Sunday, January 17, 2016

Dressage Exercise: Leg Yield from the Diagonal

Last Sunday I had a dressage lesson, and we did something that I have never even heard of before, so I thought I would share it in case it is new to you as well.

I think my instructor's original intention had been for us to continue with our counter-canter work, but Nimo was really struggling with it - possibly because that has been something we've been working on really consistently for awhile and sometimes he needs a break.  So rather than push him, my instructor shifted gears.

She asked me to do a shoulder-fore in both directions, and he did really well, so we worked on it for a little while and then she asked me to cross the short diagonal (F to E) and then when I got to the far quarter line, she asked me to leg-yield the rest of the way to the wall.

Ideally, we probably would have continued on the same angle as we'd been when we were on the short diagonal, but I distinctly remember that we used a slightly more shallow angle when we tried it.  The exercise involves really slowing your horse's shoulders down while simultaneously speeding his hindquarters up as you change from forward motion across the diagonal to leg-yielding.  Once we got the hang of it, it felt kind of cool - Nimo was very fluid and the movement of his hindquarters felt like he was swinging them around.

So we next tried the exercise from the center line.  In this case, we were on the long diagonal (F to H), but it could be done from the short diagonal too.

As before, the leg yield would ideally occur on the same diagonal line you started on, but I created a steeper angle for the leg yield in the drawing just so you could more clearly see the point where you change from crossing the diagonal to leg-yielding.  And you could easily play around with the exercise by switching from the long to the short diagonal and changing the angle of the leg yield.

Once we'd mastered leg yielding from the center line, we tried it from the close quarter line.  Say what?

I'm glad I didn't have time to think about this one too much.  The quarter line came quickly and then we were leg-yielding across a huge amount of space.  If you'd asked me before we started this exercise if Nimo could leg-yield across 3/4 of the arena, I would have laughed and said a resounding, "No!"  But we did, and he did it pretty easily too.  We used the full arena and we maintained the same angle as our diagonal this time, so there was lots of time to realize how cool it was that Nimo could do it:)

For those of you who are doing simple leg-yields from the quarter line as well as those doing more advanced leg-yield work, I would highly recommend this exercise.  It definitely took us a step farther in our work and if your horse does it right, I think it will feel a bit like he is dancing:)


  1. Wow this is super cool! I wish you could post videos of you and Nimo with your blog! You know one of the things I have the hardest time with in general in my horsemanship is wanting to drill and drill the same thing and flail away with the same thing until *I* feel like I am getting it. Maybe that comes from my background in music where I would drill and drill and drill until I GOT IT. And if I wasn't getting it, I would drill at it some more until I did get it. The last thing I would think of would be to switch to something different for a break. As you well know, drilling is not a good idea for horses. Good for you guys to break if up for Nimo. I would sure like to try some of these things with Ranger. I think it would a wonderful feeling to be dancing with my horse. That is one of the things about dressage that has always interested me- in addition to the overall physical benefits to the horse as far as balance and fitness.

    1. I wish I had someone to record some of our rides too, Jo:) I may have to conscript my husband soon!

      And Nimo despises doing any exercise more than 4-5 times. When I school him, I rarely even do something more than twice. He will progressively get worse when he thinks he's done something too many times, which is why I'm so thankful my instructor understands that about him. My last two trainers did not and it really set us back.