7 Easy steps to starting in hand work – Part 4 Leg Yield

If you have been working on the previous steps, you should now be quite comfortable with starting, stopping, and moving your horse sideways and backwards, which means you’ve achieved a fair level of control. Most of these early steps involve little movement, but now it’s time to start testing your abilities on the move.

Whilst ‘leg’ yield isn’t quite the right term, as there is no leg aid involved in ground work, the movement we are asking the horse to perform is identical, so I shall continue to use the descriptor.

Reasons to teach Leg Yield

  • provided you achieve correct crossing of the legs, this is a great way to supple and mobilise your horse’s lower back
  • done slowly and correctly, crossing also achieves engagement of the core muscles, helping to develop strength
  • it will help you to gain greater control of both ends of your horse at the same time
  • also prepares your horse to learn this movement under saddle

What do you want to see in a good leg yield?

  • You want your horse to step forward and sideways at the same time
  • His shoulder should always be slightly in the lead
  • The legs should pass and cross over at every step, with the inside hind moving in front of the outside hind
  • The entire thing should be steady and controlled
  • Unlike the ridden competition version, if there is some neck bend, don’t worry, this is a suppling exercise and provided the legs are crossing, the job is being done!
  • Finish with a clear halt and praise.

Leg Yield in hand

  • It is often easiest to start out of step 2, turn around the forehand. This way, he is already understanding to continually cross his legs
  • perform a half turn around, keeping it quite forward, and then when you are parallel with a fence, start inviting him with your body language to step forward as well as asking him to move sideways towards the fence
  • stand upright with an open chest, and while facing the tail walk backward
  • you can use your rein hand to push his shoulders a little towards the fence, or slow his shoulders down if he falls outward
  • with your whip, ask his inside hind to cross over by tapping or pressing the whip against the leg either just before, or as it starts to lift into the air
  • you will need to practice this timing – like everything else, it gets easier with repetition
  • Always remember to stay out of reach of the hind legs a horse can cow kick with force! Using a proper ground work whip is going to make your life easier and safer from here on in.
Maggie is holding a long schooling whip and a proper ground work (piaffe) whip. Notice the marked difference in length, and also bear in mind that Maggie is 6 foot tall!

Progressive learning steps

This first video shows one of Maggie’s first attempts at leg yield

Taking the learning process slowly like this allows both horse and handler to think about what they are doing, and not panic. Once again I want to emphasise: the goal here is a harmonious understanding with both parties working together – rushed and anxious, bullying and fear, will never achieve this, so stay calm, quiet, and if in doubt, stop and regroup.

Video 2 shows Maggie and Beam starting to get to grips with achieving leg crossing, although you will see Maggie still needing to lean forward to touch the leg. Her timing is improving, but she is still using her schooling whip at this point.

The next step was for her to try using the long whip, which takes a bit of getting used to!

This time, Maggie didn’t achieve as much leg crossing, but you can see how much more relaxed she is in her body position when she is able to stand upright and reach the hind leg more easily with the long whip. Now she can concentrate more on her timing.

And finally it all started to come together.

Now the work was starting to gain fluency.

You will see in this last video the almost excessive neck bend I mentioned that might occur. You should also see that it was not detrimental to the smooth suppleness of the exercise, and the understanding these two developed over the course of this session.

To give you some perspective, all four videos come from the same training session, which was about half an hour long, and involved Maggie learning something she had never before attempted.

As ever, if you have any specific questions, please leave them in the comments below or contact me via the Contact me page.

Author: Deborah Jay

Deborah Jay writes fantasy and urban fantasy featuring complex, quirky characters and multi-layered plots – just what she likes to read. Living mostly on the UK South coast, she has already invested in her ultimate retirement plan – a farmhouse in the majestic, mystery-filled Scottish Highlands where she retreats to write when she can find the time. She has a dream of a day job, riding, training and judging competition dressage horses and riders, and also writes books and magazine features on the subject under the name Debby Lush. Her taste for the good things in life is kept in check by the expense of keeping too many horses, and her complete inability to cook. A lifelong fan of science fiction and fantasy, she started writing her first novel aged eight, and has never stopped. Her debut novel, epic fantasy THE PRINCE’S MAN, first in a trilogy and winner of a UK Arts Board award, is available from most ebook retailers, and her Urban Fantasy (first in a series), DESPRITE MEASURES, a tale of a Scottish water sprite trying to live as a human, is currently available on Amazon. Find out more about Deborah at www.deborahjay.wordpress.com or follow Deborah on twitter https://twitter.com/DeborahJay2 and facebook https://www.facebook.com/DeborahJay

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