The debate on whether to leg yield or not is not a new one. Certainly Classical Dressage purists sit firmly on the side of the fence that says leg yield has no benefits to the scale of training whatsoever and may even hinder progress.
So how you do reconcile this when the movement is asked for in tests? I do not know the answer to this question. It is a matter for you to consider when you examine the horses ability to progress beyond training/elementary level.
The primary benefit of leg yield is to simply teach your horse to move forwards and sideways, however, the hind quarters do not take more weight and the horse finds it difficult to remain light in the forehand (often the act of leg yielding puts the horse onto the forehand!)
Shoulder-in, travers (or haunches in) and half-pass are far superior exercises to the leg yield because all three of these exercises ensure that the horse’s centre of gravity is placed directly in the path of the activated hind leg.
Riders at all levels should seek to become skilled at these exercises due to the fact that, done well, they significantly benefit the horse’s gymnastic ability.
Patricia – The Dressage Tipster
In the early stages of your training all transitions can be progressive, but most benefit will be gained if your horse is sharp from the leg and goes straight into the new gait with one tap of the leg.
Don’t let your horse fall onto his forehand in the transition. Think ‘ UP ‘ on the transition down and again don’t let the horse fall onto his forehand.
Ride a half halt and use the power you have created to engage the hindquarters. You will then be swapping / exchanging forward momentum for elevation. And once again, think ‘up’.
Here’s what to do … the key exercise for developing uphill balance is shoulder fore. This is an exercise that helps develops straightness and also helps your horse to carry himself.
Walk straight down the long side; at B or E make a 10-meter circle, the bend on the circle positions the shoulders slightly to the inside, as it needs to be for shoulder-fore. Maintain the bend as you complete the circle and walk the next few strides on the rail in shoulder-fore: your horses hind feet on the track and his front feet slightly displaced to the inside, use the outside rein ONLY to balance him.
Maintain tempo and rhythm at all times!
Patricia – The Dressage Tipster
The lateral movements Shoulder Fore and Shoulder In should not hold any fear for you.
Not enough riders at grass roots levels (intro, prelim, novice, elementary) use shoulder fore and shoulder in as basic schooling exercises. These are essential exercises because they keep the inside hind leg stepping under and are the very foundations for helping your horse to find his rhythm and become supple.
They are not difficult exercises and come easily with practice. Shoulder-in is simply maintenance of the bend that you have established for the corner all the way up the long side.
I cannot stress enough – you should use shoulder-fore and shoulder-in in your warm up, EVERY TIME you ride.
You and your horse will feel the benefits almost immediately you begin to use the exercises regularly.
Just give them a go, get some help to do them, but make it a priority. Nuno Oliviero said “Shoulder In is the aspirin of dressage, it cures everything”. And I for one will not argue with that!
Moving on to laterals and my shoulder position has become a focus and is all important! Essentially there is one rule. Move your shoulders so that they are always parallel to the horse’s shoulders.
Yeah, then what? I hear you cry.
Well, nothing actually it might seem a simplistic thing to say but I have seen many riders with shoulders not matching those of the horse and the horse struggling to follow the movement.
Check your shoulder angle matches your horses, on circles, straight lines and laterally. In the photograph of the Spanish Riding School of Vienna, see how the rider is sitting as if he is riding towards the camera, when actually he is going laterally up the side of the school.
His shoulder/body position is completely in line with the horses.
Shoulder fore off the bend …
Approach bend, half halt, inside leg, look where you are heading, catch the quarters with the outside leg, sit still and go – “No – too late, go again” – the all too familiar list of instructions that I run through when preparing for a shoulder fore. After several attempts I was just not getting it, – go again, and again …
• Coach : Ok, run through what you are doing
• ME: As Above
• Coach : Ok, but are you doing it all at the same time?
• ME: Huh? – Oh, I see (Light switch ON)
So … as you approach the bend, all at once – half halt – inside leg – look where you’re going – catch the quarters – sit still – Let it happen!
The milliseconds it was taking me to do these things one at a time in sequence did not have the desired effect. All together! in the same moment! at the same time! all at once! We have shoulder fore. Eureka!