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Leg-yielding exercises for increased suppleness of your horses

One of the main aims of training horses is to increase their suppleness and athletic ability. Introducing lateral exercises into your training is a great way to improve your horse’s way of going. In one of my previous blogs, we looked at how to get started with leg-yielding (read it here) so in this blog I am going to share a couple of leg-yielding exercises that you can easily incorporate into your training, whether you are a dressage rider or not. These exercises are simple to set up and will challenge both you and your horse.

Set up before you start riding leg-yielding exercises

Place 3 poles parallel to one of the long sides: 2 poles further away from the track and 1 pole closer to the track  (see diagram below)

Exercise 1: Staggered leg-yielding

Take a line away from the fence so that you have the first pole right next to you on the outside. Then leg-yield to the next one (towards the fence), ride straight for a few strides then leg-yield all the way to the track.

Can be ridden in walk, trot or canter depending on the horse’s level of training.

Variation 1 (easier version): Leg-yield only from the first pole to the second pole and then proceed to ride in a straight line (away from the fence)

Variation 2: You can add an upward transition after the last leg-yield. This can be walk to trot, trot to canter or even walk to canter for those of you who are more experienced.

Variation 3: You can reverse the direction – starting from the corner then leg-yield away from the fence towards the second pole and then leg-yield toward the last pole. This can be ridden in walk and trot.

Exercise 2: Leg-yielding zig-zag

Take a line away from the fence but this time round have the first pole on your inside. Then leg-yield to the next pole (towards the fence) – it will only be a couple of steps, straightened up and leg-yield in the opposite direction toward the last pole.

Can be ridden in walk and trot.

Easier version: You can roll the poles closer to each other if your horse is new to leg-yield as you might not get as much sideways movement.

Variation 1: You can add an upward transition after the last leg-yield.

Variation 2: If your horse is more experienced, you can experiment with different amounts of ‘sideways’ – for example start with the first pole on your inside instead so that you have to go more sideways to reach the second pole.

Final note

While lateral exercises such as leg-yielding are a great way to improve your horse’s way of going, they are hard work for your horses so don’t overdo it. Do the exercise a couple of times and then change to a different exercise or give your horse a break. If your horse is finding a particular exercise hard, try to make it a bit easier by decreasing the number of steps or asking for less sideways to start with. 

Do you want to learn more about lateral exercises or dressage? Book your first lessons now with an experienced dressage instructor in Hertfordshire.

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