Teaching a Leg Yield

"T," Speedy's new best buddy, came out over the weekend for another lesson. I don't know who enjoys it more, T, Speedy, or me. Speedy loves the attention - if not necessarily the work, and I enjoy the opportunity to take what I've learned and apply it in a new way. I can't speak for T, but I am pretty sure she's just a sponge soaking up what she can. I keep reminding her that you get what you pay for though - my "lessons" are free. I also keep telling her, "When you finally take a lesson from a real dressage instructor ..."

Each time T comes out, I've had to figure out what she can tackle next. Since we did spiral in and spiral out the last time, I thought she was ready for a leg yield. I did not know how difficult that was going to be to teach. Staying on a 20-meter circle is mostly about getting the horse soft and round while being active from behind. There aren't a whole ton of aids involved. The leg yield requires the application of a lot more aids than I remember learning.  The weather has been beautiful here in sunny California. ​The US Equestrian Rule Book describes the leg yield as a movement in which “the horse is kept almost straight, except for slight flexion of the poll away from the direction in which he moves, and the inside legs pass and cross in front of the outside legs with the forehand slightly in advance of the quarters.” I didn't tell T all of that though. Instead, I explained that it was a sideways movement that also travels forward.

We started with more spiral in and spiral out. From there, I instructed her to spiral out while moving forward. The first few attempts were disastrous as Speedy took advantage of her and headed straight for H with zero crossing over of anything. Once she got a few steps of a leg yield, we moved on to a leg yield from center line. The thing with the leg yield is that there is a lot to it. For leg yielding from centerline to the rail, the rider also has to understand how to ride the 10-meter half circle so that she can go up centerline. That took some practice as T hadn't turned up centerline before. She had spiraled in to a 10-meter circle, but she hadn't made the connection that tuning up centerline takes the same about of bend.

Once she had sufficient control of that turn, she rode the leg yield from the centerline to the rail. Time after time Speedy headed "straight" for the rail without bothering with any lateral movement. As I continued to yell outside rein, Speedy continued to ignore T's polite use of the outside rein. I finally yelled out jerk that outside rein! And what do you know - suddenly, Speedy's hind leg crossed over! It is so gratifying to see your student "get it." I can't tell you how many millions of times Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, has yelled YES after I've done something that was apparently right. She immediately follows it up with a did you feel it? Sometimes I don't, but other times I do, and it is so valuable to have that instant feedback to let me know when I am on the right track.

I found myself yelling the same words of encouragement to T while asking if she felt it. When she finally got some sideways steps out of Speedy, I immediately shouted, YES! and asked, did you feel it? The smile on T's face told me that indeed, she had. 

That's payment enough.