Updated: Feb 18, 2021
Last time we talked about how to use the leg yield to improve the lengthened trot. Read about it here! I love this exercise, but it only works when your horse is confirmed in the leg yield. "But what if my horse doesn't know how to leg yield yet?" I'm glad you asked! Let's talk about when and how to introduce the leg yield.
What is the leg yield?
Leg yielding is a lateral movement - meaning the horse moves forward and sideways at the same time. It's the first lateral movement we teach because it doesn't require any degree of collection. The horse is bent in the opposite direction of the movement. Leg yielding is asked for in First Level Tests 2 and 3. It's also the foundation for developing other lateral movements, so it's an important one!
How do I know when my horse is ready to learn the leg yield?
Before I introduce leg yielding, I like to make sure my horse understands how to go forward into the contact. I want him to go forward when I close my calf into my steady hand and stay there. I also want to be sure the horse can do basic transitions from one gait to another (i.e. walk to trot, trot to canter, canter to trot, or trot to walk) without coming above the bit, leaning, drifting, pulling on the reins, etc. He needs to know how to stay forward and connected within simple transitions.
Great! My horse does those things! How to I begin to teach the leg yield?
I like to start on a 20 meter circle in the center of the arena. You'll need the space on the "open" sides of the circle.
Establish a forward thinking, steady trot. On the open side of the circle, as the horse to move away from your inside leg, toward your outside rein.
As you approach the track, send the horse forward again. Remind him, it's not only about moving sideways, he has to always go forward to the contact.
Repeat as you go around the circle - leg yield inside leg to outside rein on the open part of the circle, forward as you approach the track. Your circle will end up looking more like an egg or an oval shape.
Be sure to do this exercise both directions! Work the trot first and then try it in canter.
Once your horse understands how to leg yield on the circle, try it on a straight away!
Turn onto the quarter line, just before the rail line. Ask your horse to leg yield towards the track, from your inside leg into your outside rein. Be sure to keep thinking forward and not worry too much about sideways. The horse needs to go forward to the contact and his body needs to remain parallel to the rail line - basically straight. When you can leg yield from the quarter line to the rail in the trot each direction, try it in the canter!
Common problems you may run into...
The horse bulges through the outside shoulder.
Solution - Use more outside rein. Every other stride (in the rhythm of the trot), give a big squeeze on the outside rein to slow the forehand and give the inside hind leg a chance to step up and under the body.
The horse rotates toward the rail, turning the leg yield into a diagonal line.
Solution - Be sure you keep your body (chest and chin) lined up with the top of the arena. Pick a target and keep your body facing it. Move your eyes along the top of the arena like a typewriter but don't let your chest or chin turn toward the rail.
The horse's haunches lead.
Solution - Be sure you're not focusing too much on the "sideways" part of the movement and not enough on the "forward" aspect of it. If we try to send the horse too sideways, we can knock them out of balance and the haunches may lead. Send the horse forward and then ask for the leg yield again once you have the horse travelling forward and straight.
Give these exercises a try and let me know how it goes! Happy riding!