We’ve all seen those riders who magically have their horses sidestepping and effortlessly
In the leg yield, the horse is looking away from the direction of travel, with the spine straight, the inner nostril and eye just visible, and the inner legs crossing in front of the outer legs. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
moving with grace and sophistication. You can teach your horse to move sideways with elegance.
Here is what I expect usually happens to you when you are riding.
- you give your aid
- your horse ignores you
- you give your aid again only stronger
- your horse ignores you
- you give up and move on to something you both understand.
I am here to tell you moving away from the leg is not that difficult.
Educate your horse
Does your horse know what is being asked of him? Your horse must understand he CAN go sideways. When training a horse you must consider the ability of the horse to understand you are asking something from him and you EXPECT a result – an action – or movement.
So start on the ground. Have your horse in a halter and lead rope. Face your horse’s shoulder and gently place your hand on his withers and slide your hand down toward where your leg would be if you were riding.
Ask your horse with a closed fist, pressing gently against his side, to move sideways. As soon as you get a shift of weight or understanding – and this is important – remove your hand and praise the horse.
If your horse does not move away from your fist bring the horse’s head toward you with your left hand, and press on his ribs – with your right hand – where your leg would be if you are riding. This will make it easier for the horse to swing his hindquarters away from you.
Each horse is different and each horse may react differently. Some horses may run in circles around you and some may trip over their own feet so look for clues how much oomph your horse requires.
Repeat on each side.
Put it into practice
We would like the same response while mounted. We would like the same reaction to a sideways leg aid in much the same way we would like the horse to move forward from our leg.
Each horse is different (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Give a light aid by bringing your left leg back behind the girth (where you applied your fist when you were on the ground).
If he ignores you, gently bring his head around to your left leg and allow his quarters to escape to the right. Praise the horse when his quarters swing right. This is a correction.
Now you have reinforced that going sideways is ok.
Re-test the leg aid and see if you get a better response. If not make the correction again. If you get a better response then praise him.
Repeat on the other side. Make sure your praise is proportional to the effort the horse is offering.
Now include this in your riding routine
Ask for a leg yield in the head-to-the-wall position where the front legs are in the track and the hind legs come to the inside at about a 30-degree angle to the wall.
When you are on the right rein turn early across one corner, counter flex to the left and slide your left leg back behind the girth. This will make your horses hind quarters come to the inside track, toward the middle of the ring. Your horse should step sideways toward the middle of the ring just like you trained him to do at the halt. Reward him for moving sideways.
NOTE: counter flex does not mean turn your entire horse’s head and neck. The horse’s neck should remain straight.
Don’t push with your leg. Train him to go sideways more from the position of your rather than kicking. Kicking deadens your horse’s sides.
If he ignores you or doesn’t step sideways enough, tap him with the whip behind your leg or ‘flap’/’bump’ with your leg in a way that makes him go sideways as opposed to forward.
Once he has done it successfully once or twice halt and let him process the information.
Doing this exercise in the ‘head to wall’ position we can use the wall to help with control and preventing the horse from running away.
Now change the rein and repeat on the other side.
I invite you to share your thoughts and experience about how you trained your horse to move sideways!