Leg Yield: The Basis of All Lateral Movement

leg yield pinterest infographic

The leg yield is perhaps the single most important maneuver you will ever teach your horse. The leg yield forms the basis for every other lateral movement from the sidepass to the spin. It is where your horse first learns to get off you leg and yield to pressure.

The leg yield forms the basis for every other lateral movement from the sidepass to the spin.Click To Tweet

What is a leg yield?

While maintaining forward motion, you ask the horse to move sideways off your leg with the haunches following the same track as the shoulders. There can be a slight bend as the ribcage moves away from the leg, but the shoulders should not be leading the haunches. The outside legs should be crossing over in front of the inside legs.

Inside vs Outside Legs

You may be asking: how do I know which is the outside leg and which is the inside leg? If you are leg yielding right, the right leg is the inside leg and the left leg is the outside leg. Therefore, the left legs in both front and back should be crossing over in front of the right legs. If you are leg yielding to the left, the left leg is the inside leg and the right leg is the outside leg. So, the right legs should be crossing over in front of the left legs.

How do I know if my horse is crossing over properly?

Eventually you will learn to feel it. However, until you do, it is good to have an experience person you trust to watch you and tell you when you get it right so you can learn to feel it for yourself. If you absolutely cannot find anyone experienced enough to tell the difference, you can have someone video your ride for you so you can review the video after every leg yield and see whether you got it right or wrong.

Teaching the Leg Yield

Prerequisites

  • Forward momentum
  • Rhythm/even tempo
  • Roundness through the back/beginning collection

Teaching Steps

leg yield

1. Yielding on the Ground

You want to start on the ground. Use your thumb to mimic your heel and get your horse moving willingly off the pressure. You don’t have to worry about keeping the horse’s body lined up for a perfect leg yield on the ground. Just focus on get the horse moving around you and crossing over with front and back legs while maintaining a bit of forward momentum.

2. Yielding Under Saddle

Once your horse gets the basic concept on the ground, you can tack up and start working under saddle. Establish an even tempo. I actually find that this is easier at the trot for some horses than at the walk, but work at whatever pace you are comfortable with.

For the purposes of this tutorial, we will assume that you are yielding to the left first. You should do this down the long side of the arena to give yourself extra room and set yourself up for success. As the horse’s left leg starts to leave the ground, place your right heel against him just behind the girth. Pulse your calf against him in time with his stride and cluck. You should feel him cross over one step. Release immeadiately and reward.

3. Ask for More Steps

Once you are consistently getting one step, you can start asking for two steps, three steps, and so on. As for one more step each day. You should only practice leg yielding four to six times per ride (50% one each side). Dont If your horse does really well the first time you leg yield and even offers extra steps, switch and go the other direction, then quit leg yielding for the day. Reward his effort and desire to please. Don’t set a quote and demand he meet it at all costs. That will sour him quickly. Horses don’t need near as much repetition as people do.

Cover Photo by andreavallejos

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