Shorten Your Reins
Home Arena Geometry Reprises Lateral Work Barn Cat Blog WWU

Leg yield

The leg yield is surrounded by controversy -- some say it's not a useful exercise. Others defend its proper use.

Leg yieldWhat: In the leg yield, the horse moves forward and sideways, bent very slightly away from the direction of movement. The angle of sideways movement should be approximately 30 degrees in relation to the track.

Why: Although some feel that, due to the straightness of the horse's body during this movement, no suppling is achieved, others feel that leg yield has its benefits. These benefits might include:

  • some limited amount of suppling, because the horse must learn to move his legs sideways

  • greater contact into the outside rein

  • increased control of the horse in general; the horse becomes more "between the aids"

  • decent scores on First Level tests 2 and 3, because the movement is required in these tests!

Additionally, leg yield practice improves the rider's coordination and ability to use diagonal aids, because a correctly-performed leg yield requires inside leg and outside rein.

When: Leg yield can be taught early in the horse's dressage career, preferably following an introduction to turn on the forehand. Prerequisites to leg yield are response to the following commands (and this isn't rocket science!): stop, go, turn, bend, straighten, turn on the forehand.

Which tests: In the USEF 2011 Dressage tests, leg yield is called for in First Level Tests 2 and 3.

Leg yield anglesHow: Usually leg-yields are performed with the horse's body more-or-less parallel to the long side of the arena. However, the movement can also be performed with the horses's body angled toward the wall. In the leg yield, as in all lateral movements, the forehand must remain slightly in advance of the hindquarters. In other words, when doing a leg yield from the centerline to the rail, the horse's nose and forehand must return to the track before the hindquarters. Attempting to keep the horse perfectly parallel, or allowing the hindquarters to lead, results in increased difficulty in the movement, which will lead the horse to evasions.

Common problems:

  • Too much bend through the spine, which results in the horse's hindquarters trailing behind, instead of going sideways

  • Haunches trailing (see diagram)

  • Haunches leading

  • Not enough sideways

  • Too much sideways, which results in loss of impulsion and possibly in the horse stepping on himself

  • Rider trying to move horse sideways with reins, resulting in a "rein yield" instead of a leg yield

"But how do I ride a leg yield?," I hear you asking. You know as well as I do that it's near impossible to learn aids for a movement by reading a book. The set of aids explained in the book might be great for stride number one, but what the heck do you do when the horse changes his response during stride two?

Nonetheless, here's an attempt to tell you how to ride the leg yield.

Here's a discussion of leg yield head-to-the-wall.

Here's a great video by Jane Savoie with beautiful demonstrations of correct leg yields.

Before you start

"Inside" vs. "Outside"

Direction of bend

Lateral work chart

Turn on the forehand

Leg Yield
 Leg yield parallel
 Leg yield head to wall
 How to ride

Shoulder in



Half pass


Pronunciation 101

Lateral work game