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How to Position Your Horse for Lateral Movements

How to Position Your Horse for Lateral Movements Dressage

Once you reach British Dressage Elementary level dressage, the exercises become more challenging, and many of the tests include lateral movements.

Take a look at your dressage scoresheet, and you’ll notice the word “positioning” appearing in the directive column alongside the lateral exercises. So, what does that mean when the judge underlines “positioning” on your dressage scoresheet?

Read this article to find out!


Positioning, when applied to lateral movements, refers to the rider’s placement of the horse in that movement. Usually, the underline will be accompanied by an explanatory comment, too.

For example, you might get the comment, “quarters trailing,” and the word “positioning” underlined for a shoulder-in.

How to position your horse for lateral movements

So, how do you position your horse correctly for lateral movements?


The first lateral movement that you will be asked to ride in a dressage test is the leg-yield. In dressage tests, leg-yielding is usually ridden from the centerline to the track.

In leg-yield, the horse should travel parallel to the track with a very slight flexion away from the direction of travel. There should be a clear crossing of the legs, and the movement should appear fluent, balanced, and rhythmical.

Leg-yield is always ridden in trot in dressage tests.

Related Read: How to Leg Yield

Common positioning faults

Probably the most common error made when riding this exercise is the rider’s failure to make the horse straight before pushing him sideways.

That results in the horse falling through his shoulder, leaving his hindquarters trailing. The same happens if the rider has too much neck bend.

Tips to help position your horse for leg-yield

  • As you turn onto the centerline, make your horse straight for a couple of strides before you ask him to go sideways.
  • Check that you have the horse only slightly flexed away from his direction of travel.ho


In dressage tests, shoulder-in is ridden along the track at an angle of about 30 degrees with the horse slightly flexed to the inside away from his direction of travel.

The horse’s inside foreleg should travel on one track while the inside hind and outside forelegs travel on a second track. Meanwhile, the horse’s outside hind leg travels along a third track.

The whole picture should be rhythmical, relaxed, and fluent, with the horse carrying more weight on his hind legs.

Shoulder-in is always ridden in trot in dressage tests.

Related Read: How to Ride Shoulder-In

Common positioning faults

There are a number of common positioning faults that the dressage judge sees when judging shoulder-in.

  • Not enough bend but too much angle. The horse’s quarters swing out, and the exercise becomes a leg-yield.
  • Insufficient angle so that the exercise becomes shoulder-fore, rather than shoulder-in.
  • Varied positioning. That happens when the horse becomes unbalanced and is unable to maintain the angle throughout the exercise.
  • Insufficient or incorrect bend.
  • Too much neck bend, so that the horse falls through his outside shoulder and moves on just one track.

Tips to help position your horse for shoulder-in

  • Establish a slight inside flexion but not too much neck bend.
  • Establish a uniform bend through the horse’s body around your inside leg.
  • Bring the horse’s shoulders in from the track to an angle of 30 degrees, as if you were commencing to ride a 10-meter circle.


Travers first appears in British Dressage Medium level dressage tests and is ridden down the long side of the arena.

In travers, the horse’s forehand stays on the track and his hindquarters are moved in from the track at an angle of around 35 degrees while maintaining a uniform bend throughout his body, neck, and poll to the inside in his direction of travel.

The horse travels on four tracks with his outside legs passing and crossing in front of his inside legs.

Travers is ridden in trot in dressage tests.

Related Read: How to Ride Haunches-In (Travers)

Common positioning faults

  • Not enough angle, so the horse remains on one track only.
  • Too much angle, so the horse loses impulsion and cannot maintain the freedom of the trot.
  • Not enough bend. The movement becomes a leg-yield.
  • Too much neck bend, so the angle becomes too great, and the horse loses impulsion.
  • The horse drifts in from the track.

Tips to help position your horse for travers

  • Establish a slight inside flexion but not too much neck bend.
  • Bring the horse’s quarters in from the track to an angle of around 35 degrees. You can use a well-ridden corner or 10-meter circle preceding travers to help you get the correct angle.
  • Establish a uniform bend around your inside leg.


Half-pass is ridden in the trot and the canter, either from the track to the centerline or vice versa.

In a correctly positioned half-pass, the horse is uniformly bent through his body and neck in the direction of travel. When it comes to the degree of bend, the half-pass is similar to travers, except that the movement is ridden on the diagonal line and not straight along the track.

The horse’s body should be almost parallel with the track with his shoulders roughly one hoofprint in front of his quarters.

In a trot half-pass, the horse’s front and back legs must cross over each other, hitting the ground without uncrossing. In a canter half-pass, the correct sequence means that the horse’s legs cannot cross. However, the horse should appear to jump and travel sideways during the canter’s moment of suspension while all four feet are in the air.

Related Read: How to Half-Pass

Common positioning faults

  • The horse’s quarters are in advance of the forehand. That means that the horse cannot travel forward and sideways, effectively becoming stuck and losing fluency and impulsion.
  • The quarters trail, so the movement becomes a drift, rather than a half-pass.
  • Not enough bend, so the movement becomes a leg-yield.
  • No positioned in half-pass at all, so the horse simply changes the rein or falls back to the track.

Tips to help position your horse for half-pass

  • Establish a slight inside flexion but not too much neck bend.
  • Imagine that there’s a fence across the arena from marker to marker. Use your imaginary line to position your horse’s head and hindquarters relative to each other. As your skills improve, you will be able to bring the horse more parallel to the wall and steepen the angle.
  • Maintain a uniform lateral bend along the horse’s body.

Finishing off

A very common position fault that’s seen with all the lateral movements (except leg-yield) is that the rider does not finish off the movement.

To complete the exercise, a few straight strides should always be shown after the lateral movement has been completed.

For example, if you are asked to ride shoulder-in from M to B, you should aim to make the horse straight just as you reach B. That demonstrates that the horse is obedient to your aids and shows the judge that you can position the horse as and when you want to.

In conclusion

By paying close attention to the accurate positioning of your horse when riding lateral exercises, you can avoid the dreaded underlined “positioning” on your scoresheet.

We hope you found this guide helpful, and if you have any tips or tricks on how to keep your horse correctly positioned in the lateral exercises, please share with us in the comment box below.

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