Friday, June 15, 2012

Questions About Dressage | Ask the Judge | 6/15/2012

Questions About Dressage

With Amy McElroy


Amy McElroy is a USEF R judge, qualified to officiate at any USEF recognized show at all national dressage levels. She rides, trains and teaches at Fairlane Farm in Aiken and judges about a dozen dressage shows and events each year. In her popular Ask the Judge column, she answers readers' questions about dressage.
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Dear Amy,
I have a question about leg yielding. I am not getting very good marks in this move, although I think I am very accurate. My test comments say “too much neck-in” or “too much bending.” I thought you should have bend. So, what makes a good leg yield?
                                                                                                   -Yeilding But Low Scoring

Dear Yeilding,
If you are already doing leg yields, you must be fairly skilled in your dressage training. Leg yielding is first seen in First Level Test 2 and First Level Test 3 in the USDF Dressage test. In eventing, it first shows up in the Preliminary dressage test. In First Level 2, you must leg yield both left and right, and the movement is worth double points (it has a coefficient of two.) In First Level Test 3, you must also yield to the left and to the right, but only one of these movements has a coefficient of two. The leg yield can have a big influence on your score, so it is an important movement to master. Leg yielding is the first sidewise movement that your horse will learn.

Let’s see what the USDF guidelines say about leg yielding:


Purpose: To demonstrate the suppleness and lateral responsiveness of the horse.

Execution: The horse should be straight with only a slight position away from the direction he is moving. He must show a clear cross-over of the inside legs over the outside legs. The horse should be almost parallel to the long side, with the forehand slightly leading.

Essence: The cross-over of the inside legs over the outside legs; the regularity of the trot; the lateral responsiveness, the alignment, balance and self carriage, and freedom and flexion

Positives: 1. Body nearly parallel to track; 2. Slight flexion of poll away from direction of movement; 3. Neck in line with rest of spine; 4. Crossing of inner limbs; 5. Forward reach of leading limbs, especially the hind leg.

Negatives: 1. Horse loses balance, regularity, or varying tempo; 2. Neck not in line with rest of spine; 3. Side stepping with leading legs; 4. Not crossing inner legs; 5. Twisted at withers, or too much bend in neck; 6. Running sideways; 7. Haunches leading or trailing.

Misconceptions: 1. Crossing is the main thing, even if it means the leading hind leg is simply side stepping rather than going forward. 2. There should be “bend” rather than slight flexion in the poll.
Leg yielding is not a bending movement. This is why it is considered a “two-track” movement, and is not considered a lateral movement.


A good leg yield consists of:

Obedience: The horse moves easily off your leg while staying in a steady tempo and frame.

Accuracy: The movement starts and finishes at the prescribed letter. This means the horse is in the act of leg yielding when the rider’s body is parallel to the starting letter, and that the leg yield finishes when the rider’s body is parallel to the ending letter. (Hint: leave plenty of time to prepare!)

Cross-over: The inside legs should pass and cross in front of the outside legs. The bigger the cross, the better (this shows scope.)

Impulsion: Your horse’s tempo should be the same before, during and after the leg yield.

Acceptance of bit: The horse is accepting enough contact required for First Level. He should be even on both reins and sides of the neck, even though he should be looking slightly away from the direction of travel.
Harmony: The leg yield should look effortless. The rider should have invisible aids, and present a pleasing and seamless picture.
A lot of work goes into a good leg yield. It is a good idea to school this movement, as its aim is to help improve the rider’s aids and the horse’s obedience. It is a great suppling move, helping to improve the freedom of the shoulders and hindquarters, as well as the horse’s balance. All of this will help you to climb to Second Level, which is the first time you are required to demonstrate collection.

I hope these guidelines will help you improve your score. A well ridden leg yield gives you a great feeling, and it can be a lot of fun for you and your horse!

This article is copyrighted and first appeared in The Aiken Horse. It is reprinted here by permission.