ARTICLE

Shoulder-In vs Leg-yielding

Leg-yielding is an elementary exercise that should be taught on a circle (although at times it is asked for on a straight line or diagonal). It is used mainly to teach the horse to move away from the rider's leg pressure. Once the horse is responsive, the objective is complete, and the horse should be moved towards the more beneficial shoulder-in. I believe leg-yielding has become too popular, for two reasons. First, it is required in some first-level dressage tests, so too much emphasis is placed on “schooling” for this movement. Second, it is much easier to produce than shoulder-in.

To perform leg-yielding, the horse is led onto the circle and the rider's inside leg, used behind the girth, pushes the hindquarters out. It is easy for the horse; he is not required to maintain this bend and can easily let his hindquarters “fall out”. The horse may thus be denied the strength and balance building required in more advanced movements. He can, in fact, perform this exercise with his weight primarily on his forehand, in effect pushing himself thought the movement instead of carrying it.

Overuse of leg-yielding is not beneficial to the horse's physical development and will only add to his resistance when he is asked to perform movements that require suppleness, bending and collection.

Shoulder-in, on the other hand, benefits the horse in many ways. The correct execution of this movement will increase the flexion of the hind legs, thereby enabling the hindquarters to carry more weight. This, in turn, allows freer more supple movement of the shoulders. It also increases the horse’s ability to collect and extend paces, and will help to improve the canter departs (again, because the movement develops the hindquarters, and lightens the forehand).

When these exercises are analyzed, shoulder-in is clearly more beneficial, from the fundamental physical development of the horse, to eventual progress to higher levels. Leg-yielding should be used minimally, with knowledge and care. I encourage anyone concerned with the correct development of the sport horse to consider this important issue.

 

Adrienne Neary lives and trains horses in Maine. She founded a company called Wingspan® Arts International, which specializes in quality Equine Products and expert Equine Consultations. http://www.wingspanartsintl.com

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