Guest Author - Susan Hopf
Often little utilized these lateral movements are critical to the development of your horses hindquarters. Coupled and complemented by shoulder-in they are the pre-cursors to half-pass, pirouettes, collection and all that must take place in the equine engine the strength and power of any horse.
From the horse and riders perspective there is no real distinct difference between the two they are simply mirror images of each other the in or out implies the position in relationship to the direction of movement (the tracking of the front feet of the horse) and the surroundings. Because there is no such distinction between the two I prefer using the terms haunches-left and haunches-right and will do so for the remainder of this article. In order to preserve the traditional terms I do continue to use such terminology in many other articles just be assured that they all mean the same thing to your horse who has no clear understanding of any spoken words other than that which you teach them through repetition.
Which position is best for you and your horse lies in identifying the particular weakness you wish to address for the overall improvement of straightening your horse creating a more bilateral creature. As you read through the set of aids and then as your practice the outlined exercises you must eventually move past the simplistic nature of the text and examples and apply it according to each horses individual needs.
To begin keep in mind the following:
The horse will travel (from back to front) toward the side that you more distinctly weight.
The outside hind will require your active aids.
The bend must be established first and must be true through the rib cage.
You must not allow the horse forward unless the haunches are first displaced.
We will work the idea of Renvers first (haunches-out which for the purpose of this exercise is the same as haunches-right) on a circle to the left.
Establish a round 20 meter circle with inside leg at the girth, outside leg behind the girth, inside rein soft, outside rein supportive. Grow long through the leg and tall through your core without changing the balance of your seat.
Now we will be developing a counter-bend so alert yourself to the correct definition of inside and outside aids in relationship to the bend of the horse not the direction of your circle as established above.
Bend the horse around your inside lower leg on this counter bend this will be your right leg.
Outside (left) lower leg behind the girth will push the haunches off the track of the circle. Outside (left) thigh will maintain position of shoulder so she does not fall in. Outside (left) rein will keep the neck lined up with the shoulders. You must avoid pulling the neck toward the bend and/or allowing the horse to follow the circle with his neck. The geometric figure and the bend of the horse will be opposite from each other.
For those of you who are familiar with turns on the forehand this exercise is very similar except that all four feet continue forward and the bend is less extreme. If you were to halt the forward movement this would equate to a turn on the forehand to the right. Haunches lead right and come around the shoulders. This is the feel you are after.
Cautions the horse should not spin, drop the shoulders, lose the bend, fall in or out and you must retain the quality of the gait with which you started.
Reference the articles listed below and you will find the corrections for any of the above listed faults.
Once you have established a good haunches-right at the walk repeat the same at the trot. The aids will be the same no matter the gait you perform.
Once proficient at the haunches-right on a circle to the left in both walk and trot reverse and do the same on a circle to the right this will equate to a haunches-left position.
I suggest writing out the aids prior to attempting this position on your horse and try expressing all in your own words for a clearer understanding.
Once proficient at haunches-right and left and shoulder-in in both bends the following is a super exercise for warming up all the correct muscles for collected work or for that matter any work that requires the horse to use all four feet equally and all of the joints of the hind limbs with power and flexibility.
We will be working toward a figure 8 pattern. (See if you can understand the in and out terminology as you begin to understand the exercise.)
Circle left in haunches-right (haunches-out) position continue until the horse becomes light and fluid. In the center of the arena change directions but continue in your right bend (which now turns into a natural right bend) and establish a shoulder-in right continue the shoulder-in until horse becomes light and fluid. Change back to the haunches-right (out) (still in the right bend which is now a counter bend) and as soon as the horse is carrying this position well switch again to the shoulder-in. Your goal is to make a figure 8 in a right bend at one end of the 8 you will be in haunches-out (right) and at the other you will be in shoulder-in.
The beauty of this exercise is that you work the same bend but load different hind legs and various joints with each change of lateral positioning. You create a harmony between both positions without disrupting the balance of the horse by changing the bend each time.
Once you can shift from haunches-right (out) to shoulder-in right with grace and balance then practice the same exercise in the opposite bend. Once both positions can be done in balance in both bends you can then use all four positions to create an amazingly supple horse with very little stress on the joints of any one limb. This can be done at walk, trot and canter and is exactly how I warm up every horse I ride making concessions only due to fitness level and experience of course we progress according to individual ability but eventually all horses develop amazing flexibility and strength.