Western Dressage Exercise – Leg-Yield On the Wall

As you have read in previous posts of mine, the horse’s hindquarter musculature, responsible for both propelling him forwards and carrying him in balance, is all connected through a webbing of soft tissue called fascia. In other words, all these important muscles are linked together. For obvious reasons, this is both negative and positive. On the negative side, when the horse develops restriction or imbalance in a particular muscle, it affects the entire region. On the positive side, loosening exercises tend to have a wide-reaching effect because of the interconnectedness of this soft tissue system in the hindquarters. Instead of creating looseness in just one particular muscle, you end up pulling and stretching a whole group.

The exercise of Leg Yield is especially beneficial in this regard. By having the horse steps sideways with his hind legs, crossing one underneath his midline, we can create a positive tensioning in this fascia web that can– through repetitive executions– release restriction or tightness in the hind end. Practicing this exercise along an arena fence or wall is an effective way of ensuring that you are doing things correctly. Most importantly, the fence helps the rider control the angle of the movement, meaning the angle of the horse’s body in relationship to the fence. By maintaining an accurate 45-degree angle with the horse’s head facing the rail and his hindquarters slightly towards the center of the arena, you ensure that he is positioned to do the exercise correctly and to step underneath himself with the degree of sideways movement necessary to achieve the right benefit. Each step should travel equally sideways and forwards. The 45-degree angle creates this balance. Many times, without the assistance of the rail, riders struggle to find the correct angle and range of motion for Leg Yield steps.

Leg Yield Along the Rail

These directives are for performing this exercise in hand as part of your groundwork routine. Modify the comments to practice under saddle.

  1. Begin standing on your horse’s left side at his shoulder. Hold his reins together under his chin in your left hand. With your right hand, reach back with your whip towards his gaskin.
  2. Ask him to begin moving away from you, maintaining a 45-degree angle with his body towards the fence. (his nose will be facing the fence; his haunches will be toward the middle of the arena). Direct your body language and energy more towards his shoulder than his hind-end. Many horses will want to move their hind-ends too quickly, thereby “fish-tailing” their hindquarters. They will then get stuck and not be able to continue the exercise.
  3. Ask your horse to continue stepping away from you, holding this angle with the fence, in a working walk tempo.
  4. Walk down the long side of your arena this way. He should cross both front and back pairs of legs as he goes.


Western Dressage Exercise Jec Ballou Leg Yield

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