One of the horses I school often loads her outside shoulder in an attempt to evade engaging her inside hind leg. To help improve her suppleness, straightness and ability to change the bend, I’ve been doing a lot of leg yield, shoulder in, and 10m figures of eight and serpentines based around the 10m circle.
One exercise I introduced to her last week, and she’s just starting to grasp, is leg yielding with changes of bend.
I do the exercise in a 40m x 30m arena so don’t need to change the rein constantly, but if you work in a 40m x 20m the exercise will need adapting.
Starting on the left rein, turn onto the three quarter line and leg yield to the left. This alone is quite tricky because if, like the mare I’m talking about, you load the outside shoulder and tend to fall out of turns then the turn needs to be ridden carefully so that you are straight onto the three quarter line. Then the bend needs to be changed. Again, another test of the horse is cheating.
Once you have leg yielded towards the centre line a few steps (how many depends on how balanced the horse is and how easily they change the bend) you need to ride straight, change the bend again and continue on the left rein.
This exercise alone can be difficult enough for a horse as it requires them to be very adjustable in their way of going. The leg yield needn’t be many steps, but they should remain straight through the body, with the inside (right in my example) hind leg stepping under the body and pushing the body left instead of the left shoulder pulling the body left.
To make this exercise harder you can leg yield for more steps; you can leg yield off the track (therefore fighting the attraction of the fenceline) and you can ride it from both ends of the arena. This is where I have the advantage because the short sides of my arena are longer than normal so I have more preparation time. You can also add in some circles. A 10m circle before accentuates the left bend which makes it harder to change the bend before the leg yield. A circle after the leg yield should help you feel the impact of the leg yield because the horse is straighter and less likely to load the outside shoulder on the circle.
Transitions will add another dimension to the exercise – I may introduce those later this week when the mare is finding the exercise easy. You could trot the leg yield and ride forwards to canter for the circle, or make a walk transition in the middle of the leg yield to check the horse is totally on the aids. I guess the only limits are your imagination!