Leg-yield is a beneficial exercise that loosens the horse’s back and makes him more supple and elastic, adding expression to the gaits and helping the horse to relax mentally.
Although leg-yield is most commonly ridden from the centerline to the outside track, for added variety you can ride leg-yield down the wall.
Here’s how to do it!
What is leg-yielding?
Leg-yielding is the first lateral movement that you teach your horse. The horse moves forwards and sideways with a slight flexion at the poll away from the direction of travel, while keeping his body straight.
Leg-yield teaches the horse to move through his body and step away from your inside leg into your outside rein.
You can ride leg-yield in the walk, trot, and canter.
As well as riding leg-yield in the arena, you can ride the exercise while you’re out hacking along trails and quiet roads. That’s a great way of keeping your horse’s attention on you and can be helpful when riding out on inexperienced youngsters.
Related Read: How to Leg-Yield
Leg-yield in dressage tests
In British Dressage competitions, the leg-yield exercise only appears in Elementary dressage tests where it’s ridden parallel to the boards from the centerline to the track.
But when you are training at home, you can ride leg-yield from the outside track to the centerline, on circles, across the diagonal line, and many other places, including down the wall.
What’s the purpose of leg-yielding?
Essentially, the leg-yield makes the horse more supple through his back, hips, and shoulders, helping you to establish a secure connection through the whole body to the bridle.
It also helps the horse to build his confidence and the ability to cross over his legs during lateral work.
Many riders use leg-yield as a warm-up exercise, as it’s an excellent way of loosening and stretching the muscles, enhancing relaxation, and helping to develop softness and suppleness over the back.
How to ride leg-yield down the wall
Leg-yield is generally ridden from the centerline to the outside track, with the horse being parallel to the long side of the arena. The horse’s forehand should be very slightly in advance of the hindquarters.
Riding it down a wall or fence is almost the same, the only difference is that you are following a different line, but all of your aids remain the same as the standard leg-yield.
Here’s a quick reminder of the aids for leg-yield.
- Your inside rein asks for a small amount of flexion at the poll away from the direction of travel.
- Your outside rein keeps the horse straight, prevents too much neck bend, and controls the outside shoulder.
- Your inside leg comes very slightly behind the girth and rhythmically pushes the horse forwards and sideways.
- Your outside leg hangs passive but can be used to prevent the quarters from swinging and to create more forward impulsion.
You can ride the exercise either with the horse’s quarters to the wall or with the horse’s head to the wall.
Let’s take a look at both.
Leg-yield with quarters to the wall
So, to ride leg-yield with the horse’s hindquarters to the wall, you need to:
Ride the horse forward in an active working trot. Concentrate on keeping the horse in a good rhythm and steady tempo.
As you ride through the corner after the short side of the arena, position the horse as if you are going to change the rein across the diagonal line.
Once your horse’s shoulders are off the track, half-halt down your outside ride, turn your head to look down the inside track (but keep your shoulders parallel to your horse’s shoulders), and push the horse away from your inside leg at the girth into your outside rein. At the same time, your inside rein should maintain a slight inside flexion away from the direction of travel.
Maintain an angle of around 35 degrees to the fence. The horse’s legs should pass and cross underneath him as he continues to move forward down the track.
NOTE: To improve the degree of crossing, apply your inside leg aid rhythmically as your horse’s inside hind leg leaves the ground. At this precise moment, you can influence the horse’s inside hind leg to step further across and under, therefore improving the horse’s suppleness and the degree of crossing.
Ride the horse in leg-yield for just a few strides, and then straighten him again. Once the horse is more experienced, you can ask him for more steps.
Leg-yield with head to the wall
To ride leg-yield with the horse’s head to the wall:
As you ride through the corner onto the long side, make the horse slightly flexed to the outside.
Now, use your outside leg behind the girth to push the horse’s hindquarters to the inside, establishing an angle of around 35 degrees to the wall before positioning your leg back to just slightly behind the girth.
NOTE: At this point, your “inside” and “outside” change. This is because the terms “inside” and “outside” refer to the direction in which your horse is bent and/or flexed, not your horse’s position within the arena.
As your horse is leg-yielding with his head to the wall, he should be flexed away from the direction of travel. So, what was your outside, it is now your inside because your horse is flexed in that direction.
If we apply this logic to the diagram, the rider’s left hand would now be holding their outside rein, and the rider’s right hand would be holding their inside rein.
Look down the outside track (whilst keeping your shoulders parallel to your horse’s shoulders) and use your new inside leg at the girth to push the horse down the track whilst maintaining a slight inside flexion at the poll.
After a few steps, make the horse straight again. When the horse is more experienced and balanced, you can extend the distance you travel.
What can go wrong?
As with all lateral exercises, there are a few things that can go wrong.
Problem #1 – Loss of rhythm
If the horse is tense or the rider doesn’t ride forward, a consistent and regular rhythm can be lost.
If the horse loses rhythm or the tempo varies during the leg-yield, make the horse straight again and ride him forward.
Start the exercise again once the rhythm has been reestablished.
Problem #2 – Varied positioning
The horse should maintain an angle of around 35 degrees throughout the leg-yield to the wall exercise. If the position varies, that’s typically because the horse loses energy or he is not securely into the rider’s outside rein.
Again, if the angle varies, make the horse straight again and ride the exercise again, asking for less angle until the horse is sufficiently balanced to cope.
Problem #3 – Bend through the horse’s body
In leg-yield, you shouldn’t have any bend. The horse should be slightly flexed through his poll away from the direction of travel, rather than bent through his body.
Related Read: What is the Difference Between Bend and Flexion?
If you do have body bend, the movement becomes more like a shoulder-in or travers.
When ridden down the wall, the leg-yield exercise can be used to make the horse more supple both longitudinally and laterally.
You can ride the exercise with the horse’s head or hindquarters to the wall, but the angle should be around 35 degrees to the track throughout the exercise. The horse should be slightly flexed away from the direction of movement, and the rhythm, tempo, and impulsion should remain the same throughout.