Friday, August 7, 2009

Leg Yields and Flying Changes

Tuesday I had my trainer ride Spider. She confirmed a few of the things I've been feeling with him: 1)He's not falling in to the left as badly anymore, and 2) He needs more muscle in his haunches. She was very pleased with his overall performance, however. Well, except for the leg yields....apparently Spider forgot how to do them. How embarrassing!

For the last several months I've been concentrating on half pass. I've been doing lots of shoulder-in and haunches-in and 10 meter circles to get him ready and we've started doing some baby half passes at walk and trot. In my zeal to get the half pass, I've been (stupidly) neglecting the leg yield. In my defense, it's a pretty basic exercise. In fact, it's only called for in 1st level. Then it falls by the wayside and is never heard from again. But, as I learned from Wednesday's ride, it still has a well deserved place in the daily training routine.

Since my trainer had pointed out our deficit in leg yielding, I decided to start there. Our first leg yield was, well, pathetic. As my trainer had noted the previous day, he was a bit sluggish moving off the leg. So I woke him up a little and tried again. And, wonder of wonders, he actually engaged his inside hind leg! Wait, isn't that why we do leg yields? It was one of those "Ah-ha!" moments, closely followed by an "Aw crap, I'm a jackass" moment. Of course I should be doing leg yields, I have a horse that doesn't like to go into the outside rein. Leg yields require the horse to really reach underneath himself with the inside hind leg. Reaching with the inside hind puts the horse into the outside rein. Given Spider's difficulty with getting into the outside rein, I should have been leg yielding like a mad woman! But I was too busy with those pesky half passes.

I was so thrilled with my (re)discovery that we did leg yields in walk, trot and canter for a good 20 minutes. At first, he had a tendency to leave his haunches behind. We soon fixed that, and were yielding like 1st level champions. At this point, I was feeling great about our work. So I decided to step it up a notch. I did a right lead canter leg yield from C to B, then continued right lead canter to A and attempted a three loop serpentine with no change of lead (a la 2nd level test 1). Unfortunately, he did a flying lead change at the first change of direction. FAIL! So I worked with him a little bit, exaggerating the aids for counter canter so that he understood what I wanted. I eventually got my counter canter, and we did our leg yield to serpetine perfectly. So I got a little daring................

I went for it, I decided to do the flying changes. I did my three loop serpentine, but at every loop we did a flying change. A clean, dressage flying change. No Jumper swaps allowed, he sat down and did a flying change. Then, just to drive it home, we went back to serpentines with no change of lead. He did it perfectly! I couldn't be more proud of my little Spider. I just might make a dressage horse out of him, yet!


  1. hello! come here from jean's blog where, as you'll see, i'm a regular.

    it's all to easy to forget something we knew years ago.

    anyway, at least you once had leg yields to be forgotten .. we've got to get to them yet, LOL

  2. Hi Claire, and thanks for dropping by. Leg yields can be a pain. It's really a much more gymnastic exercise than most of us give it credit for. But you'll get there! And then you can forget about them, too.


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