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Direction of Bend in Lateral Work

One of the components of any lateral movement is the direction of bend the horse maintains while performing the movement. He's either bent toward the direction of travel (in other words, bending left while going sideways to the left) or bent opposite the direction of travel.

Opposite direction of travel Toward direction of travel
Opposite direction of travel Toward direction of travel
Moving sideways bent opposite the direction of travel is significantly easier for the horse, because the inside hind leg -- the one that must cross over the outside leg -- is already positioned forward. He just has to swing the leg across. Moving sideways bent toward the direction of travel is quite a bit harder for the horse. Now the leg which most cross in front is positioned behind the other. The horse must shift more weight to the inside hind (in this example, the right hind) and then swing the outside leg forward and around the inside hind.

Try it yourself: stand facing a wall (but about 2 feet away from the wall so you don't smack your nose!) with your left hip positioned forward, closer to the wall. Now sidestep to the right. Not so hard, is it? Your left leg, the one that must cross over in front of the right, is already forward.

Now, keep that left hip forward, and sidestep to the left, while still making your right leg cross in front. See what I mean? Much harder. Notice how you have to rock onto your left leg in order to get that right leg across.

The first three lateral movements we ask from the horse -- the easiest, since we ask for easy things before we ask for hard things! -- all require bend opposite the direction of travel: turn on the forehand, leg yield, and shoulder-in.

The more advanced movements (travers, renvers, half pass and pirouettes) all require bend toward the direction of travel. If you study your dressage tests, you'll find that no toward-the-direction-of-travel lateral movement is asked for until the horse is able to demonstrate collection.

Check out the lateral work chart for an overview of all lateral movements.

Before you start

"Inside" vs. "Outside"

Direction of bend

Lateral work chart

Turn on the forehand

Leg Yield
 Leg yield parallel
 Leg yield head to wall
 How to ride

Shoulder in

Travers

Renvers

Half pass

Pirouettes

Pronunciation 101

Lateral work game