angle from the track when introducing the exercise)
I would suggest that you ride, say on the right rein, a walk Shoulder-in for about three quarters of the way down the long side of the school. The horse should be very well established in Shoulder-in before attempting Renvers, so this length of Shoulder-in should be no problem.
When you are about three quarters of the way down the long side, change your leg aids. In Shoulder-in right, the horse is bent around your right leg on the girth, with your left leg behind the girth. You now need to change the bend to the left, so gently ask for a change of bend with your left hand in a sponging motion, which asks the horse to look left. At the same time, reverse your leg aids. Bring your left leg forward and slide your right leg back. Your left leg has now become the inside leg which you request that the horse should bend around and your right leg slightly behind the girth controls the quarters and tactfully drives the movement to the left, in a similar way as in left Half-pass.
The rider should gently apply the outside rein (in right rein Renvers this will be the right rein) in order to support the horse and control the amount of bend in his neck. The left rein (which in right rein Renvers will be the inside rein) affirms the flexion to the left as and when necessary. Be careful not to over-bend the neck; remember that the bend should be uniform from poll to tail.
As mentioned above, when first teaching the exercise it is best to ask for a smaller displacement of the shoulders from the track. So, if you were riding a Shoulder-in at roughly a 30 degree angle; just allow the forehand to come further towards the track, in order to make it easier for the horse in the beginning.
You must simultaneously change your body posture and weight aid. Your left hip needs to be advanced and your head and shoulder position changed very slightly to mirror the position you require from the horse.
You should make a slight weight aid to your inside seatbone (in this case your left). Some people find that this is easily done by thinking of slightly weighting the inside stirrup, which automatically puts a little extra weight on the inside seatbone.
If you manage a few steps of Renvers before reaching the corner of the school, be very pleased and praise your horse. Change back to a right bend well before reaching the corner. If the horse is struggling and you only manage one or two steps, don’t worry, just return to a right bend; bringing your left leg and hip slightly back again and right leg forward to the ‘on the girth position’ and ride straight on the track, making the right turn at the corner as normal.
Other Ways of Approaching Renvers
Another way of introducing Renvers is to ride a walk shoulder-in down the long side of the track. Make a gentle half-halt and ask for a walk demi-pirouette (demi-pirouette or turn on the hocks was dealt with in my June article in Equi-Ads). When the forehand reaches the Renvers position, ask the horse to perform the Renvers back down the track from whence you came. Using this sequence of exercises the bend remains the same and the horse may well find this easier to understand and to perform.
Renvers can also be ridden on an oblique line across the school, but in this case it is very difficult for the rider to keep the horse correctly positioned. When ridden on the track, the quarters are supported by the wall and the movement is usually much more accurate.
Another way of introducing Renvers is to begin after a Half-pass. To do this ride a Half-pass say from the centre line on the right rein towards the track to your right. Before reaching the track, ask for the Renvers instead of straightening the horse and continuing along the track. In other words, you are keeping the forehand to the left, in the Renvers position, before the quarters reach the track.
The Uses of Renvers and when to introduce it
Renvers is generally considered to be the most difficult of the lateral exercises and should not be attempted until the horse is very supple and strong in his haunches and hind leg joints. If you find it to be too demanding at first, just leave it for some time (possibly a few months) returning to have another attempt after further gradual strengthening and suppling has been carried out.
Never ask for any new exercise in trot until it is well established in walk. When the horse can perform Renvers easily for say half the length of the long side of the school in walk, then you can ask for a few strides of trot, but don’t be surprised if this is more difficult, in which case return to practicing in walk until the exercise is more established.
I quote from the book ‘The Complete Training of Horse and Rider’ by Col. Alois Podhajsky, former Director of the Spanish Riding School of Vienna – “Renvers is more difficult than Travers or even than Shoulder-in. For this reason the rider should demand only a few steps to commence with and mainly concentrate on the regular fluent movement of the horse.”
Renvers is very good for suppling and strengthening the haunches. It can be ridden in walk or trot, and is a very demanding exercise when carried out in canter. Renvers in canter should not be attempted until the horse is established in canter Half-pass.
Renvers confirms the lateral bend and adds another dimension to the array of exercises available to the rider/trainer. Intertwining of exercises, without concentrating on one particular movement for too long, adds interest and keeps both horse and rider mentally and physically engrossed and in-tune with each other. If the horse is enjoying his training, as he should be, he will be keenly listening to the next change of body posture or aiding request from the rider. The rider for his part, must be mindful of any difficulties that the horse is encountering and not ask too much too soon, nor be too insistent on immediate obedience if there is a possibility that the horse either does not understand, or is experiencing a physical difficulty. We must always listen to our horses, in order that they can listen to us.
Also remember my personal motto – we aim to strengthen and supple the horse, not to stress him, either mentally or physically.
Anne Wilson is a freelance classical riding trainer, based in Bedfordshire; trained with Sylvia Loch and holder of the Classical Riding Club Gold Award Certificate – Phone 01234 772401 or email:- firstname.lastname@example.org
See Anne’s book ‘Riding Revelations – Classical Training from the Beginning’ available from www.blacktent.co.uk