How to Ride and Judge Shoulder-In to Renvers with Janet Foy

Janet Foy explains these movements and their role in developing the horse and rider.

The shoulder-in to renvers (haunches-out) exercise has many uses in training, including helping to keep the horse from leaning on the outside shoulder in the shoulder-in. It is also a very good exercise to check the suppleness and the submission of the horse. Renvers had not been in the U.S. Equestrian Federation (USEF) tests since it was in the Third Level tests in the 1980s and was shown on the centerline.

Janet Foy teaches at a clinic in Annapolis, Maryland. © Lindsay Paulsen

The shoulder-in to renvers exercise was introduced in 2003 in Second Level, Test 4, the championship test. Hilda Gurney and I worked on this test, and we thought it would be a good idea to have about 12 meters for the rider to be able to slowly straighten the horse and change the bending. So, for the first test cycle in 2003, the shoulder-in was required for 12 meters and then the next 12 meters was for the gradual change in position with the renvers then being required for 24 meters.

Well, what we thought was a good idea turned out badly! Riders thought the quicker they changed the bend, the better the judges were going to like it. So the movement actually became only 12 meters of shoulder-in and then 36 meters of renvers. Since the renvers is actually the more difficult movement, this confusion led to a lot of lower scores. In the 2007 test cycle, we took out the 12 meters for the gradual change and just wrote in the pattern K–E shoulder-in right and E–H renvers left. The Directives (printed next to the movement in every test) have the information on how to change the movement. The score for the change is no longer separate but now part of the renvers score to be used as a modifier.

In the meantime, another glitch appeared. When this movement was first introduced, the shoulder-in and renvers were three-track movements with an angle of 30 degrees. So the rider only had to change the bend. Recently, the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) and USEF changed the angle required for renvers and travers (haunches-in). These movements now require four tracks and a 35-degree angle. The rider must increase the angle and change the bend. Let’s first look at the judging issues.


At the time this article was first published, Renvers appeared in Second Level, Test 3. It is important for judges to know that the intent of the USEF Test Writing Sub-committee was not to award higher marks for a speedy change of bend. The intent was to allow the rider time to change the angle and then change the bend.

A rider can still score a high mark if she takes several strides to change the angle and the bend or if she does it quickly and well. The main concern for the judge is to make sure the rider takes enough time to develop the transition from one movement to the other in such a way that the horse stays on the aids and the haunches stay on the track (line of travel).

Judges also need to remember that the changeover is included in the second score, the score for the renvers. This is now a modifier for the renvers score. This might be the perfect spot to use the new .5 judges are allowed—go up if the changeover is smooth and down if the rider has some difficulty in it. Keep in mind when you are judging: Did the rider keep the rhythm during the change? Did she keep the haunches on the track throughout the movements and changeover? Remember, if the haunches drift, the rider is losing engagement and the line of travel. Did the rider show a three-track shoulder-in, four-track renvers and straighten/finish at H or M?


This is a good topic for discussion amongst trainers. How do you teach your students to ride and train this shoulder-in to renvers? I am going to explain the method I use, but I am sure Dressage Today would love to hear from you if you have a different exercise.

I first make sure the rider can perform both movements well on her own. The horse needs to have a fairly good degree of lateral suppleness and a degree of collection. Then I always start the movement at walk, where the rider can have the most control. If you have a mirror, ride on the wall toward it. You will need to check the angles in the mirror and make sure you can keep the haunches on the rail as well as increase the angle from three tracks to four.

Start with your three-track shoulder-in. Gradually take away the bend and add one more track so you are doing a tail-to-the-wall leg yield. Once you have control of the haunches and the angle, slowly change the bend to the renvers. Straighten before the corner. When you can perform this at walk in both directions with control and harmony, then go to trot.

In dressage, we use the terms “inside” and “outside” in two different ways. Sometimes we say “inside” and are referring to the position of the horse in regard to the arena. In other words, your inside leg is the leg to the inside of the area and the outside leg is the one against the wall. However, just to confuse the issue, we also use these same terms in regard to the bending. So in renvers, your inside leg is the one on the wall as the horse bends in the direction of travel or toward the wall.

Riding: Aids

Let’s talk about where the rider should sit and how the aids should be applied. In shoulder-in there are two schools of thought: Some think it best to sit to the inside (of the bend) on the engaged inner hind leg. Some like to sit in the middle of the horse because an upper-level horse is trained to move in the direction of your weight. At times, however, he may confuse the shoulder-in aid with the half-pass aid. Don’t take your inside leg too far back in the shoulder-in. I often see this in the show ring, and all it does is push the hind legs out. The inside leg needs to act a bit more like a post for the horse to bend around, so don’t put it more than one fist behind the girth.

For the changeover, if you are sitting to the inside, center yourself. Move your inside leg (in relation to the arena) back behind the girth to control the hindquarters and keep them on the wall. This leg may need to be active at this time. Move your old outside leg forward to become the new inside leg in the renvers. Once you have the correct four-track angle, shift your weight to the new direction of the bend for the renvers. This will be toward the wall or to the outside of the arena. Move your upper body with the shoulders of the horse. They were turning to the inside with the shoulder-in , but in the renvers they will need to be perpendicular to the rail. Be sure to finish the exercise before the corner or when the horse’s nose touches M or H.

The ability to perform this movement well and with fluidity will greatly increase your chances of success as you move into Third Level. 

Click here to read more articles with Janet Foy.

About Janet Foy

Janet Foy is a dressage judge—an FEI 4* and USEF “S”—as well as a USEF Sport Horse “R” breed judge. As a rider, she has earned her USDF bronze, silver and gold medals. A former member of the USDF Executive Board and USEF Board of Directors, she is currently a member of the USEF International High Performance Dressage Committee. She is also on the USDF “L” Education Program faculty and instructs judges’ training programs throughout the United States. The author of a new book, Dressage for the Not-So-Perfect Horse, she is based in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

This article first appeared in the November 2012 issue of Dressage Today magazine. 






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