Lateral work, such as leg yield, is incredibly beneficial to our horses for their schooling and development. All to often we overlook the basics and forget that without having mastered them the more advanced movements are much harder to achieve.
What is leg yield?
Leg Yield is when the horse moves on two tracks; both forwards and sideways. The inside legs should cross in front of the outside legs.
Why ride leg yield?
This lateral exercise is a great way for your horse to become more supple, straight and balanced. The leg yield is one of the more basic lateral movements introduced early on in training. It is not just an exercise in itself but also acts as a pre cursor to more advanced lateral movements. Progression onto movements such as half pass and shoulder in.
What else can it help with?
You may find that the leg yield is a great way to get your horse switched on to the aids and listening to you when you work them. This is not just for flat work but can also be a great exercise to ride when working in for jumping. It can help to get your horse engaged. Also out hacking, you may need to safely leg yield away from a spooky object to avoid further drama!
How do I ask my horse to leg yield?
Start in walk to master the feel for this movement. Once you are making good confident steps in walk you can progress to leg yield in trot. On the quarter or three quarter line, just as you turn off the track, have an assistant place a pole length ways along the line. This is great because it will allow you to have a marker to start straight and work from.
Step by Step for the Left Rein
-Begin with a good, active balanced purposeful medium walk.
-Give a half-halt down your outside rein as you approach the quarter/three-quarter line where your pole is. This prepares and re-balances the horse for the turn. Ride onto the quarter/three-quarter line on the inside of the pole.
-Follow the line of the pole in your walk, looking up and ahead and keeping straight.
-As you approach the end of the pole; transfer a little more weight into your left seat bone and apply your left leg behind the girth. This asks your horse to move sideways away from your leg pressure, therefore towards the outer track of the arena.
-At the same time, your right rein contains the energy giving little half halts if required, and helps to guide your horse in his direction of travel.
-Your right leg is used to maintain forward momentum and steps, control the angle and to prevent your horse from falling out to the right side. Maintain the leg against the horses side and apply as needed.
-With your left rein create a small amount of flexion, whilst keeping balance.
-Your horse should show a small amount of flexion at the poll – away from the direction in which they are travelling.
-Allow for steps forwards and sideways, steady and consistent.
-Once you reach the outer track, straighten your horse up and ride forward positively and out of the leg-yield, going large.
As you work on the exercise ask your assistant to stand at the other end of the arena and watch you as you leg yield off the quarter/three quarter line to the outer track. They can tell you how correct your steps are. They can see if the inside legs really are crossing in front of the outside legs. You must aim to keep your rhythm, balance, tempo and impulsion the same as you work through the exercise.
-Outside rein contact is slack and the rein is too long. This means the contact is broken and the support is inconsistent. The horse will drift out through the outside shoulder.
-Too much bend on the inside rein. This will force the horse out through the outside shoulder creating a block to the inside hind leg steps.
-Compromised body position; leaning to the inside as you apply inside leg aids is a common fault. This will result in the horse losing balance. This can also happen when you grip too tightly with the inside leg aid.
-Horse rushes off the inside leg aid. The result is that they fall out of the exercise. They lose straightness, rhythm and balance.
-Too much rein and over use of the half halt; you must have forward momentum and movement to allow the lateral movement to show well. Dont overly restrict the horse with the hand.
Have a go in your next schooling session and see how you get on!