Leg Yields Without the Legs

Teaching Your Horse to Move Diagonally: Leg yields are easy with this how-to article from John Lyons Trainer Keith Hosman.

By Keith Hosman
Teaching Your Horse to Move Diagonally: Leg yields and smooth speed transitions are easy with this how-to article.

Leg Yields Without the Legs

What we'll cover: Moving diagonally (aka "leg yields") and speed transitions. What we'll build: Smooth diagonal movement, a pronounced fluidity from walk to jog to lope and back down again; "politeness" and seemingly imperceptible cues for "leg yielding" and speed transitions. What we'll fix: Horses that are stiff or want to leap through their transitions, horses that drift and/or ignore our cues, horses that just trod along "going through the motions."

Prerequisite training: Ability to move hips and shoulders independently

Note: Throughout this article, I'll use the phrase "leg yield" to describe what happens when your horse moves diagonally ("laterally"), or forward and sideways, and away from your leg. While we as Lyons trainers use our reins to accomplish this movement (as opposed to making the request with our "active legs"), I make use of the classic phrase here ("leg yield") because that's how the particular movement is most widely known.

Note also that there are as many different types of lateral movements as there are horses and trainers, (half pass, haunches-in, haunches-out, etc.) with "leg yielding" being one of the more elementary movements for horse and rider. So as not to be confused, correct leg yields require that your horse carry his body relatively straight; he'll bend a bit at the poll, looking slightly away from the direction in which he moves.

Once you're accomplished at the prerequisites listed above, (the ability to move the shoulders/hips) smooth, fluid and effortless leg yields are easier than you think. The cool thing is, teaching this material will fix several other horse "issues." For instance, does your horse drift against your leg? (You wanna go left but he pushes to the right like a car with half a flat?) Does he brace and throw his head when picking up a trot, like he's affronted that you'd even ask? And, when you ask for a speed transition, are your cues obvious to everyone in the...

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