Lots of people are confused by the aids to ask their dressage horses to leg yield on a diagonal line as opposed to on a circle.
Let’s start with the aids for leg yielding your dressage horse over to the right on a diagonal line (like from the quarterline over to long side) or along a straight line (when you’re tracking to the right down the long side and you want the front legs to stay on the track and the hindquarters to move toward the middle of the arena).
• Sit squarely over the middle of your horse. If you lean to the left over the leg that’s behind the girth (left), your leg and body weight are giving contradictory signals.
• Exercises to help you sit squarely:
1. Sit on your horse at a halt. Kick your left foot out of the iron. Stay upright and start to dismount to the right (but don’t actually get off!). Do it a few times to get some muscle memory. Feel your weight going down into the right iron and your hips moving to the right.
2. Pretend there’s a seam in the middle of your saddle that runs from the pommel to the cantle. If you want to move your horse to the right, imagine picking up your left seat bone and moving it on top of the center seam of the saddle.
3. Imagine that while you’re moving your horse to the right, 3⁄4 of your body is on the right side of the saddle and only 1⁄4 of your body is on the left.
• Your right leg is passively placed on the girth for forward movement.
• Your right leg on the girth becomes active (squeeze and release a couple of times) if your horse starts to back up.
• During leg yields, your horse should go 50% forward, and 50% sideways. If he goes 75% sideways, your passive right leg becomes active to ask him to go more forward.
• Your left leg asks for sideways movement. Place it three to four inches behind the girth.
• If your horse doesn’t go sideways enough, this leg becomes active (squeeze and release a couple of times) until he goes more sideways.
• In leg yields, your horse’s spine is straight, but he’s flexed at the poll away from the direction of movement.
• Ask for flexion at the poll by turning your left wrist as if you’re unlocking a door.
• Hold your right rein steady and supporting like a siderein to keep your horse’s neck straight.
The aids to leg yield on a circle are slightly different. They are as follows.
If you’re increasing the size of a circle in leg yielding, your leg position is different. Your inside leg is on the girth and your outside leg is behind the girth. This is because in leg yields, your horse’s spine is straight…and “straight” on a circle means “bent” along the arc of the circle.
Your dressage horse can tell you want to go sideways in a leg yield rather than stay on the circle by the shift in your weight and by where you look with your eyes.