Leg Yield to Shoulder in

Leg Yield to Shoulder in… A Building Block to Training

By Ginny


The leg yield is the first of the two track movement.  It is a sideways movement of the horse as he learns to “yield” to one sided pressure from the rider’s leg.  In a young horse this moving away from pressure goes against his natural claustrophobic instincts of pushing or pulling into pressure.  All two track movement are therapeutic in nature to rebalance and improve the horse’s athletic abilities.

Teaching the leg yield to a young horse is a valuable foundational principle to move with energy away from our leg pressure and rebalance sideways.  When teaching this principle of moving away rather than into the pressure it is important that the rider’s leg is used in time with the movement with lightness and accuracy.  Exactly where a correctly positioned calf rests is a group of nerves and muscles that when rhythmically stimulated also stimulates a sympathetic muscle group in the haunches.  This creates the energy that allows the horse to discover moving away from the pressure rather than into it… literally one step at a time and thus is the first step in layered learning.

For the rider the leg yield is a good beginning exercise to learn to use the leg aid unilaterally, with placement and feel.

Once the horse understands this fundamental concept of moving away from pressure the leg yield is of no therapeutic value and actually can cause the horse to become counter balanced by avoiding carrying weight the hindquarters.   The shoulder in is the gold standard to develop balance, strength and suppleness.  It strengthens the inside hock and supples the shoulders.   The three track shoulder in is the most effective use of this exercise as a four track should in often becomes an exaggerated version of a leg yield.

The skills of the rider’s and the principle of leg yield and shoulder in are used systematically to develop the horse’s athletic ability to recapture his balance that the complications of carrying a rider bring.  The horse’s  understanding, strength and ability are built in small increments from this first underlying principle to move away from pressure and is the foundation that lasts throughout his training.