Friday, December 4, 2015

Dressage Milestone: Zigzag Leg-Yields

If you've watched any upper-level dressage tests, you've probably seen the zigzag half-pass.  The most exciting is the zigzag canter half-pass, which involves the horse cantering a few strides in half-pass (which is haunches-in on the diagonal for readers who don't do dressage), changing leads and continuing half-pass in a new direction.  The change in lead/direction is repeated several times and if done properly, it looks pretty neat and it is considered quite an advanced movement.

Zigzag leg-yields at the trot are a very simple precursor, and as far as I know, they never really appear anywhere in official dressage tests except in First Level, Test 3 as a single change of direction. Basically the horse and rider leg-yield from the rail on the long side of the arena to X in the center of the arena and then change direction to leg-yield from X back to the rail.

Nonetheless, they are fun.  I have done them on my own a little bit, but I got the chance to do them in my most recent lesson this past Saturday.  Doing them in a lesson gives me the chance to get honest feedback rather than just speculate that we are awesome:)

Anyway, we did quite a bit of suppling work as well as some canter "drifts" prior to the trotting leg-yield work.  Canter drifts involve coming down the long side of the arena on the quarter line and then asking the horse to drift back to the rail.  They are often used as preliminary work for counter-canter, which Nimo and I are working on getting the hang of and hopefully will accomplish sometime in the next couple of months.  They also serve to loosen Nimo up quickly and really get him engaged at the trot, probably because he is anticipating the canter work, so he thinks more forward.

So after working on canter drifts, we switched back to leg-yields at the trot.   We combined them with 10 meter circles at the center of the arena and in the corners as a way to really work on adjustability.  An example of an exercise that we did is to leg-yield left from the rail to the center line, do a 10 meter circle to left, and then leg-yield right back to the rail.  In particular, leg-yielding from the rail to the center line is always harder than leg-yielding from the quarter line (or center) to the rail and then adding a circle to the left requires a change in bend, so the exercise did a good job of loosening Nimo's neck and shoulders in preparation for our final challenge of the day.

As is typical, my instructor did a really good job of putting us through a serious of progressive movements and exercises so that when it was time for our final exercise, it wasn't that hard.  As we came around the corner to the long side of the arena, we just leg-yielded left to the quarter line, leg-yielded right to the wall, leg-yielded left to the quarter line, and then leg-yielded right to the wall.  And ta da!  A zigzag leg-yield at the trot that felt so smooth and easy.  Nimo did a beautiful job of staying on my aids, and it felt much easier than anything we've done on our own.

Interestingly, I was trying out a new hackamore that day that I had never ridden in previously or even had on Nimo's nose before.  I literally buckled it on to his headstall right before the lesson and I'm not even sure I had it adjusted as well as it should have been.  So definitely more to come about that hackamore:)

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