Schoolmaster Lesson on Taylor @ CMC Equines (#1)

A really interesting session today – I got to sample a number of advanced movements including: Shoulder-In; Travers; Half-Pass; Piaffe; Passage; Passage Half-Pass; Flying Changes and Canter Half-Pass

I wanted to really concentrate on getting the feeling of true Shoulder-In, Travers (Claire believes the Travers will really open a door for Finn’s progress), and Flying Changes.  I want to be sure I know what the movement feels like and apply the correct aids….  It was also a lot of fun doing some of the more advanced movemenss, especially the piaffe and passage!


Firstly, the best way to begin shoulder-in, is out of the corner, and the rider should use the corner to their advantage, ensuring they get the balance, and the bend ready, to ease into the shoulder-in:  “Shoulder-in is a passing of the corner which continues until the end of the long side of the arena.” N.Oliveira (1998, 63).

Alternatively, the shoulder-in can be started out of a ten metre circle and Mariette Withages uses this is an effective way to set up the angle. Begin the small circle in the corner and as I reached the long side to continue on the circle one stride, until my horses shoulders came off the track, and then, use a long, relaxed touching inside leg to ask the horse to continue up the long side.

A rider’s position in the shoulder-in is crucial, and many have a tendency to curl up into a ball. The important thing to remember is to sit tall, open up your inside shoulder, put your weight down your inside leg, and allow the horse to move across with the use of an open and supple hip.  In the shoulder-in hold your body against your outside elbow. A good shoulder-in should enable the rider to give with the inside rein, and maintain the power through the use of inside leg into outside rein aids.  “Demanding the shoulder-in means controlling the outside  rather than driving the inside.” N.Oliveira (1998, 63).Most commonly, when beginning the shoulder-in, riders tend to shift their weight onto their outside seatbone and slump over to create a highly ineffective slouch position towards the inside of the horse. This then forces us to draw our inside leg up, making the inside leg aid almost completely ineffective, and at the same time throwing us off balance and forcing the horse’s energy to escape, normally through the outside shoulder.  Truth is getting a good shoulder-in is extremely difficult and it requires not only the technical knowledge, but a great deal of rider concentration and co-ordination to get it right! If your horse is falling in, losing the three tracks, not gaining enough angle, losing rhythm, not establishing the correct bend, falling through the outside shoulder, or wobbling hysterically in and out from the wall, it’s because of you!

The coming out of the shoulder-in is equally important and a good way to check the rider had maintained outside rein stability. In the beginning, go only half way down the arena, and then use the outside rein to ease the horse across the diagonal. This will set up an easy straighten after the shoulder-in, which is often overlooked by riders, the shoulder-in’s completion.

Finally, the trot you have when you enter the shoulder-in is crucial! “If I have the horse well in front of both legs, and soft on the inside rein as I go into the shoulder-in, it usually falls into place by itself, so to speak”.


Start in the walk.  Ride the short side of the arena with good bend through the corner.  Continue down the long side, position the horse’s forehead looking forward down the track.  Keep the bend using the leg and hand while positioning the shoulders.  Slide the outside leg back and with light, intermittent touches, move the haunches off the track. Light touches can also be done with the whip on the horse’s outside flank.  After a few steps, reward the horse and straighten while proceeding onward.

The horse should be rounded, relaxed and maintaining good rhythm before beginning this exercise.  It is often beneficial to ride shoulder in prior to starting this exercise.

The horse should bend around the inside leg.  The rider’s shoulders should be parallel to the horse’s shoulders.  The outside rein controls the movement forward and sideways, as well as the outside shoulder.  Half halts on the outside rein will maintain control of the outside shoulder.

When applying the outside leg, the rider must continue touching the horse with the inside leg at the girth to maintain the bend.

This exercise can be performed in all three gaits.

Purpose of the Travers:  To develop lateral suppleness.   To develop the trot.   To aid in the development of the collected trot.

Common Errors in Execution:  The horse loses cadence.  The horse does not step under properly from behind.   Too much bend in the horse’s neck.

Travers is a lateral exercise used in dressage in which the horse moves on a straight line with the quarters on an inner track.

Benefits To The Horse
The horse has to stay attentive to the riders aids whilst riding Travers which will also help to improve lateral bending of the horse and overall suppleness. Engagement of the hindquarters occurs due to the horses outside leg having to cross over encouraging the engagement horses inside leg at the same time. Travers is also used to help prepare a horse who is already riding Shoulder In and who is ready to move on to Half Pass.

How To Ask For Travers

  • Ensure that your horse is actively walking on with a free and fluent movement, remembering that this should not be impaired when the Travers begins but instead maintained with impulsion from the riders inside leg.
  • Use the corners of the school to help you set your horse up or alternatively ride a small 10 to 15 m circle.
  • If you are starting on the left rein then as your horse’s shoulder just comes out of the circle or corner ask for the Travers.
  • Ensure that you and your horse are looking forwards into the direction that you are about to move in.
  • Move your outside leg ( If on the left rein this will be your right leg) back slightly behind the girth to ask the horses hindquarters to move inwards to an approximate 30 degree angle.
  • Keep your inside leg on the girth in order to maintain impulsion and maintain a small amount of bend or flexion to the inside.
  • Your outside (right) rein will balance the horse, control the bend, keep the horse traveling in a straight line and support the riders leg.
  • While your inside ( left) rein will maintain a soft inside bend to the left.
  • When you have ridden a few steps and you wish to end the Travers bring the horses shoulder in line with the quarters and ride away.
  • Start off with a few strides and then gradually build them up until you can maintain Travers up the long side of the school.

Travers Exercises

  • To begin with ask the horse to ride a circle as this will help to maintain bend and impulsion then proceed with a few steps of Travers before finishing off the Travers and riding another circle.
  • Once you become proficient at riding Travers try riding it in trot and canter.
  • Another exercise is to ride Travers up the centre line. This will require a great amount of accurate riding in order not to end up drifting across the school.
  • You can also try riding a half 10 m circle that returns to either E or B and then ride a few strides of Travers.
  • Another excellent exercise is to ride Shoulder In for approximately 10 to 15 strides and then Travers for 10 to 15 strides. By mixing the two together your horse will remain attentive, supple and fully engaged with their hindquarters. Once you are well practiced doing this on the long side try it up the centre line.

Common Faults

  • Rider looking behind at the horses quarters.
  • Rider collapsing their inside hip.
  • Rider going crooked with their upper body.
  • Riders outside lower leg swinging too far back.
  • Riders not maintaining impulsion.
  • Too much angle being produced.
  • Resistance to the Travers either due to incorrect rider position or physical discomfort.
  • Horse not looking to the inside.

Flying Changes

Aids for the flying change

The timing of the aids is very important in riding a successful flying change. Give the aids as the horse’s leading front leg is coming forward. You need to give the aid before the period of suspension because it takes your horse a moment to ‘hear’ your request and another moment to carry it out.

Practice the timing of the aids in the walk and then the canter by watching when the horse’s inside front leg comes forward. Each time you see it coming forward, say out loud, “Now, now, now”. In this way, you learn to coordinate your voice with the inside front leg coming forward.

For a flying change from left leg to right leg:

  • Seat: Push your right seat bone forward toward your horse’s right ear.
  • Right leg: Close your right leg on the girth to ask your horse to go forward during the change.
  • Left leg: Swing your left leg behind the girth to signal the new outside hind leg to strike off into the new lead. (Don’t hold this leg back. Pretend your leg is ‘spring-loaded’ so you give a quick aid.)
  • Left rein: Close your left hand in a fist to keep the left hind leg on the ground and maintain uphill balance. Imagine that you’re closing and opening your hand so fast that you can snatch a fly out of the air.
  • Right rein: Soften your right rein so you don’t block the new inside front
    leg from coming forward.

Introduce flying changes on a 10-meter figure of eight. Ride simple changes of lead in the centre of the figure of eight. Repeat until the horse understands and anticipates that he’s going to change leads. When you feel him anticipating, give the aids for the flying change instead of doing the simple change. If he changes, praise him a lot. If he doesn’t then stay calm and repeat the process.

We also did :

  • Half-Pass
  • Piaffe
  • Passage
  • Passage Half-Pass
  • Canter Half-Pass