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(“. . . having a VCR in your home was no longer a rarity.”)

I made a couple of the earliest instructional dressage videos back in the early 80s for a small but forward-thinking company called Learning Partners. The video I’m thinking of was titled “Leg Yielding.” This was back around the time that movement was first being introduced into the American tests, and performing it was still a mystery to many lower level riders. It was also right when having a VCR in your home was no longer a rarity. If truth be known, I picked that topic and “Putting Your Horse on the Bit” because I sensed they would sell to a much larger audience than something more arcane like “Canter Pirouettes” or “Piaffe and Passage.” Turns out I was right!

The information has held up pretty well over time. It should. After all, neither horses nor the mechanics of the aids have changed in that time. What has changed as I look back at those tapes is my perspective. Everything in that script is still true, but were I to do it again, I’d go a few steps further. Description of the movement and the horse’s alignment? Nothing would change. Rider position? Nothing would change. The basic mechanics of the aids—how they synchronize to the horses footfalls and how they coordinate to one another? Also still the same.

For horses who had never been asked before, I would include a few non-technical, pre-leg yielding exercises simply to produce primitive lateral displacement. More importantly, I would stress that once horses and riders get the hang of the exercise, they no longer need to follow the A, B, C type recipe to produce it stride by stride. Yes, the aids still occur in the same sequence and timed to the movement of the horse under you, but you only apply them on an “as needed basis.” If in the beat where you would use your inner leg to push him over, he is already moving over, I would say skip that aid and see if you need it in the next cycle. If you use it when it’s not necessary, all you do is push your horse out of balance over his outside shoulder.

It seems counterintuitive that an exercise called “leg yielding” is being performed best when you don’t have to use your leg at all. When the horse is so balanced and so in front of your seat that a weight shift is all you need, there are no disruptions and no break in the fluidity of the movement. The 2019 version of that ancient videotape would highlight the end game –getting your horse to the point that larger aids (except in extremis) are unnecessary.