Sunday, September 1, 2013

Thoughts on Lateral Work & Riding with the Inside Leg to Outside Rein


First off – this post on leg yields on TB at X is a really good one; in fact, I’d even go so far as to call it a must read for any beginner/novice dressage riders (I love this new-to-me blog, it’s been so helpful!).

Here’s an excerpt:

“I love leg yields. They are the most basic lateral movement, and for that reason, an incredible tool for green horses and riders new to dressage.  To do a leg yield is not real hard, but does require an understanding of a few somewhat complicated concepts.  Most people can relatively easily understand the concepts and how to do a leg yield, but then find carrying it out to be slightly counter-intuitive, which is what makes leg yielding such a great exercise. Once it “clicks” for a horse or rider, it’s like a big light bulb turns on, and from there the rest of dressage starts to fall into place.

The concepts that a leg yield requires a horse or rider to gain an understanding of mostly hinge around the use of the outside rein. When asking for a leg yield, the horse should be gently flexed away from the direction the horse will be moving in.  Alone, flexing the horse gently in either direction is not hard, but when adding the leg yield, the idea of bending the horse into the *outside rein* becomes critical. As the rider asks for the first steps of leg yield, just closing the inside leg is again usually not difficult for the rider, but riding from the inside leg to the *outside rein* is usually a light bulb moment. Then, after the leg yield is finished, straightening the horse not just by ceasing to ask with the inside leg, but also straightening with the *outside rein* is the final ah-ha!

What a Leg Yield Should Look Like:

When the horse does a leg yield, his body will move both forward and sideways, so if he is parallel to the long side of the arena, he travels a line diagonal across the arena.  Let’s say, for example, we are riding a leg yield from the quarter line (half way between the center line and rail) to the rail, tracking right. The horse starts on the quarter line, traveling straight forward, body parallel to the rail. The horse flexes gently to the right, filling the outside rein.  The rider can best influence the inside hind leg to move sideways as it is in the air stepping forward (vs when it is planted on the ground and the outside hind is stepping), so if the horse is walking, as the front left leg steps forward the next step will be the right hind, and if the horse is trotting the front left and right hind step at the same time, and this would be when to ask the right hind to step under the horses body to cross in front of the left hind. As the horse moves sideways, his body stays parallel to the wall, he maintains the right flexion and contact in the left rein. When the leg yield is finished, the rider straightens the horse with the outside rein and may close both legs to send the horse forwards.”…

And my favorite part: Only when the rider takes a hold of the outside rein can they catch the outside shoulder and keep it under the horse, straightening the horse so the inside hind will step under the horse correctly. The first time the rider pulls the outside rein and feels the inside hind leg step way under the horse’s body they usually go “Ah-ha!” and they understand what is meant by “inside leg to outside rein”.  The same thing will happen trying to end a leg yield. A novice rider will try to stop the sideways motion of the horse by pulling the inside rein (sending the horse through his outside shoulder) instead of straightening him with the outside rein, and again, this will be an “Ah-ha!” moment when the rider gets it right.”

I love this article, because even though I’ve done some lateral work with my instructor’s guidance, such as leg yields and shoulder in, this has really helped to solidify what I am looking for, as well as the correct aids, and method for fixing an incorrect leg yield.

Which in turn helps me to feel confident about trying lateral work in our schooling sessions all by myself! *gasp*  :P

And if you’ve stuck with me thus far, I want to ruminate on the results of trying this out on Copper last week.

When I rode Copper on Friday, it had rained buckets the night before and our arena was slush – all the other riding spaces not much better.  I knew I basically had to stick to a walk, so lateral work it was!

Copper has learnt leg yields so he had those down, although our shoulder-ins where a little hesitant and bulgy through the outside shoulder.  What I found really interesting was that as I really thought about riding inside leg to outside shoulder, I could feel him move into the contact and we had connection on the outside rein. 

It felt like I was sweeping my inside leg forwards and over, although I wasn’t actually sliding my leg forwards, that was the motion that I felt through my seat.  As a result his inside leg would step further underneath and across and I could feel him “filling” out the outside rein, resulting in a strong connection from his hindquarters to his shoulders – Copper was starting to lift his back and round up properly for the first time since I’ve been riding him! *ding*  That was a big “Ah-ha!” moment for me.

On a 20m circle, I could ‘catch’ his outside shoulder before it bulged out, and also any faster trot or canter strides. Usually I am one step behind him – he can pop into a canter pretty quickly, but I had him from the BEFORE the lift off from his back end!  I could also correct any over bend and straighten him out just by feeling that outside rein.

Towards the end of the ride he was as supple and soft as he’s ever been with me and I could tell he really liked it.  He was in tune with me, and really responding to the work.  I felt like I had tapped into a whole new Copper and was wondering why the heck I am trying to sell him!!  (> o <);

There is a lot more to this horse than I had previously realized – I’m not sure if it was just misguidance on my instructor’s part, but I don’t think either of us realized how much more Copper has to offer.  I know he’s not, and never will be, an ideal dressage mount.  He has a lot of prejudices stacked against him before he even does a test – just because he is a Standardbred!

But I will say this – while he is still up for sale (Hubs is pretty firm about the family taking a break from the work-heavy responsibility of horse ownership) – I am going to appreciate every single moment of riding him.  I intend to explore the possibilities that Copper has to offer for as long as I can!

See ya,


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