Leg yielding is usually one of the first introductions that riders and horses have to lateral work. It is pretty simple and doesn’t require any collection, so can be a useful addition to a young horse’s training, however it helps if your horse is calm, balanced and obedient.
When leg yielding, the horse is asked to move both forwards and sideways, with the inside front and hind legs crossing over and passing in front of the outside front and hind legs. Your horse’s body should remain straight at all times, with a very small amount of bend at the poll away from the direction of travel. You will know if you have the right amount of bend if you can see the horse’s eyebrow and some of his nostril.
Leg yielding can be done in walk, trot or canter, but the rhythm should not alter and the strides should an even length with no loss of energy.
How does it help the rider?
Leg yielding is a good way of teaching the rider how the arms, legs, seat, back and brain can work independently towards one goal – moving in two directions at once. Leg yielding is a good foundation for future lateral movements, especially shoulder-in. It’s also handy for opening gates!
How does it help the horse?
Leg yielding teaches the horse to move away from the leg. It also helps the horse to supple and strengthen as the back muscles and hindquarters have to stretch more than in normal flatwork.
What can go wrong?
- Your horse could lose impulsion and rhythm. If this happens try a few transitions and start again
- Too much bend in the neck and/or body leads to the horse falling out through the outside shoulder. Use your outside aids more strongly but don’t be too strong with the inside hand
- The hind quarters could lead or trail. Remember your horse needs to remain straight. Move your inside leg further back and use your outside leg to take greater control of the outside shoulder
- The horse does not cross his inside legs in front of his outside ones, but shuffles instead. If this happens he may be tired or confused. Try carrying a long schooling whip in your outside hand
- The horse panics and his head goes up. Go back to basics and ask an expert to check your position, application of aids, saddle fit etc.
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