Sunday, December 14, 2014

Don't Forget: You Have TWO Legs

"Inside leg to outside rein" is the dogma of dressage. We DQs chant it like it's the rosary. To extend that blasphemous metaphor even further, we cling to it as our ticket to absolution. When we stand before the Pearly Gates of Dressage Heaven, we will shout "St. Podhajsky! I always rode from the inside leg to the outside rein!"

And St. Podhajsky will reply, "But you let your horse's hind end swing out and he dropped his inside shoulder because you forgot you had two legs, you nitwit!" and then the Gates will swing shut and we'll be relegated to Dressage Purgatory where everyone rides in draw reins and over-pronounces "Baucher".

Seriously though, there is no place for dogma in riding. Every horse and rider is different, and when you put those horses and riders together the combinations are infinite. The inside leg is important, but many horses can and will evade your inside leg, and many riders will then forget to back up their inside leg with their outside leg. 

So, if you find yourself riding around wondering why your horse isn't responding properly to your inside leg and outside rein (as I frequently do), try putting your outside leg on, too. I find it's easiest to counter flex on a circle, then keep my outside leg in place as I flex back to the inside. As soon as I begin to lose it, I counter flex again. 

I hope St. Podhajsky approves. 


  1. When I apply the inside leg for certain movements, Fiction loves to throw out his outside shoulder in an evasion, so I always have to keep vigilant. Unfortunately I have a hard time controlling both legs individually, so that is always a work in progress haha.

  2. So much of good riding depends on "feel," for what the horse is doing and then adjusting technique to fix what's going wrong. Counter flexion is often a good way to get a crooked horse straight.

  3. Podhajsky is a saint - I always marvel at the relaxation and attention his horses show in the photos. His books are full of wonderful stories and training guides. We humans tend to apply any rule (that's a good one - let's not even talk about the bad ones) in a simplistic way - Podhajsky was all about feeling a connection with the individual horse and doing what that horse needed in the moment - easier said than done, of course!

  4. Great post, a good reminder not to forget that outside leg :-)

  5. WHAT I have two legs? Why did no one ever tell me :(

  6. I LOVE this! You were cracking me up at the beginning. I tried this exercise today, after reading your post yesterday, and it worked super well to help us establish a better bend! It also highlighted our unevenness (pony struggles more bending right than left), but ultimately made us more through on the circle too! YAY!

  7. LOL you're cracking me up! Great point though. ;)


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