Thursday 10 October 2013

Abracadabra... Half Pass. Welcome to fantasy land, population no one.

"Curmudgeon - seriously. Why did you even bother with leg yield?  The dressage masters don't. You should just move right into shoulder fore / half pass".

Yah, yah, got it. Thanks Anonymous. I read that book too. It was one of the toilet library collection, circa 2005.  And I do totally agree - just leg yielding around for the hell of it really doesn't serve a lot of purpose, other than impressing people who are very easily impressed.

And we all know, from a purely practical point of view, the reason we North Americans must bother with learning to execute a perfect leg yield (shoulder just slightly leading, steady angle and perfect rhythm all the way from K to X then back to H, just a whiff of flexion off of straight through the jowl)... is not for any reason relating to the mastery of dressage per se.

It is simply because if we hope to show 1st level, we are required to execute a generous serving of leg yield with a healthy side of useless nose dragging stretchy circle (which I have already bitched about, so I will save you the repeat rant here).

Stupid Stretchy Circle

And I would say for many Oragami Saddlepadders, this why the effort begins, and as a result is where the adventure ends. Because if this is your motivation - you really don't get what it is we are doing when we are teaching the horse to leg yield. And I am not saying this to be some superior bitch, because I don't think I did either.

If I get on someone's horse now, (after all of the time and money I have wasted in my useless pursuit to become a "dressage rider"), I would say the things that I am most amazed by is how many people's "dressage horses" don't go forward when leg is applied (and keep on going) - and secondly, how many horses do not move off the leg laterally when applied - two basic buttons that I can't imagine how someone can possibly ride their horse with any level of enjoyment without installing.  Well, realistically, I do know - I know because I did exactly this for many years - as the saying goes, you don't know what you don't know.

I think part of the problem is that - just as with the conundrum previously described as "psst...what is a half halt anyways, and can you help me find my clitoris" (The Half Halt) - for those of us coming to dressage after many years of doing some other sort of riding, taking a big step back to deconstruct what the hell it is we are trying to accomplish here as a "dressage rider" because really, we have no foggy clue - is embarrassing.

And coaches don't want to embarrass their meal tickets, and so as a team, we sweep this ignorance under the rug and try to muddle through with whatever level of competence shows up for the ride. "Good, Suzie, GOOD!  You had some steps there where Stormy was really crossing over (when he tripped and struggled to regain his balance as he sidled on over to the rail with his head cranked at that awkward angle)".

Nice, Suzie, NICE! I really like the level of activity, he is really stepping through.

Ideally, if the horse is in full training, the coach can work behind the scenes to secretly install these buttons and will only have to deal with the pushing of them by the hapless student. Wow!  Leg yield was a snap. On to half-pass...

However, since the majority of people who are stuck in the mud somewhere in the swamps of first level are not in full training - if no one takes the time to say "hey, maybe it's just me... but your leg yield exercise is looking more like a head tilting diagonal line exercise - just a crazy thought, throwin' it out there, brainstorming here - can you actually get your horse to move his quarters around at a halt - ever?  Dismounted? - In the cross ties? - Anywhere?"

(One of my favourite poorly executed exercises has to be the "spiral in / leg yield out".  Or, more accurately described in most cases, "spiral in /drift on back to the rail with horse's nose cranked to inside" exercise")

The whole reason leg yield is important - why it becomes useful for all of the reasons often spouted on bulletin boards etc. - is because if you cannot move your horse around - front / back / sideways - at will, any time, any place, bend in / bend out, no debate - you have no hope in hell of ever getting the horse straight. And as much as I like to make fun of the pyramid, this actually is pretty important.

So my advice to you, is stop thinking of leg yield as a "thing" and start thinking about the fact that your horse should move willingly off your leg, wherever it is you tell them to move.  And, if you are a smug classical dressage person, stop telling people that leg yield is useless an we should all move on to shoulder fore, because I promise you, if someone cannot make their horse move sideways in some obedient leg yieldy fashion, they are not going to be able to magically pull a shoulder fore out of their ass either.

You see, it is easy. Just keep the elbow macaroni in the trapezoids, and everything will be fine. 


  1. Meh. Classical has nothing to do with it. Any horse that understands forward, moving off the leg, and following the rider's weight cues will do leg yield - and those are all things the horse is supposed to learn in whatever the prerequisite is for Dressage 101. Plus, it simply doesn't have the same pay-off as other lateral movements, so why waste time?

    I guess I just see leg yield as being similar to stretchy circles: a properly trained horse will do it when asked. It isn't worth spending much time on, and it certainly doesn't need to be specifically "trained" for (unless you plan to spend the rest of your life at 1st level).

    No need to feel butt hurt and start calling people "classical" just because they disagree with you.


    1. I've yet to ride a horse that will just move laterally when you apply your aids, unless it has been trained to do so. All horses are capable of lateral movement, but they don't come with pre-installed buttons, so regardless of the talent of the horse at some point in time somebody is going to have to train them to move laterally off a rider's leg. Perhaps I'm just misunderstanding your meaning; I just don't see how you're going to get a horse that moves laterally without training them to, regardless of the type of movement (leg yield, half pass, or anything else) or how talented the horse is.
      I'm not a dressage rider- I probably go to one dressage show a year- but both my own mare and most other horses I ride regularly will be trained to leg yield, just like they'll be trained to move their shoulders & haunches in or out upon request (or both at once), and just like they'll be trained to move forward off my leg upon my request. Its simply another degree of control over a horse's body. Plus, when I'm riding in a crowded warm up ring and somebody's horse freaks out and bolts down the rail, that "leg yield button" can come in handy ;)

  2. I think part of the problem is that - just as with the conundrum previously described as "psst...what is a half halt anyways, and can you help me find my clitoris" - I actually snorted out loud at work, too friggen funny

  3. Hi Stephanie, I have nominated your blog for a Sunshine Award, because you make me laugh! More about it here: Feel free to accept or ignore it :-)

  4. Hello! I am a horse lover too! I made a website for cowgirls and I would like to share it with you! Check out my horse crazy site at:

  5. laughing, cant wait for the next installment!

    Fran xx

  6. Where, o where is the next installment? Curmudgeon, we miss you!

  7. It's been 4 months. Come baaaaaaack.....!

  8. I check back every couple of weeks . . . DC has become my favorite blog about dressage. Hope to see a new installment soon!

  9. Tapping foot waiting impatientl

  10. Please more about the laterals and the fun of training your five year old! I have a 5 year old mare that I'm training too and I've enjoyed your writing so much!!
    -Jessica E

  11. Finally caught up and waiting anxiously for new posts! Come back Stephanie!

  12. one post and already I know i am going to like reading back ... thank you - write more!!

  13. Come back, Curmudgeon, lest I be forced to post about my own hapless foray into the murky and fear-inducing depths of flying changes....