Work in hand. Leg-yield. I
Posted by Irina Yastrebova on Sunday, April 13, 2008 11:12 PM
Work in hand is a very valuable tool to establish communication, to teach your horse ground manners and to work on exercises in a calm quiet manner without burden of a rider's weight. To make sure your horse is ready for a leg-yield in hand check that he leads well (not dragging behind or running you over), easily steps away with his haunches from the touch of the whip and respects your space (does not run into you when you try directing his feet). Read this article if you are not sure your horse leads well.
  • You can start this work with the horse wearing just a well-fitted halter or a bridle. Or, you can have a cavesson, side-reins and surcingle on him. Use side-reins to teach a leg-yield if you have spent sufficient time longing your horse with them and he is comfortable. I, personally, do not use side reins for this work because I do it after I ride as a cool down session. However, side-reins will speed up the progress.
  • You need a long whip, at least a dressage whip. Lunge whip can work but it is very long and cumbersome to handle.
  • It is better to have an enclose for this work. However, any barrier will work as long as it is straight, long enough (at least 10 m) and has a level non-slippery footing by it's side (a wall of a building, hedge at the end of the field or on the side of a small road, fence, pile of snow on the side of a driveway). Use your imagination to see where you can work safely.
  • Wear gloves, good sturdy boots and even a helmet. If you are new to such work or your horse is young it is a good idea to protect your head from an accident.
The initial phase of showing your horse what is expected of him can be done in the halter. However, to polish things and to create straightness and regularity a bridle or a cavesson with side-reins are necessary. To start the exercise position yourself closer to the barrier then your horse. He has his left side to the barrier. You are standing at his left shoulder, your left hand is holding the lead rope or the reins close to the head or the bit. Your left hand is forward somewhat and slightly bent and you will keep it that way, not allowing his head to come closer to you. Your right hand is holding the rest of the lead rope or reins and the whip. The whip is in horizontal position, it must be easy for you to touch his haunches. Your body position is such that you are halfway turned to your horse, halfway turned forward. Your left arm, your right arm with the whip as an extension and your horse create a triangle. You ask your horse to move forward and as soon as he does you ask him to move his haunches away from you. Do not forget to start moving with him. When he moves his haunches away from you to create about 30 degree angle with the barrier stop asking for more angle just keep him moving. Keep your whip in such position that it does not touch him as long as he keeps the angle himself and continues to walk forward and sideways. Do not hold tight contact with your left hand if his head quiet and he keeps the correct distance from you. You lead his head with your left arm, you direct his haunches with your right, you walk slow and steady and keep a straight line. Your objective is to have a horse that easily walks sideways by your side, keeping the angle himself, staying quiet with his head and keeping a nice steady rhythm. Do not forget to change direction. You will feel somewhat awkward working on his right side. Keep practicing and you will get better.
At the very beginning be very patient, look for the smallest correct response and cease asking. This initial phase is when your horse doesn't know what you want. He may become impatient or irritated. Respect that, work only for the short period of time, give your horse lots of brakes. I spend no more than 5 minutes at introductory phase in each direction.
Next time I will talk about the problems that may arise in leg-yields and possible solutions to fix them.
Happy riding...
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My blog is about teaching, riding and training. I share what is important to me in my work with horses and riders. The writing helps me to think things over and have a better understanding of training ideas and priciples.
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