Posted by Irina Yastrebova on Sunday, February 1, 2009 11:08 AM
Working with my students on leg-yield I have noticed several mistakes that are very common and reoccur on regular basis, especially, when riders get upset or are trying really hard. Riders who were taught conventional aids for leg-yields usually exhibit these errors more. These mistakes are:
  • Collapsing or leaning to the inside. Inside here is opposite from the direction a horse is moving. Usually it involves detaching the outside seatbone from the saddle, falling off the inside of the horse and allowing the horse to bulge into outside shoulder. It happens because rider's attention is very much on his inside leg and hand. Pulling on inside rein results in twisting to the inside too much which leads to collapse. Plus inside leg usually pushes a somewhat reluctant horse to go sideways. Riders try to add seat to the aids and push with inside seatbone. That makes rider slide to the inside and partially or completely lose connection with outside seatbone and thigh.
  • Pulling too much on inside rein is another common mistake, especially with riders that were taught to initiate leg-yield with inside rein creating flexion to the inside. Most of the time riders create too much bend in the neck again allowing their horse to collapse on outside shoulder and lose straightness. Plus rider is twisted and loses his squareness and stability.
  • With so much attention to the inside aids outside aids are not working. However, they are very, very important. They create a barrier to keep a horse straight, they allow rider to sit square and on top of the horse moving sideways together in good balance. Outside hand connected to outside elbow which in turn is connected to outside shoulder which is connected to outside side of ribcage, stomach, pelvis and seatbone. Plus outside hip, thigh, knee and calf. All of them keep their form and position even though a horse may push into them trying to collapse and bulge on the outside.
  • Seatbones and hips are not even, not horizontal. With inside seatbone sliding down and outside becoming airborne riders do not keep their balance properly and are not square in their hips and shoulders. Usually riders do not feel good when they are in such situation. They describe such leg-yields labored and difficult. So, they try to fix things working on inside aids even more... Very vicious cycle is created.
Now lets summarize what should be done in leg-yield. Lets pretend you are doing it along the wall, head to the wall, on the left rein, in walk.
  • Make sure your abdominal push is working, you are sitting centered and your base of support (pubic and seatbones) is loaded evenly. You get a feel that your hips and seatbones are horizontally aligned. Your thighs are rotated in, your heel are under you with your feet lightly resting on the stirrups.
  • As you are approaching the long side position yourself for the leg-yield. Move your right leg slightly backwards from the hip. Light touches of this leg in the rhythm of the walk will ask the horse to step sideways. Your left thigh and left arm will create a solid barrier to prevent your horse from collapsing. You will keep a soft but steady connection on the right rein creating a tunneling effect with both reins. Do not try to create flexion to the right. Usually very light flexion happens by itself when leg-yield is done correctly.
  • You will not finish your corner, or better say you will cut it. When your horse reaches about 30 degree angle to the wall, head at the wall, haunches away from the wall you will start keeping the angle with your hips, seatbones, shoulders and help from outside thigh. You will sit very square, no twisting, or leaning either side. Outside (left) aids keep the horse straight and inside (right) lower leg will ask the horse to step sideways with very light touches. The arena wall in this case will give you clear reference for the correct angle.
  • Your inside leg is not lose, it is not swinging and bumping the horse. It stays positioned, calf muscles stretched and firm. The touch is very deliberate and light. Touch with the whip if the horse ignores your leg.
  • Focus on keeping your position, your alignment, your angle. Your horse will follow you.
To set yourself for the success teach your horse leg-yield in hand before you ask it under saddle. Click here for the first out of three blogs on the subject. Next time we will look at different exercises for the leg-yield.
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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