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Flatwork February #10: The Stairs

‘The Stairs’ is an excellent exercise to help improve your horse’s suppleness by using a leg yield. You can do this exercise at the walk or trot.
To ride it, go down the centre line (if you are in a dressage arena), do a few steps of leg yield (three to four steps), go straight for a bit, and then do another three to four steps of leg yield. You will carry on with this until you reach the wall. It is important to leg yield on a shallow angle when your horse is new to the leg yield and this particular exercise. Now complete the same exercise on the other rein.

What is a leg yield and how do you execute it?

A leg yield is when your horse moves forward and sideways away from your leg. The leg yield is done on two tracks, with your horse’s body straight with slight flexion at the poll, away from the direction of travel. As he steps sideways, his inside leg will cross evenly over his outside leg.
If your horse has never done a leg yield, teaching them from the three-quarter line can be more manageable, than teaching him from the centre line. Horses naturally want to ‘drift’ to the wall, making it easier to achieve a leg yield when closer to the wall. Of course, once your horse understands what is being asked of him, you can perform a leg yield anywhere, even on our spiral exercise (stay tuned for our exercise of adding the leg yield to the spiral).

Riding a leg yield

Step 1: On a straight line, ask for a bit of flexion to the inside (away from the direction you will travel). Not much flexion is needed, and only the poll is turned; a good visual marker is being able to see the horse’s eyelash and nostril on that side. The rest of your horse’s body needs to remain straight; this is where your outside rein comes into play and prevents the horse from bending his neck or ‘throwing’ his shoulder.
Step 2: Move your inside leg slightly behind the girth. With your leg in that position and a little more weight in your inside seat bone, use your leg to move your horse forward and sideways.
Happy climbing, and don’t forget to let us know how #FlatworkFebruary is going for you!