Leg yielding is generally most riders first introduction to lateral movement; lateral meaning sideways. This weeks audio horse riding lessons aim to not only explain leg yielding to you in easy to understand terms, but also to give you some nice exercises you can use while riding your horse to begin working his muscles and joints in a different, and beneficial way.
At the beginning of the podcast this week I mention that leg yielding and, quite frankly, riding lateral movements in general are a test of our abilities as riders to move each individual limb independently at the same time. Think of it like this; each part has it’s own equally important job which when applied together, give your horse the directions and support he needs to perform the movement.
Setting the movement up
To ask your horse to leg yield, you must first become clear in your mind as to what you want your horse to do and where you want him to do it.
With regards to the ‘where’, I suggest coming in from the outside track to perhaps the quarter line (the line halfway between the center line and the outside track on the long side of the arena). This way you are using your horses natural tendency to want to return to the outside track to your favor.
The next part is setting the movement up. Your horse needs to be straight, meaning that his hips are following directly behind his shoulders. This will remain a key part of correctly performing the leg yield. You can ask for a slight flexion in the poll area (perhaps where you can just see the inside eyelid) but his body should remain straight.
The final part of setting up the movement is the all important half halt. It will help to balance things, but also give your horse the heads up and that you are about to ask for something different. Don’t limit your half halt to just one, in fact usually 3 or 4 will be necessary to give you the desired results. Make sure you keep your leg on throughout the half halt.
Asking your horse to yield to your leg
So the word ‘Yield’ means to give way to, in this case, pressure. You must create pressure with your inside leg (the leg your horse must move away from) however where you place your leg to ask will depend on your horse’s level of training. Younger or greener horses will require your lower leg to be slightly behind the girth, as they will often have the tendency to move over with their shoulders and leave their hind quarters trailing or following behind.
Remember, in order to perform the movement correctly, your horse’s hips and shoulders must remain straight… Not one trailing diagonally across the arena after the other.
Your outside leg will help to maintain consistent impulsion and also act as a ‘blocker’ should either your horse’s hips or shoulders get ahead of the other. Your outside leg will also help to ‘end’ the leg yielding movement when you have reach your desired destination and asking your horse to go straight forward again.
Your inside hand will ask for the slight flexion in your horse’s poll area, but must remain soft and all the while aware that it is not asking for too much bend.
Your outside hand, as always, holds everything together and helps to prevent too much bend in the head and neck of your horse. Your outside hand can also be ‘opened’ slightly away from your horse’s neck which may encourage your horse to move over into the rein.
One of the biggest mistakes I see riders doing when first attempting this movement is an over enthusiastic ‘shoving’ movement with their hips and seat… This will not help, in fact sitting tall and quietly is vital to your horse being able to move in this manner. Your ‘pushing’ motion with your hips will only unbalance your horse and cause him to be unable to successfully yield to your leg.
I have written more detailed blog posts on these topics which you might be interested in reading:-
There is an audio lesson and a long form blog post with step by step exercises for you to try with your horse in both blog posts.
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