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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Two and a half years of riding, and I'm still asking questions like this. :|

When I am asking my horse to leg yield, which part of my leg am I supposed to be using? I'm just starting to realize how bad my leg and foot position is, and I think it may be leading to me using the wrong part of my leg. Should I be using my thigh or my calf?

Also, when my instructor says I should be using my leg to support him in turns, how exactly am I supposed to be using my leg? I've been trying to push inward with my whole leg, but this makes me brace and then I get stiff and I start to lose a stirrup.
 
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I'm not good at explaining and I think the leg yielding depends on you and your horse. I have gotten really stiff trying to put leg on one side and then trying to make sure I have no leg on the other. I realized recently that all I need to do (with my horse) is kind of flap? Wiggle? I don't know how to word it but I'm doing lower towards my ankle. I'm not maintaining steady pressure - I'm kind of tap-taping maybe? I can't figure out how to describe it but it's kind of in my heel/calf. I have noticed that the horse and the rider have to come up with their own little communication there. I use that for 2 of mine though and it works.


For the circle I use more than just leg. I use my inside leg to keep him bent but then I use my outside rein to keep him from falling out and I will use outside leg if I need to for keeping him in line if that makes sense. I'm not a good explainer but what I can tell you is that if you over think it, your body will get stiff and you will lean to one side or the other and you will over compensate. Try doing it with your eyes closed. It helps.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 · (Edited)
I have noticed that the horse and the rider have to come up with their own little communication there. I use that for 2 of mine though and it works.

For the circle I use more than just leg. I use my inside leg to keep him bent but then I use my outside rein to keep him from falling out and I will use outside leg if I need to for keeping him in line if that makes sense. I'm not a good explainer but what I can tell you is that if you over think it, your body will get stiff and you will lean to one side or the other and you will over compensate. Try doing it with your eyes closed. It helps.
Eyes closed, hmm, maybe at a walk. I think you're really right about horse and rider coming up with the kind of communication that works for them.

You're probably also right about over thinking and becoming stiff. I can do impressive (to me at least) physical things with my body if all I'm thinking about is the goal (jump from one jutting out rock to another jutting out rock without tipping over, for instance) but when I start trying to think about things like what exactly I should be doing with various parts of my body in order to do some particular physical, I get completely discombobulated and tend to fall over.

I'm just starting to worry that I'm developing muscles in the wrong place. I also noticed that when I have my feet in the more "correct" heels down position I tend to use my calves more, whereas with my normal position (feet parallel to ground) I tend to use my thighs more.

It would help if Pony weren't still somewhat green. He still needs some support when cantering to the left, and I don't feel like I am currently able to provide that for him. I guess we'll just keep taking things slowly and eventually we'll get there. It's a good thing neither one of us have any grand goals.
 

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I think it sort of depends on the individual horse. Some you have no choice about what part you use, because you just have to use the part that reaches them!!

Personally I have a bad habit of riding off the back of my leg and cueing with my heels. This is not ideal. I try instead to think of using the little bump of my inside ankle bone as the place I press with. Keeps my foot and leg in better alignment.
 

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It would help if Pony weren't still somewhat green. He still needs some support when cantering to the left, and I don't feel like I am currently able to provide that for him. I guess we'll just keep taking things slowly and eventually we'll get there. It's a good thing neither one of us have any grand goals.
I was having issues with a sloppy canter myself. My horse was almost feeling like he was crooked or going to flop over. He was really unbalanced so my trainer told me I wasn't allowed to canter at home for a while. I was only to focus on the trot. Perfect the trot and the canter will come he said... Sounds silly but I went home and did my homework and when I went to my next lesson - the canter was beautiful. It was crazy how much just working on the trot helped the canter.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I was having issues with a sloppy canter myself. My horse was almost feeling like he was crooked or going to flop over. He was really unbalanced so my trainer told me I wasn't allowed to canter at home for a while. I was only to focus on the trot. Perfect the trot and the canter will come he said... Sounds silly but I went home and did my homework and when I went to my next lesson - the canter was beautiful. It was crazy how much just working on the trot helped the canter.
One of my instructors calls it "motorcycling", where they just tip in a whole bunch when they are turning. I actually had the same thought about the trot and, particularly, about really thinking about bending his whole body when we turn (particularly at the trot). Part of the problem with his left lead is that he still wants to counterbend on that side a little (not as much as he used to), so it's hard to set him up nicely for the correct lead. With the weather cooling off a bit I'm going to start riding him a little outside of lessons, and I think we'll do a lot of work on serpentines. Yay, serpentines. He is getting better with the canter, and I think part of it is that he's using his body a lot better at the trot lately.
 
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I spent almost a month doing circles. Only circles...
 

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Two and a half years of riding, and I'm still asking questions like this. :|

When I am asking my horse to leg yield, which part of my leg am I supposed to be using? I'm just starting to realize how bad my leg and foot position is, and I think it may be leading to me using the wrong part of my leg. Should I be using my thigh or my calf?

Also, when my instructor says I should be using my leg to support him in turns, how exactly am I supposed to be using my leg? I've been trying to push inward with my whole leg, but this makes me brace and then I get stiff and I start to lose a stirrup.

I press with my whole calf and slightly drop my heel on that side which adds a bit of hip to it also. How you have your toe turned makes a difference the way I do it, and I'd describe toe straight as light and toe out at a 45 as the strong version of the same cue. Of course I also ride with spurs so that 45 degree version is where spur contact tends to happen.

Then there is where you put your leg. In the normal riding position leg pressure is basically lateral. If you move your leg a couple inches forward or normal that pressure moves the front end. If you move your leg back a couple inches from normal it moves the hind end.

For big lateral movements you "open the door" by taking the opposite side leg off the horse which sort of gives them a place to go.

I think what your instructor may be talking about is that you can "shape" your horse in a turn with your leg. For example if you are moving on a circle and need to widen it you can use some inside leg, if you need to narrow it some you can use some outside leg. This is actually the only reliable way to ride a perfect circle because you can make fine adjustments with your legs (with lots of practice) to shape or guide the horse with pressure on/off inside or outside to stay perfectly on the line.

That's kind of the way I've always done it so if it isn't correct for or what they teach in proper Dressage, we'll it's worth what it cost you :)
 

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a green horse, and a green rider (not that you are green) can only really focus on one thing at a time. That is why in the French school of dressage they say "Hand without leg, leg without hand". And I interpret this to mean, when you ask with your leg for something, your hand should be passive, and when you ask with your hand, your leg should be still.


The thing is that you do each thing until you get some part of your desired response, and then you may change to the other for your next cue. It's a bit of back and forth, and as the horse becomes more capable of 'hearing ' and responding to one cue at a time, the time between your applying leg and then hand becomes narrower and narrower, until they are almost simultaneous, but never exactly so.


So, what this means to me is that when you have a horse that is leaning hard against an inside rein, counter bent to the outside, you apply rein only for a bit until you get a response to that, a wee bit of softening, THEN you apply leg to ask the horse to step up and into that softness.
So, say, for example, you are circling to the left, counter clockwise. Pony has his nose tipped to the right, and is leaning (motorcycling) toward the center of the circle, 'falling into the circle'.
You are 'legging' him to try and get him to bring his shoulders upright and put a correct bend in his body. You are also putting pressure on the inside rein to ask him to not stick his nose outward. you feel him hard on your inside leg, and leaning on the inside rein. You feel him HARD in his mind and body.


I would suggest abandoning the leg, and getting him to release his outward thought and his lean on the rein, and it might involve coming all the way to a halt, until he finallly lets go of brace on that left rein. When he did, I'd give instantly and let him rest for a sec, then ask for forward, and without even going on a circle, pick up the inside rein,or just flex it lightly with your fingers, and see if he'll flex, give to the rein and let you create softness there. If he does, THEN you put on the inside leg, softly, and 'flutter' it, as @farmpony84 described and you may feel him respond to your leg, AFTER he has responded to the rein.



one, two, one , two . . . ask for softness and flex to the inside, soft leg says 'step over a wee bit', then allow horse to go forward with you in nuetral. Again, again and after a bit, make each half of this equation be closer and closer together, but if things get bad, go back to "soften to the inside' .. . . . reward with big nuetral, but DO NOT reward or quit the rein 'ask', until you do get something.


People always talk about timing as being important with horses, and it is; you must reward very quickly for a good try. But, to often people don't 'stay in there' with their ask long enough to get a response that they can reward. They give in before the hrose does. And thus train in that bad behavior.
 

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I ride western so it may be different for English but, basically I use my thighs and calves for forward motion cues and for lateral cues I use my calves, ankles and heels. Calves and ankles first and if action is not quick enough then I engage heels with or with out spurs. Always using the least amount of pressure it takes to get the response I want. I like the lightest cues possible. Also, as a horse gets more seasoned I use legs first and reins second.
 

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Your lower leg should be slightly behind the girth. Some use pressure, i was also taught to nudge as the inside hind leg steps over, encouraging him to move away from my leg.

If you're going to the right to the edge of your arena

A little extra weight on your (inside) left seat bone and your left leg moves slightly behind the girth to push his rear forward and sideways away from your leg,

Your (outside) right leg keeps him straight, stops him falling towards the right, maintains impulsion,

Your (inside) left rein asks for a slight bend

Your (outside) right rein shows the direction, keeps him straight, prevents too much bend and controls forward speed.
 

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true. timing your application of an inside leg with the exact moment the horse lifts that inside hind leg will make much more sense to the hrose. Thus, the pulsing nature of the inside leg.
a hard inside leg creates a hard-sided horse.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 · (Edited)
a green horse, and a green rider (not that you are green) can only really focus on one thing at a time.
I don't know, sometimes I feel like I am permagreen. I feel like even getting past being a beginner is like trying to get through a huge range of mountains, where every time you think you are getting to the highest peak and it will all be easier after that, there's another higher peak that you just couldn't see before. If that makes sense.

I also think that farmpony is right and I'm overthinking as I'm riding and that's making me stiff. I'm such an overthinker. I need to learn to just let go and ride.
 
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Riders should understand that the most important aspect of cuing a horse is communication. Rather than stressing the use of a specific “word”, the rider should think of using the “word” that this specific horse understands. Finding this word may require experimentation.

Timing, also, is important. A horse can only move its foot in the desired direction when it is off the ground. Thus, in the leg yield, the rider should apply the cue as the horse is lifting its inside hind leg, telling the horse to move the leg sideways as well as forward. Because of delays in the rider feeling the horse’s movement, responding to it, and telling the horse to do something, the rider may need to think of cuing the horse even earlier. As the rider and horse become more attuned to one another, the delay in timing may be reduced.

The portion of a rider’s leg used for cuing and the amount of pressure applied may vary depending on the sensitivity of the rider, the sensitivity of the horse, and the communication between the two. Once communication is established, the rider can make refinements, using different portions of the leg and less effort.
 

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I don't know, sometimes I feel like I am permagreen.
You are not permagreen. You are just someone that WANTS to learn so you aren't afraid to admit that you have areas to work on. A lot of people won't admit when they are confused so they just fake it.
 

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that's why I think it's important to have regurlar videos of yourself riding; so you can see the improvement, even if you don't feel it.


Ihaven't ridden in almost a year now. I blanch to think of how I might ride now. And, being as fat as I am , I don't like to see myself on film. But film doesn't lie, so get your video camera out and rolling.
 

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Permagreen! I like it. I feel the same way.

I agree that finding what works for each horse is important. I ride so many different ones. And goodness knows how they were started. Or finished.

Some liked cures from the heel. Some did best when I cued with my knee. Some - thighs. A few just from seat bones and upper body position. I got a pair in three years ago that baffled me until I talked to their owner. They were over reactive to cures that worked with others. This person told me "the horses were classically trained" and said that meant I was to flex my calves in the rhythm I wanted.

Ai! First, I don't have a great internal sense of rhythm. Next, it was really hard for me to remember. I honestly felt like I had some sort of twitch going on. The horses went well for the owner.

Anyway, play around and find out what works fur you and your horse. I really hope it isn't the calves thing!
 

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You got to play with it, my horses respond to different pressure at different spots and different parts of my leg. People will tell you this, that, and what have you, but it's different on most horses that I have ridden anyways. Dang password keeps changing.
 
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"really thinking about bending his whole body when we turn"

Pet peeve. Horses don't bend their whole body in a turn. And it is unnatural to them to keep their feet in line while turning. Imagine if someone painted two circles on the ground, one inside the other. You are told you MUST keep your left foot on the inside circle and the right one on the outside circle. It would make turning very difficult for you.

Now try it on your hands and knees. It can be done but it makes turning much harder and limits how quickly you can turn. I honestly think it is bad for the horse. It has to be awkward and frustrating to turn so unnaturally, which creates mental resistance.



What actually happens:




I do not know why we don't allow horses to turn in the way that makes turning easy and efficient for them - leaning.

Pet peeve off. My leg cues, when I use them, are done with my calf.
 

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I think we're all permagreen, lol. I despair at times, just like you, and I've ridden since I was 5 - albeit with some long breaks in between. I still really struggle. I watch my 15 year old riding first level dressage and winning hunter/jumper championships and I am so blown away. But she's still at the age where her body is so supple, and in her mind, she can do anything. At 50, I'm not in that place anymore. When I was her age, I had no help, no instruction (heck, no helmet either), but I did all kinds of crazy things on my horse. I never overthought things. As adults, it's different for us (though if memory serves, you're significantly younger than me so enjoy it while you can!).

I think you're just in the high point of the Dunning-Kruger curve where you know enough to know what you don't know. And I get it, I'm an overthinker too. But some days it just flows. I don't overthink, I just let my body naturally flow with my horse. Sometimes it works. But it's not wrong to ask these questions since we can all improve! I like reading the responses to questions like this because it helps solidify what I think I know, and helps me question things that may not be working so much.

Oh, and to answer your original question, I use my mid to lower calf to ask a horse to yield laterally. It's just a gentle, but steady pressure if I'm asking for a yield. That may be wrong but it works for us. And I try to consciously take the leg off once he has yielded. Lately, I've been riding Rusty bareback a lot and I can feel him give more - he feels me too. I like it, but obviously, I'm limited. I won't be cantering bareback anytime soon, in other words! A bit of trot is the most I can do.
 
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