Leg-yield. Exercises.
Posted by Irina Yastrebova on Friday, February 6, 2009 11:19 AM
Below I have listed different ways to ride a leg-yield. In overall the difficulty is increasing from the first to last exercise. However, this is my personal preference and you may change the order to fit you and your horse..
  • Head to the wall is somewhat simpler to execute because you have a wall as your reference and the same wall creates a natural barrier for the horse. Working on this exercise will show your horse's asymmetries and may be even your own. You will realize that your horse wants to collapse more on one shoulder more than another. If your asymmetry matches your horse you will have a direction where leg-yield feels effortless and another one where it is almost impossible to feel balanced.
  • Turn on the forehand is a leg-yield in place. I recommend riding the exercise as if haunches are moving on a big circle and shoulders are moving on a very small circle. This way you will avoid pivoting on the front legs rooted to the ground. Such execution does not have any gymnastic value and actually teaches the horse to load his forehand and lighten his haunches. If you have worked your horse in hand he will know the exercise and as long as you do not hold the front legs in one place you will be able to achieve smooth and rhythmical turns. This exercise is especially helpful with horses that lean on the inside shoulder during circles and turns. If you are riding a circle in walk, trot or canter and feel your horse is leaning too much inside. Make transition to walk and ride a 360 degree turn on the forehand then continue your circle. After a few of such corrections you will feel your horse much straighter and more balanced.
  • From quarter line (center line) to the wall. I have put this one number third because it is not easy to execute correctly. Riders very often loose their alignment in regard to the wall and allow their horse to be late either with the haunches or shoulders. To be successful with this exercise you must have your horse really conditioned to the light touch of your leg. Rather execute a few good steps then simply drift toward the wall. To keep yourself aligned and organized you will have to work hard at keeping your hips and shoulders perpendicular to the wall and use your outside aids to keep him straight. The variation is leg-yield from center line to the quarter line - straight for a few steps - continue leg-yield to the wall.
  • Leg-yield on a circle. I like this exercise. It allows many variations: small circle, big circle, leg-yield with haunches out, with haunches in (this one for the big circle), spiral in and out in leg-yield, you can keep your horse absolutely straight or allow some bend, you can ask for very slow deliberate steps, you can ride a figure eight, etc. Do not let your horse collapse, keep the rhythm of the walk and strive for softness and fluidity in the movement, especially when you are changing direction from one leg-yield to another.
  • Zigzags in leg-yield. You can start from very simple variant: leg-yield to quarter line - few straight steps - leg-yield back to the wall. You will quickly know if your horse really on the aids because stepping away from the wall is very different story than coming toward the wall. You can ride zigzag from the center line to the quarter line change and go all the way to another quarter line and back to the center line again. You can play with the steepness of your sideway movement, how many zigzag lines you put in, do you allow a few straight steps or change direction right away. As always start with the simple and than increase difficulty.
  • A very good warm-up exercise for more advanced horses is leg-yield on a diagonal from wall to wall. Obviously, it can serve as a good exercise for any horse that knows leg-yield. However, it is only of value when a horse steps sideways lightly with good rhythm and balance and require minimum aids from the rider.
  • All previous leg-yield patterns except turn on the forehand can be done in trot. However, faster speed makes it more difficult to control the straightness, balance and good quality of the gait. There are different views on what easier for the horse to learn leg-yield in walk or in trot. Walk gives you and your horse time and steadiness to figure things out and correct yourselves. There is less chance for your horse to speed up or drift off course. However, trot gives a horse diagonalization of legs that facilitates the sideway steps and helps to develop suppleness. I want to put it this way. You learn in walk you practice in trot. You can do leg-yields in rising trot and in sitting trot. Rising trot allows you to time your leg aid better and it is easier to keep the flow of the trot especially if sitting trot is hard for you.
  • Leg-yields in canter can be done both ways from one lead. What I mean is on the left lead you can leg-yield to the right or to the left. Without collection and proper bend it will not be a half-pass to the left, it will be a leg-yield. And you can even ask for slight counter-flexion. Such leg-yield is a great preparation for a flying change. Leg-yield to the right from the left lead, (leg-yield from a quarter line to a wall) gives you a chance to develop better agility, balance and obedience to the aids. The inside hind leg must step under the body and closer to the middle line. This develops it's carrying power for collection. You need to be aware that your horse stays straight and vertical. Do not allow him to lean on the outside shoulder. He may find it very difficult to go into direction opposite from the heavy shoulder. Be patient and sympathetic. It will take time and practice to develop coordination and muscles strength in your horse.
Besides different leg-yields the pattern before and after a leg-yield creates a numerous combinations to work on and to set something which helps your horse to progress in his training. Circles, transitions, changes of rein - all these exercises in combination with leg-yields allow you to create interesting variations and eliminate dullness and boredom of repeating the same thing over and over again.
Happy riding...
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