Jun 16, 2022

Exercises for Amping Up Your Leg Yield Game with ICP Instructor Jim Graham

Jim Graham instructing a flatwork session at the 2022 ICP Symposium. USEA/ Meagan DeLisle photo

In our last edition of “Perfecting the Leg Yield with ICP Instructor Jim Graham,” we outlined a great starting point for riders in terms of understanding and accomplishing the leg yield. In this second part, Graham expands upon the leg yield with a few variations of exercises suitable for the next step in your flatwork training. While these exercises were outlined with the Training and Modified level rider in mind, they can be adapted for riders of all levels.

“There are three things that every rider must ride with: coordination, balance, and with certain strengths. And with strengths, sometimes that strength in itself is to be soft where you just whisper the aid. Sometimes, you have to be a little stronger and press a little stronger with the inside leg. The rider must be sitting balanced and in the middle of the horse, the rider must have the strength necessary for their horse with the inside leg, and then with coordination, this can be the tough one for lower-level riders, the rider must coordinate the timing with the inside left leg says move forward and out to the outside rein. All of this must happen while staying in the middle of the horse.

So after we accomplish the leg yield on the half-circle from E to B [from the previous article], I will flip things around. We are still tracking left, but I have the rider count or call the timing as the outside hind leg is airborne. I tend to like to start at the walk first here. The first leg yield we worked on was a standard leg yield from inside to outside. We did that both ways and now we are going to ask for a counter leg yield. The outside of the circle becomes the inside of the horse because now we are going to move the horse from the right hind across to the left rein. Typically, we do a little bit of counter-positioning right, not to be confused with bending the neck to the right. If we alter the bend of the neck to the right, that is a no-no. What is the horse going to do? They are going to fall to the left out of default because they are not balanced.

Once we have coordinated this, we go back to the trot and I have the rider post the trot. Here, they can do one of two things. On the circle left they can post on the correct diagonal, but this time on the downbeat they will press their lower leg and move the horse in on the circle between E and B. Or they can change their diagonal and deliberately take the wrong diagonal and on the upbeat press that right leg to move the horse in. Many riders ask me what I want them to do and I encourage them to find which way they are most effective. Some riders on the downbeat will slam the horse’s back. We have to find what works for each rider to be effective and for each horse to be responsive.

Then as we go around the 20m circle I will have the rider execute the counter leg yield on half of the circle and on the other half, I will have them ride normal, riding true and straight with no leg yield. When they are really good, we can challenge the rider even more. We can ask them from E to B to leg yield from the inside to the outside and then on the second half of the circle we will do a counter leg yield to move the horse’s outside right hind to the inside. Now, keep in mind- not all riders are going to get to both of these exercises in one session.

If the rider can really only get one part of the exercise and isn’t ready to move on to the leg yield to counter leg yield on the circle yet, then we can graduate them from the circle and have them come down the quarter line of the dressage ring first maintaining straightness of the horse with symmetry. Then on their next time down the quarter line, assuming the horse is straight, we can ask the rider to do a leg yield from the inside from the quarter line to the outside to a letter on the rail so they have a point they can ride too. If they perfect that, I will put the rider on the quarter line and will have them perform a zig-zag exercise where they will come down the centerline straight, and then I will ask them to zig-zag from the centerline to the quarterline back to the centerline and to the opposite quarterline. For your greener horse and riders, you can keep them on the quarterline and have them leg yield quarterline to the long wall and then long wall back to the quarterline.”

About the USEA Instructors’ Certification Program

Instructors are essential to the training of riders and horses for safe and educated participation in the sport of eventing. The USEA Instructors’ Certification Program (ICP) was initiated in 2002 to educate all levels of eventing instructors with crucial training principles upon which those instructors can continue to build throughout their teaching careers. ICP offers educational workshops and assessments by which both regular instructors, Level I through Level V, Young Event Horse (YEH) instructors, and Young Event Horse professional horse trainers can become ICP certified. Additional information about ICP’s goals, benefits, workshops, and assessments as well as names and contact information for current ICP-certified instructors, YEH instructors, and YEH professional horse trainers are available on the USEA website. Click here to learn more about the Instructors’ Certification Program.

The USEA would like to thank Stable Secretary and Parker Equine Insurance for sponsoring the Instructors’ Certification Program. Additionally, Parker Equine Insurance offers 5% off to all ICP instructors and Stable Secretary provides a 25% discount on their subscription services to all ICP instructors.

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Weekend Quick Links: February 24-25

Are you following along with the action from home this weekend? Or maybe you're competing at an event and need information fast. Either way, we’ve got you covered! Check out the USEA’s Weekend Quick Links for links to information including the prize list, ride times, live scores, and more for all the events running this weekend.

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When Age Comes Calling

About halfway through my 2009 Florida high-goal season, Hale Bopp came up lame. At the time she was 17. Our team’s veterinarian assessed her, found degenerative changes in one front ankle, suggested injecting that joint with hyaluronic acid and cortisone, and said she’d be ready to go for our next game in three days’ time.

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