When asked by his protégé, the young King Louis XIII, why the rider works with sideways, Pluvinel replies: ‘We need sideways to straighten.’ At first, that sounds contrary. Why should we work a horse sideways to straighten it? What is a mystery to us at the beginning of the equestrian training becomes more and more indispensable as understanding grows. First, we need the side movements to achieve a common balance with the horse and to work the hindlegs under a shared point of weight. Much later we need side movements when horse and rider lose their shared balance for a few moments. What started as a lesson becomes a continuous conversation between two souls and two bodies.

Some centuries have passed since Pluvinel. What have we learned since then and what may we have forgotten? Since Pluvinel taught the young king, and besides him many more students, the art of riding has experienced many different manifestations. Pluvinel was not just a theorist – he trained horses and humans for applied hand-to-hand combat, that is, for war. A very direct and immediate review of the quality of the training is guaranteed.

Despino in Renvers / credits: Astrid Mathilde Anderson

What side movements do we know?

The basic side movements are

  • Shoulder In
  • Haunches In 
  • Renver (Counter Haunches In)

All movements and lessons inside the arena are build up on these basics.  Counter Shoulder-In is not actively trained today in the Academic Art of Riding. It is biomechanically so difficult to be used correctly, that we decided to first teach it when we are very sure about not doing more harm than good.

Fortunately, we live in peacetime today, and I hope it stays that way. We ride sideways anyway. Why actually, when our goal is no longer to give each other something on our hats (or riding helmets). Side passages have different uses, which also explains their different characteristics. The agility in the turmoil is just one of them. If we are on the track with the beginner, the side aisles will remind us more of leg switches. Here they have the task of giving the beginner a feeling for when the rider can even trigger a reaction in the horse. If we are herding cows, sheep or are in a bullfight, it is less about the perfectly trained side gait and much more about moving in relation to the animal as quickly as possible. Either in order not to let it break out of the herd or in order not to be caught by the bull yourself. If our concern is to exercise the horse in the riding arena, a basic level of understanding the side movements is indispensable.

The campagne school (i.e. outside in the area) can work with side movements, but doesn’t have to. Only when the horse must deal with the physical forces within the arena is it essential to keep the horse healthy to work with elements of dressage such as bending, stance and straightening. And for straightening, we need side movements. Pluvinel already knew that. Sadly, many horses are today trained and ridden like in the campangne school, but inside the an arena. A NO GO for physical health and a susbstantial education.

Equidemia is hosting the LIVE Webinar Sidemovements on February 20th- 21st!
The course takes up the book’s topics. You can participate as a spectator, ask questions to the riders and Bent Branderup and enjoy a great learning experience.
Click here if you like to learn more.

Which side movements exist, how they are related to each other, perspectives of the side movements in different working positions, tips for the seat, application examples experience reports and why are we within the Academic Art of Riding using the term side movements instead of lateral movements?  Among others, these are the questions what the new book addresses. The new volume ‘Side Movements’ of the Academic Art of Riding compendium is released February 25th.

I am incredibly proud to present the next volume of the compendium. The editors and of course each individual author puts a lot of passion into each volume. We are presenting the dedicated reader different persepective on the side movements, while each article picks up on the other’s thought. ‘Side Movements’ builds on the previous volume ‘Circle’ (published August 2020) and lays the foundation for the book ‘Straightening’, which will be published in March 2022. Again, a dedicated group of trainers will contribute their thoughts and experiences.

If you are curious for a sneak peek and can’t wait any longer, I would like to make you happy:  Get a glimpse into the book in advance. Like to preorder? Click here