As a rider coming from a Hunter/Jumper background, I sometimes find myself needing clarification on dressage movements when riding in lessons. More often than not when I’m asked to execute a movement, it takes me longer than it should to remember the proper cues before asking my horse to perform, lest I fling myself (and whatever poor steed presently burdened with the task of not killing me) into a haphazard and half baked version of whatever it is I’m supposed to be doing without proper preparation.
Having a solid understanding of each movement, how to ask for it, and when to use it is imperative when bringing along a young horse – inconsistencies in cues can lead to confusion and an eventual loss of responsiveness when the proper aids are applied.
The leg yield is used to teach the horse to supple throughout its entire body. Asking the horse to move both forwards and sideways – crossing the front and hind legs over each other during the forward stride while remaining parallel with the outside track requires and builds suppleness, strength and elasticity.
It takes time for a horse to become proficient at the leg yield, the rider needs to be able to give the horse clear aids and be able to feel through their seat what the horse is doing underneath them to be able to correct the horse if they become unbalanced.
Aids For Leg Yield
- When riding leg yield to the left, start by riding a turn off the right rein onto the quarter line. Keep the horse straight for a few strides along the quarter line before asking for leg yield, this helps to prevent the horse from falling out on the turn and helps both horse and rider start off straight and without anticipation.
- With your right rein ask for slight bend to the right.
- The left rein maintains the bend and controls the speed at which the horse travels.
- The right leg goes slightly back behind the girth to ask the horses quarters to move across to the left.
- The left leg stays on the girth as this will not only keep the horse forward but will also prevent the horse from falling out through the shoulder.
- To leg yield to the right the aids are reversed, so it will be left rein asking for left bend, right rein controlling the speed and the amount of bend, left leg moving back behind the girth and right leg remaining on the girth.
- Leg yield from the quarter line to the track.
- Leg yield from the track to the quarter line and back to the track.
- Leg yield from the center line to either the quarter line or outside track.
- Leg yield from the center line to the quarter line and back to the center line.
- Ride a twenty meter circle and leg yield into the center of the circle until you are riding a ten meter circle and then leg yield back out onto the twenty meter circle.
- Horse leading with the shoulders or quarters.
- If the horse is over bent to the inside it encourages the horse to push out with the shoulders and drift to the rail. This can be easily corrected by riding a few steps of leg yield alternating with a few steps of straight forward movement. Only a slight bend is needed – a good way to tell if you have too much if you can see all of the horses inside eye.
- If your horse is tilting its head, it can be a sign of lack of engagement and tenseness.
- Rushing the leg yield can cause a loss of balance and rhythm – proper preparation is key.
- If your horse is losing impulsion, the cause could be the horse trying to go more sideways than forwards. Try alternating one or two steps of leg yield followed with one or two steps asking for forward impulsion until impulsion can be maintained through the leg yield strides.
- If your horse is trailing its hindquarters, it is usually a sign that the horses shoulder is falling to the rail. Once you turn up the quarter line, ride straight for a few strides to control the shoulder, then ride a few steps of Leg Yield followed by a few steps going forwards in a straight line. This will help control the shoulder throughout the leg yield. Tapping the horse gently on the hindquarters with the whip to encourage straightness can also help clear up any confusion for a young horse swinging the hindquarters out.
- If your horse is leading with the hindquarters – you could have too much restriction with the hand – or your horse could be anticipating the Leg Yield, causing the hindquarters to overtake the front end.
There you have it – go out and ride those leg yields for a 10!