We have a variation on the theme of leg-yielding that is a great training exercise for a young horse and an excellent suppling exercise for an older horse.
1. Trot around the short end of the arena and start across the diagonal.
2. As you near the middle of the arena, change the bend and turn onto the centerline, then start to leg-yield toward the long side.
You should start this exercise after the horse has learned to leg-yield in the conventional way, on a circle and then from the quarterline to the long side (see August 1997). As a training exercise, this movement helps teach the horse to move away from the inside leg. It also helps the rider to gain control of the horse’s outside shoulder, with the changeover from the straight line to the leg-yield.
During the training phase, you may start by going two or three strides sideways in the leg-yield. Within a few days, you should be able to leg-yield from the centerline to the quarterline and even farther. If the horse becomes unbalanced and loses his position parallel to the long side with the forehand leading slightly, finish by riding forward to the short side.
In typical leg-yield exercises, you keep working in the same direction for several circuits and then reverse and go the other way around the arena. But in this exercise, you go both left and right in one complete circuit in an hourglass pattern.
For example, you can start on the left rein and turn left across the diagonal. You’ll turn right onto the centerline and immediately leg-yield away from the right leg to the quarterline. As you arrive at the short end of the arena, you’ll turn right and then right again onto the new diagonal. At the centerline, you’ll change the bend and then leg-yield away from your left leg. As the horse becomes more advanced in its training and has learned shoulder-in, you can add that element to this exercise as well.
3. After you leg-yield from the centerline to the quarterline, then continue in shoulder-in to the short end of the arena.
Because of the increased activity from the straight diagonal and the leg-yield, this makes it easier for the horse to bring his inside hind leg under to support the shoulder-in. This version is a wonderful suppling exercise for warming up a stiff, older horse.
This provides nice variety to flatwork, since you change directions after each short end and it has three elements of straight line, leg-yield and shoulder-in. You can post or sit the trot or combine both trots.