Earlier this week I was working on leg yield with a client. She often rushes the movement so loses control of her horse’s shoulder and he falls out, losing the quality of the leg yield. As the inside hind leg crosses underneath the energy is lost through the outside shoulder – it’s like trying to fill the bath without the plug in.
Firstly we established her outside rein contact using circles and transitions before starting to leg yield on a circle with X as the centre. Reducing the fence line next to the circle helps stop the horse drifting towards the fence, but also puts my riders outside aids to the test.
Spiralling down was straightforward, but when it came to leg yielding back out the pair rushed, became unbalanced, and collapsed through their cores. My rider tried to keep too much of a bend through her horse’s body when leg yielding out, which helped her horse evade the movement by falling out of his outside shoulder and not utilising his inside hind leg.
Suddenly I had an idea. My rider is a very visual learner, so I drew some diagrams.
When spiralling in on the circle you want to think of a whirlpool, a steady and consistent line towards the centre of the circle.
Now for the stroke of genius. For the leg yielding part of the exercise you should imagine a series of concentric circles, instead of a spiral. Now as a rider you are riding around the smallest circle, and you are going to sidestep onto the middle-sized circle. So you only want to leg yield (or sidestep) a couple of steps before riding around that circle, before side stepping again until you are on the biggest circle. Physically breaking down the leg yield meant my rider took her time and balanced her horse, maintaining her outside rein and keeping her horse’s shoulder in check.
The results were instant; the leg yield became more regimented and correct as my rider had a specific and clear goal in her head. After using circles to leg yield we moved on to leg yielding in a straight line – we divided the long side of the arena into various lines – 2/3, 3/4, 7/8 – and then my rider imagined sidestepping from line to line.
If you struggle with leg yielding then try this approach, and let me know how you get on!