From Endurance to Dressage
Progress was made, so that's a relief. I worried that I might get fired from my non-paying gig. It's not that "J" expects a whole lot, but I am sure she expects at least a smidgeon of competence.
Thankfully a few different riders and trainers reached out to me offering feedback and some tips for how to help a rider get the feel of the leg yield. Casandra Rabini of First Gem Dressage offered me some excellent advice. She suggested teaching a different exercise that offered a similar feel. For the leg yield, even spiraling in and out on a circle can give the rider a sense of what it takes to move the hind end.
Before J's lesson on Saturday, I decided to make sure I was teaching the leg yield correctly. Amelia Newcomb, who trains and shows in Ventura County, has a really great YouTube channel with videos that teach foundational skills. One video in particular grabbed my attention because it covered the exact issue I was having with J, common mistakes and corrections. Here's that video if you're interested.
When J came out on Saturday, I had a plan of attack. I didn't expect her to create perfect leg yields in 45 minutes, but I didn't want her to walk away without getting at least some of the feel for the movement. With that, I had her start with trot to nearly walk transitions (and back to trot). What I hoped to help her feel was Speedy's hind legs. I wanted her to feel the moment that his hind legs stopped trotting. For each transition, i wanted her to get him as close to walking as possible without actually walking.
This exercise was supposed to do two things. First, transitions help a horse carry more weight behind, and second, getting a better sense of the hind legs was something she needs for the leg yield. Once we worked through a few dozen transitions, I told her we were ready to tackle the leg yields again. I don't know who was more worried about it, J or me!
In Amelia's video, one exercise she showed was riding a square with a turn on the forehand. I had shown J turns on the forehand before, but putting them in a square was a brilliant idea because the horse is walking rather than just standing still. And for a leg yield, the horse will be moving. J very quickly grasped the turn on the forehand while walking. Applying it to the leg yield was a different matter.
I realized that there is no point in trying to do a leg yield from the trot if the rider can't get the hind legs to cross, so we spent the rest of the lesson walking. As we worked, J asked a lot of questions about her position, which forced me to keep my eyes equally on Speedy's and J's legs both. One things we realized was that J was squeezing which pushed her onto the outside seat bone which was making it impossible for Speedy to cross over. Another issue that kept cropping up was that j was trying to use her inside hand to influence the outside shoulder. That too, prevents the horse from crossing over with hind legs.
Eventually, J stopped and asked if she could plant her outside hand. YES! I screamed enthusiastically, and suddenly, they had the beginnings of a leg yield. The whole time I had been yelling HALF HALT with the outside rein; J finally figured out that her outside hand wasn't doing anything. Planting the outside hand isn't a long term solution, but for the short term, it caught Speedy's shoulder, preventing it from falling out which gave his hind end time to cross over.
While J never got a true leg yield, she got a few steps in a row where Speedy's body was straight and both pairs of legs were crossing over. I erupted with YES! YES! YES! every time. The challenge was that it's easier to yell more haunches, but more correct to say, catch the shoulder. I can't say that J finally developed a feel for the leg yield, but I am certain she has a better understanding of it.
Like everything else, it's just another step in the right direction, and it is a very good thing that Speedy is a saint!
About the Writer and Rider
I am a lifelong rider.
I began endurance riding in 1996 where I ultimately completed five, one-day 100 mile races, the 200-mile Death Valley Encounter, and numerous other 50, 65, and 75 mile races. I began showing dressage in 2010.
Welcome to my dressage journey.
About Speedy G
Speedy went from endurance horse to dressage horse. After helping me earn a USDF Bronze medal in the summer of 2020, he is now semi-retired. Speedy is a 2004, 15'1 hand, purebred Arabian gelding. His Arabian Horse Registry name is G Ima Starr FA.
Izzy was started as a four-year old and then spent the next 18 months in pasture growing up. I bought him as a six-year old, and together, we are showing at the lower levels. He is a 2008, 16'3 hand warmblood gelding. His Rheinland Pfalz-saar International (RPSI) name is Imperioso.
National Rider Awards
State Rider Awards
State Horse Awards
CDS Sapphire Rider Award
Third Level: 63.514%
Third Level: 62.105%
2023 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
2023 Show Schedule
2023 Completed …
2023 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
Qualifying Training Level
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%: