Western Dressage Exercise – Leg Yield to Lengthening

Hopefully at some point you have had the chance to sit on a highly trained horse and experience that feeling of having a sports car under you. A balanced and engaged horse should feel light on his feet, yet powerful, maneuverable, and super responsive. Above all, his body should feel supple and symmetrical enough that you can adjust his strides a number of ways in any given instant—go sideways, extend, collect. These adjustments should be smooth and effortless. Obviously, though, it requires a good deal of gymnastic training to acquire this. On this note, the following exercise is both helpful and challenging.

The exercise below combines multiple elements: bending, lateral movement, and transitions within gait. I particularly like it as a training aid because the upward shift in tempo following the leg-yields helps restore energy in the horse’s hind legs. Otherwise what happens too frequently among horses and riders is a slowing down and stride shortening in lateral work. This exercise helps the horse re-engage his hind-end right at the moment he might prefer to get lazy.

Although I am not a proponent of drilling patterns repeatedly, this is an exercise I usually ride through several times in a row. Reasons for this are two-fold. First, as the horse repeats each leg-yield he becomes looser in his movement and more supple, allowing him to cover more ground in the lengthened jog strides. Second, each of the short diagonals allows the rider to tune up her horse’s responsiveness to moving well forward promptly when asked.

Western Dressage Exercise - leg yieldingLeg-Yield to Lengthening

  1. Begin in working jog tracking left.
  2. At A, turn down the center line.
  3. Leg-yield to the right, arriving at the rail at B.
  4. Then immediately cross the short diagonal to H.
  5. On the short diagonal, lengthen the jog strides. Really move out.
  6. Upon arriving at H, transition back to working jog.


In this exercise, accurate riding determines much of your success. Quite simply, if you don’t hit the marks for this pattern it won’t work. If you are working in an arena that is not standard dressage size, you will need to work within your space without enlarging the pattern . It is important to only lengthen strides on the short diagonal, rather than covering vast distances, so that the horse must make quick adjustments in his body.


Western Dressage Weekly Exercise – authored by Jec Ballou | Copyright © 2012


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