Haunches-in (also called "travers") is a lateral movement used in training of the horse. It has a close cousin, haunches-out (renvers, "croupe au mur"), that is slightly more difficult. Both movements are three-track, meaning they produce three lines of hoof prints in the sand, as opposed to the usual two seen if the horse is straight.
In haunches-in, the horse bends his hindquarters slightly to the inside of the arena, away from the arena wall, so that he is bent in the direction of movement. His front legs and shoulders should not move from the original track. This produces the three-tracks, with the outer track made by the outside foreleg, the middle track by the inside foreleg and outside hind leg, and the inside track made by the inside foreleg.
In haunches-out (renvers), the horse is similarly bent in the direction of movement, but his hindquarters are bent toward the arena wall instead of away from it. This produces a three-track movement consisting of the outside track made by the outside hind leg, the middle track by the outside foreleg and inside hind leg, and inside track by the inside foreleg. This movement is considered to be more difficult than travers.
A horse that naturally moves with his haunched slightly to the inside is simply travelling crooked, and is not performing haunches-in. These horses usually lack correct bend through the whole body, do not work properly into their outside aids, and do not show the same engagement seen in horses ridden in a true haunches-in.
Uses of Travers and Renvers
Both movements are used in dressage training, as they encourage collection from the horse, help to produce impulsion, can be used to supple the horse and make him more responsive to the aids, and helps to strengthen the hindquarters.
Additionally, travers is a stepping stone to the more advanced half-pass (see Variations below), and goes hand-in-hand with turn on the haunches, which also asks the horse to move in the direction of bend.
Renvers (haunches-out) is a good exercise to counteract the tendency of many horses to travel crooked (in a mock haunches-in). It is employed much more frequently by the Spanish Riding School, due to their belief that travers encourages the horse to travel crookedly with their haunches leaning toward the center of the arena. Renvers therefore provides all the benefits of travers, without any of the drawbacks.
Riding the Travers and Renvers
When first introducing the movement, the rider should begin with haunches-in, as it is slightly easier. It is generally helpful to have begun other simple lateral movements, such as leg-yield to teach the horse the concept of moving away from the leg, and shoulder-in to introduce the three-track movement.
It is generally easier to perform the haunches-in if the horse first performs a 10-meter circle before moving into the movement, as the small circle gets the horse correctly bent to the degree needed for haunches-in. The rider should perform slightly less than one full circle, so that the forehand returns to the track while the hindquarters are still slightly to the inside, before asking the horse to move down the long side of the arena.
Like all lateral movements, it is best to begin with a few steps of haunches-in when first teaching it, asking for quality rather than quantity. Additionally, the rider should ask for only a slight bend to the inside, before increasing the degree of bend (and thus difficulty) as the horse progresses. After performing the movement, the horse should be asked to move straight ahead and forward.
To ask for the haunches in, the rider must use a good deal of outside leg to keep the hindquarters from swinging back to the track. The rider's outside leg is used behind the neutral position, and controls the outside hind leg of the horse, asking him to push it inward on the track and under the horse's body. This is what makes this movement produce collection and impulsion. The rider's outside rein maintains the bend, preventing the horse from swinging the shoulders to the outside and straightening his spine, and therefore contains the energy produced by the horse's outside hind leg. The rider's inside leg asks the horse to bend around it, so that the horse is kept bent correctly in the direction of movement, and keeps the activity of the horse behind so that he remains forward and with a steady rhythm. The inside rein is usually used as an indirect rein, helps to keep the horse looking in the direction of travel and maintain bend.
Renvers is slightly more difficult because the arena wall is not in a position to guide the horse's shoulders. It therefore requires the horse to be consistently on-the-aids. It can also identify which riders are using the wall as a crutch, and which ones can keep their horse correctly bent and the movement straight without needing the side of the arena. When moving along the wall of the arena, the rider must bring the shoulders toward the inside and then ask the horse to continue bent in the direction of movement. Renvers may be asked for through a pessade, to help position the horse properly. It may also be asked after going across the diagonal in half-pass, and then positioning the horse once they reach the arena wall, instead of straightening.
The rider should not use haunches-in too much on horses that naturally like to travel crooked, with their haunches to the inside.
The half-pass is a variation of haunches-in, performed on the diagonal. It is a more difficult movement, and the horse should be confirmed in haunches-in before moving on to the half-pass.