Seems whenever I explain to anyone that I do not do leg yield, I get furrowed brows and protestations and have to go into my full spiel about why not. Well mostly, sometimes it’s all I can do to muster up … “I just don’t find it helpful”.
Clearly the reason why you should hassle yourself and your horse with the exercise is because you need to for the Elementary Test and as such it seems impossible to grasp how the ‘all knowing dressage superpowers’ can possibly include an exercise in the progressive test process that will do anything other than aid your progression! And, yes, I know, I understand why you would think this; I am not telling you what to do; I am advising that in my current enlightened state, having followed many methods for many years which ended in me becoming a frustrated dribbling wreck, with all of my horses potentially for sale and the very real prospect of taking up cross-stitch as my primary hobby, I have found that I agree with the classical purists who sit firmly on the side of the fence that says leg yield has no benefits to the scale of training and may even hinder progress. For me, it simply does not help.
Often quoted as being a pre-cursor to more advanced lateral work, leg yielding is controversial because its biomechanics are often not understood. Clearly, there is a benefit to teaching your horse to move forwards and sideways, however, in leg yield the hind quarters do not take more weight and your horse will struggle to remain light in the forehand, often the very act of leg yielding will put the horse onto the forehand. In leg yield your horse will be bent in the opposite direction to how he bends in the more advanced lateral movements so for me it is counter-productive to spend time on the exercise, much better to skip leg yield and move straight onto two-track exercises to develop suppleness than to incorporate an exercise that actually (in my view!) produces stiffness in the horse.
I have seen over-use of the leg-yield which has had a negative effect on the horse’s training, causing him to lose the all-important forwardness, and instil short, broken paces. But, having said all of that, if you cannot move your horse sideways at will, you have no hope of ever getting him straight. Mmmm … what to do?
If you are experiencing any difficulties with over bend through the neck (laterally); the horse blocking the flow of movement; if your horse tends to go onto the forehand or if you are struggling to co-ordinate your aids, use leg-yield sparingly. Yes, train your horse to ‘yield to the leg’, but maybe think more about the fact that your horse should move willingly off your leg, using shoulder-fore, shoulder-in and travers. At the end of the day it is ‘each to their own’ – I’m getting on better without leg-yield, so I guess I don’t need it – you may!
Patricia – The Dressage Tipster