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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Lateral Movements

So I have been reading up a lot lately, which is a good way to supplement riding if you are like me and most often only have one horse to ride!  I think it is a bit like visualization because you do the movements, or think about the basis of the movements when reading.  
This week’s reading has been about lateral movements and why we need to practice them. In a chapter of  Hans Von Blixen-Finecke's book, The Art of Training, he teaches you of the importance of the lateral movements. If you think about training a horse like training a person, you think in muscle groups.  For example, when you lift weights or do circuit training we do machines in pairs to work muscles in both directions and both groups.  Think about your biceps and triceps.  You have to move your arm and develop the muscles as a team or you would have these big biceps and wimpy triceps that didn’t even out.  We do this with horse muscle development as well.  Think of everything not just in right and left but muscle groups.  To develop muscles you have to move the horse’s legs in a plane separate from the straight direction of his body movement.  When you strengthen the adductors and abductors (pairs) by moving sideways in respect to his body position it produces flexion of the back. For my mom (and other non –horsey people) the lateral movements are leg yielding, half pass, shoulder-in, traversand renvers.
There are other benefits of working lateral movements.  In schooling for example, they test the horses understanding of the movement of his own legs and help him to engage the hindquarters.  
Today I wanted to talk about the details I read about leg yielding in particular.  I remember Janet Foy telling us at the RDHMW that one thing we should do is read the description of what movements are in!  So I will start with a description of leg yield.  The horse, straight in the body and neck, moves forward and sideways by crossing over the inside legs in front of the outside ones.  To achieve this you use the inside foreleg to follow the diagonal line and it becomes the outside foreleg as the yieldstarts, the rider affects the hind leg movement first.  It takes 1-2 steps for the horse’s body to get parallel to the long side in walk and 2-3 steps in trot. The exercise should lead to a flexion in the poll away from the direction in which the horse is moving.  Things to do, “check the horse’s response to turn on the forehand and the zig-zag line aids and then walk him through a corner and on to a diagonal.  Once he is moving straight along the diagonal, begin to gradually make his body parallel with the long side by changing your lateral position in the saddle to the new inside (the side from which he is moving) and applying outside hand and inside leg each time his outside forefoot comes to the ground.  Move your whip to the new inside hand and adjust the length of the reins with the new inside one slightly shorter. Repeat the aids every time the outside forefoot hits the groups (the horse’s outside shoulder is forward), having him continue along the diagonal. Control the outside foreleg with your outside leg on the front leg button, when the horse preforms well in the walk, repeat at a working trot.
Remember that leg yielding is a loosening and not a collecting exercise.  Things NOT to do! Do not start the leg yield directly from the long side. Do not move the seat from side to side in the saddle to push the horse’s body sideways.  Do not pull with the inside rein and bend the horse in the neck.  Do not pull your outside leg back to prevent the outside hind leg from stepping too much sideways.
Things have gone wrong when the quarters trail, with the inside hind leg not crossing over or when the quarters lead, with the outside hind leg stepping too much sideways, or when the horse pushes the forehand sideways with the inside foreleg against the ground, and takes hold of the outside rein with the outside of his neck, or when the horse lacks impulsion when ridden straight forward out of the leg yield.
You can prevent these things (in order) by, using stronger outside reins and inside leg aids, moving the forehand across with the inside leg nearer the front leg button, keeping the neck straight with the outside rein, the hand moving in the direction of movement and applying stronger outside leg on the front leg button, and finally using a stronger leg aid on the outside front leg button, allowing with both reins.
I want to thank Hans Von Blixen-Finecke for this amazing layout of how to do movements.  I love the way this book is written, it has specific picture instructions, written instructions, dos and don’ts as well as pointers on each movement and how and why to school it.  I suggest it to everyone!  
And in a quick closing, I am headed up to NJ for the Festival of Champions in the morning, so excited to support all my friends!  I will be at the Beyond Sports conference all day Wednesday at Yankee Stadium.  Can’t wait to give you guys all the info from that.  The topic this year is about social media and using it to develop youth markets!  Dressage could really use that.  I’ll keep everyone updated this week from NJ!  Good luck all.

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