Haunches-in is more usually referred to as ‘travers’.
This movement can also be used in schooling as a preparatory movement when teaching the horse half-pass.
So, what does a correct haunches-in look like, and how do you ride it?
What is haunches-in?
When riding haunches-in, the horse is asked to bring his hindquarters to the inside of the line he is being ridden on, whilst maintaining bend through the poll, neck, and body to the direction of travel, that is with bend to the inside.
When riding haunches-in in a dressage test, this is known as travers.
When haunches-in is ridden in training, this can be ridden on any line and is particularly useful to communicate to the horse the meaning of the rider’s inside and outside legs.
Therefore, the horse becomes accustomed to the rider’s outside leg as a turning aid, whilst maintaining the bend and impulsion through the inside seat and leg, which will be necessary for the horse to know when being ridden in half-pass and when executing pirouettes.
The bend should be uniform from the poll to the tail, and the horse should look in the direction in which he is moving.
The horse’s outside legs pass and cross in front of the inside legs – the horse travels on four tracks and the angle of the horse’s body should be maintained through the effectiveness of the rider’s aids at 35o .
The aim of the haunches-in is to collect the pace, whether trot or canter, and to improve the balance as a progressive exercise for the advanced movements.
For test purposes, the travers is ridden only in trot. However, during training, the haunches-in can be ridden in walk, trot, and canter to teach the horse to take more weight back onto the hindquarters and to build the impulsion and self-carriage required for the more advanced, lateral movements.
How to teach the horse haunches-in
When the horse understands shoulder-in, start next to the wall of the arena in walk and ask the hind legs to step onto the inside track from your outside leg.
Measure the quick reaction to the leg aid and do not worry too much about bend at this moment.
Gradually encourage more steps as you feel the horse’s balance improving.
Start to ride in the correct bend and check for a prompt reaction to the outside rein contact.
Once the ‘penny has dropped’ in walk progress to riding the exercise in trot, and then canter.
Common problems and faults seen in travers
There are a number of common faults that are seen when horses and riders are learning travers. Here are the most most common mistakes along with how to correct them.
Too little angle
The rider could use quicker, more precise leg aids enhanced with a ‘tick’ from the whip.
But remember to quieten your aids as the horse sharpens his response.
Too much angle
Use less outside leg and more inside leg.
Be prepared to ride into an effective outside rein to help control the amount of bend.
Not enough bend
This can happen when the horse offers too much angle.
Bring the horse to walk and establish flexion through the poll and bend through the body, then ask the hindquarters to step in slightly.
Horse falling or drifting to the inside of the track
Lessen the outside leg aid, and quickly use the inside leg to encourage the horse to promptly step forwards and upwards into the outside rein.
A note about half-pass
If you are using travers as a preliminary exercise in order to teach the horse the half-pass, it is helpful to accept less angle and more bend to establish rhythmic, flowing steps.
Related read: How to Half-Pass
As you can see, there is much that can go wrong with haunches-in.
Always begin teaching your horse to perform this exercise in walk, only progressing to trot and canter when the horse is confident and you can coordinate your aids correctly.
As with any difficult exercise, end your training sessions on a positive note and don’t be tempted to keep going when your horse is tired or becomes upset.
If you have any other questions or need any more help with this movement, please leave a comment below. Alternatively, you can join our dressage training forum.