Exercise #6: red light, green light
This is a leg yield exercise, which can be executed at the walk or trot. It is designed to improve your horse’s lateral reach, their sharpness at the half-halt, their collection and their adherence to the outside aids. It is also a great gymnastic exercise when practiced with energy and enthusiasm, although it can be used simply to help school the leg yield.
- walk or trot up center line, making sure you have several strides of straightness
- half halt and once you’ve gotten a response add leg and ask for three strides of leg yield
- half halt again and straighten your horse adding leg and letting him trot straight for several strides
- half halt, add leg and yield to the wall
- before hitting the track, half halt again, straighten and add leg to move him along the track without him falling, so to speak, into the wall with his shoulder.
- The straightening is just as important as the yielding, so if your horse will not straighten half way through the leg yield, carry on going straight on the quarter line and push them forward until you feel them become compliant to your aids. Sometimes, this means that you go around the whole ring on the quarter line until they give in and relax. Once they’ve done so you can half halt, add leg and try three strides of yield again.
- If you are struggling at the trot, go to walk right away – there is no shame in this. Don’t fight at the trot until you can easily do this exercise at the walk.
- If you feel that you always have too much bend in the leg yield, it is because your horse is bulging through your outside aids, not because you have too much bend to the inside per se. Half halts and moving the horse forward and straight will fix this problem.
- Don’t forget to animate your seat. If your horse lacks impulsion, look to yourself as the dead weight first!
- Don’t lean to the inside and don’t look down at your horse’s neck. It is critical when riding leg yield to look straight ahead of you and visually find the point where you will straighten and the point where you wish to enter the track.
- Always mix lateral work with some gymnastic, don’t keep pounding the exercise. Add a loose rein walk or trot around the ring in a forward rising trot or canter. Keep the horse’s interest up and their stress level down. Perfectionist type people always struggle the most at the beginning with lateral work as they forget to keep the big picture in mind but ultimately are very good at lateral work once they’ve mastered the technique.
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