One of the first ‘yielding’ lateral exercises in the development of horse and rider. It is a suppling exercise as well as being a fundamental lateral movement at its core that will greatly improve the horse’s longitudinal and lateral flexibility. At the same time the rider is introduced to learning how to balance and control the sideways driving aids and the outside (holding) aids by feel and timing. Later in training the leg-yield is used to not only supple, but also to encourage self carriage in the horse by changing bend level and angulation.
Always start the leg yield in WALK. In leg-yield the horse moves both forward and sideways on two tracks. An important point to consider before you start ANY movement with a horse…the horse’s spine between withers and lumbar is straight, therefore when embarking on movements consider how important it is to remain square in the saddle.
Positioning of the horse is straight, head to tail, with a slight flexion of head and neck, but no bend in the body. Inside leg pressure encourages the horse to step their inside leg/feet evenly in front and across the outside leg/feet. The “flexion” is always from the sidewise pushing leg. [If that leg is the ‘left leg’, the body flexes around the rider’s left or ‘driving’ leg.]
[Inside leg…] Drives. The horse should yield to (move away from) the increased pushing pressure of the rider’s lower leg and seatbone on the same side (inside leg). The rider should sit slightly heavier on the inside seatbone with the inside leg close behind the girth, pushing the horse forward and sideways. Timing of the inside leg aid is that it should be applied AT the moment when the inside hind leg is lifted off the ground to step forward. This timing ensures the ability to push the forward moving leg, sideways as well with ease.
[Outside leg…] Holds/controls the hind-end. The outside leg is placed in a holding position behind the girth, preventing the horse from moving his haunches too far sideways (or evading/drifting). The outside leg is also responsible for keeping the horse moving forward.
[Inside rein…] Controls the head and neck flexion/bend.
[Outside rein…] Controls the shoulder/forehand. The outside rein supports the action of the outside leg and counteracts any dropping of the shoulder or drifting away from the inside leg.
For the beginner rider, it is easier to start with leg-yield along the wall or (outside) arena barrier, with the horse’s head out toward the wall. This way the rider can concentrate more on the timing of the sideways pushing aids and does not need to the reins as much as there is a barrier to assist in guidance. Ultimately; however, the goal is to be able to perform the leg-yield on any straight line, in any direction.
- Yield Exercise Variations:
- On a circle
- From quarter-line to quarter-line
- Across the arena diagonally
- From center-line to the outside (long-side)
- From quarter-line to center-line, then back to quarter-line (zig-zag)
Using a circle to teach the horse to yield to leg pressure:
Beginning on a 20-meter circle in walk, slowly spiral the circle size down in stages to 10- or 12-meters in circumference. Then, by applying ‘inside’ leg pressure you ask your horse to step forward and sideways back outward to the 20-meter circle.