Proper Leg Yields and Left Bend

Finally a Dressage lesson!

Mane all on one side, success!
We started with leg yields.  In the past, we've played around with not-really-a-leg-yields to help him relax his shoulders and separate them from his neck/ribcage, where we intentionally make him lead with his shoulders.  That wasn't today.  Today was proper leg yields.

She recorded our attempts head-on with her phone and showed them to me in the saddle after each one.  I could see how crooked I was - my body and arms seriously looked like a zig zag at first - and realized that he could never straighten up and use himself with me riding like that.  That happened many times - video/watch/fix stuff/video/watch/fix stuff - and it really helped.

I eventually got to a point where were getting it, but it wasn't smooth.  "He's more educated now and more sensitive, your aids need to be softer, the leg yield needs to flow, your corrections need to be smaller."  If you know me, you know physical subtlety is not my strong suit.  The "I am going to make this happen!" attitude is great when you're trying to get a heavy barbell off the floor, not so great when you're trying to coax graceful lateral movements out of a horse.  But I tried, and slowly but surely, it improved.  The real key for me was 1. Carrying a whip on my weak left side to reinforce my leg, and 2. Learning how many half-halts it took to make it happen.

Regarding the half halts, she said today that Dressage involves tons of half-halts, and it's not like leg aids where they learn to tune them out (asterisk, if done correctly).  She said I needed to do them more often, but softer. If I wait a while between half-halts, they necessarily have to be stronger, and that's not good.  While we were discussing this I was leg yielding and she said, "Right now, you can get a reaction from him by just moving a finger on the reins."  It was true!

The other big thing we learned today is that I'm having a hard time getting left bend out of him (I really have to work at it, otherwise he's dead straight or bent right), and it's partially because I ride like this:

Microsoft Paint Skillz.  Viewed as if you're standing behind Connor's tail.
My left leg is off of him or barely on him, my left seatbone is carrying most of the weight, and my right leg is clamped on.  The left is my dramatically weaker side after that accident, the right is stronger.  When I thought about relaxing my right leg and transferring some weight onto my right seatbone, it got better, especially in left-lead canter.  We think what's happening is that he's standing up more on the left side to carry me better, since I'm heavier on that side/stirrup.  It's something that's going to take time to fix, but it's nice to have identified that so clearly.

Homework for the week (because OMG it's going to be in the FIFTIES! and I plan on living at the barn) is to work on perfecting the leg yields.


  1. Great break down. I think the true leg yeild is super hard to be subtle about. My body doesn't know how to master that one. Glad it was a good lesson!

    1. Mine doesn't either, I seriously looked like a pretzel in the videos. Blegh. We're getting there!

  2. Love the visual from paint, lol, it gets the point across.

    Will you guys be going to Greater Dayton again this year?

    1. Haha yeah my husband was like, "Are those points supposed to be your butt?" No, seatbones!!

      Greater Dayton is on my barn's schedule. Sort of a long story, but if my CrossFit trainer qualifies for Regionals again I probably won't be, I go along as her "coach" every year. If she doesn't qualify or doesn't ask me to coach her, I am going to GD, it would probably be our move up to BN and was a really nice course for that. Are you?

  3. Holy cats, it's a picture of exactly the way that I can feel/catch myself sitting that no instructor has ever been able to see!

    1. Awesome! Feel free to borrow and make fun of my poor hand-eye coordination. ;-) That's the hardest part about this problem, no instructor is going to be able to see this, you know? How are you fixing it? Maybe we can help each other.

    2. I'm honestly just trying to being aware of where my body parts are and put them back when they get out of alignment, even if that means every third stride. Not very clever, but it's what I've got! The key for me seems to be focusing on getting straight rather than on correcting X mistake; when I do the latter, I overcorrect and end up differently crooked! But approximating straight seems to be very gradually working over time. I hope!


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