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How to Ride Travers on a Circle

travers haunches-in on a circle dressage

Travers is a training exercise that is used to improve the horse’s lateral suppleness and longitudinal suppleness, as well as increase the engagement of the horse’s hindquarters.

Travers is usually ridden in a straight line, but you can also ride the exercise around a circle for added benefits.

Here’s how to do it!

What is travers?

In travers, the horse’s forehand stays on the track whilst his hindquarters are moved to the inside.

During the movement, the horse should be uniformly bent around the rider’s inside leg, and he should look in the direction in which he’s traveling.

The horse’s outside legs should pass and cross in front of his inside legs, and the movement should be ridden at an angle of around 35 degrees and on four tracks. 

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

Why ride travers on a circle?

Reason 1 – To increase engagement

During travers, the horse’s hindquarters move on an inside line. Therefore, when ridden on a circle, the horse’s hind legs are required to travel on a smaller circle than his shoulders.

This demands higher levels of engagement and encourages the horse to take more weight on his hind legs, improving the horse’s strength and weight-carrying capacity.

Reason 2 – To increase suppleness

When riding travers, the horse must show a uniform bend through his body as he brings his hindquarters to the inside.

A circle also requires that the horse bends uniformly through his body.

So, when the horse is asked to perform travers on a circle line, a higher degree of suppleness is needed because the horse is required to show even more bend than what the circle requires.

Reason 3 – To prepare the horse for more advanced movements

Due to the higher degrees of suppleness and engagement required from the horse, this exercise helps to prepare the horse for half-passes and gives the rider more control in positioning the hindquarters relative to the horse’s shoulders.

When ridden in the canter, the horse is required to load more weight onto his hind legs whilst maintaining bend in the direction of travel. Therefore, this can be used as a progressive exercise to teach the horse canter pirouettes later on in his career.

Reason 4 – To test the coordination and effectiveness of the rider’s aids

The rider is required to position the horse diligently for travers whilst still maintaining an accurate circle line. This requires a high level of feel and coordination from the rider.

It also helps to give the rider information about how well the horse is responding to their individual aids (i.e. leg aids, seat aids, rein aids) so they can adjust and correct their aids accordingly.

When to start riding travers on a circle

It can sometimes to easier to introduce the horse to travers on a circle because he is already bent around the rider’s inside leg with a secure connection to the outside rein.

However, this exercise does require more strength and suppleness from the horse, along with a higher degree of coordination from the rider. Therefore, we recommend that before attempting to ride travers on a circle, it’s best that you can first ride it on a straight line.

What pace?

Although you can ride travers in the walk, trot, and canter, we recommend that you begin by riding the exercise in walk and trot before progressing to the canter.

Horses that lack balance and straightness in the canter often try to swing their quarters in, and riding travers at that pace exacerbates the problem. 

So, until you know that you can keep your horse straight, we recommend that you only ride this exercise at the slower paces.

The aids

The aids for travers on a circle are pretty much the same as the aids for travers on a straight line, you just need to be able to adjust each aid accordingly to obtain and maintain the desired position.

Here’s a quick refresher.

  • Your inside rein asks for inside flexion and indicates the direction of bend.
  • Your outside rein prevents the horse from falling out through his shoulder, controls the amount of neck bend, and regulates the tempo of the rhythm.
  • Your inside leg is on the girth to create impulsion and to create bend through the horse’s body.
  • Your outside leg is applied behind the girth to push the hindquarters to the inside.
  • You should have a little more weight in your inside seat bone.
  • Your shoulders should be held parallel to your horse’s shoulders, and your hips should be parallel to your horse’s hips.
  • Your head should be up and you should look in the direction you want your horse to go, which, in this case, is around your circle line.

How to ride travers on a circle

There are two ways in which you can position your horse for the travers on a circle exercise.

You can;

  1. position your horse on a circle and then ask for travers, or
  2. position your horse in travers and then ride onto a circle.

Let’s go through both methods individually.

Method 1 – Position your horse on a circle and then ask for travers

Start by riding a large 20-meter circle and get the horse working forwards into an elastic and consistent rein contact.

Whilst on the circle, ride a few half-halts to get your horse’s attention and to further engage his hind legs in preparation for the travers.

Next, with your outside leg behind the girth, ask the horse to move his quarters to the inside whilst continuing to ride your horse forwards from your inside leg up into your outside rein, maintaining the impulsion and a uniform bend through the horse’s body.

Follow the line of the 20-meter circle, maintaining the travers positioning.

Method 2 – Position your horse in travers and the ride onto a circle

Start by riding a large 20-meter circle and get the horse working forwards into an elastic and consistent rein contact.

Next, ride a 10-meter circle within the 20-meter circle. Use the 10-meter circle to balance your horse and further engage his hind legs in preparation for the travers.

circle dressage diagram

As you exit the 10-meter circle and re-join the 20-meter circle, use your outside leg behind the girth to ask your horse to maintain the increased bend of the smaller circle and keep his quarters off the outside track.

Keep your horse’s shoulders following the line of the 20-meter circle, maintaining the travers positioning of his quarters to the inside, and a uniform bend through the horse’s body.

How to straighten the horse

After the movement, you need to straighten the horse so that his hind legs track behind his front legs once again.

To do this, simply put all of your aids back to neutral and ride the horse forwards.

Do not try to push the horse’s quarters back out using your inside leg. This will only unbalance the horse and possibly even cause him to swing his quarters out too far; resulting in a game of quarters-ping-pong!

Instead, just straighten the horse in the same way as you would when transitioning from a circle to a straight line; remove the bending aids and ride forwards.

Training tips

Here are a few training tips to help you with this difficult exercise.

Tip 1

Only ask for a few steps of travers to begin with before making the horse straight again and riding forwards.

This exercise requires a lot from the horse so be careful not to overdo it. Asking for too much too soon can result in tension, tightness, and a loss of impulsion and fluency.

Always aim for quality over quantity.

Tip 2

To help keep your circle circle-shaped, it can be helpful to place a cone in the center of the circle. You can then ride around it ensuring that the distance between you and the cone remains the same.

Tip 3

To help visualize the exercise, first, picture a 20-meter circle line (shown below as the thick red line). This is the line that you want to keep your horse’s shoulders on.

Next, picture a smaller circle line on the inside, for example, an 18-meter circle line (shown below as the thin red line). This is the line that you want to keep your horse’s quarters on.

travers on a circle diagram dressage

This can help you to position the horse’s shoulders and quarters correctly whilst also maintaining an accurate circle.

Tip 4

Always remember: forwards first, sideways second.

If the horse starts to lose impulsion or forward momentum, then straighten the horse and ride forwards. Next time, ask the horse for a lesser angle and a lesser degree of bend until the horse can better cope with the exercise.

Over time, the horse’s strength, suppleness, and balance will improve, and you can then increase the bend and angle once again.

Tip 5

When you first start riding this exercise, it’s best to start on a large circle of at least 20-meters.

However, for added benefits and a more gymnastic exercise, you can spiral the horse in and out on the circle whilst in travers.

This is an extremely difficult exercise and should only be attempted once you and your horse have mastered it on a 20-meter circle, but it’s a great way to further develop and progress with your horse.

In conclusion

Travers is a lateral exercise that can be ridden in walk, trot, and canter on a straight line or around a circle.

When ridden on a circle, it requires a higher degree of engagement and suppleness from the horse, along with greater coordination from the rider.

Overall, it’s a great gymnastic exercise to help improve the horse’s collection and weight-carrying capacity and prepare him for more advanced movements, such as pirouettes.

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