Leg-Yield to Manage Your Horse's Blowups
From 1992 Olympic Team bronze medalist
Charlotte Bredahl, a leg-yield exercise to get your horse's
attention back on you and the job at hand when an explosion
From minor shy to major "uprising." Few
things can ruin your day at the show or on the trail faster
than a blowup. In one split second you go from "fair and
equal chance at a ribbon" to "out of the running," out time
and money, embarrassed, frustrated, angry or (when things
really get out of control) frightened.
But blowups are as much a part of riding as the trot is a
two-beat gait. That's something you can't change (and
probably wouldn't want to--or you'd be riding something more
predictable, like a bicycle). You can, however, go a long
way toward understanding, deflecting and managing most
blowups. And when that awful moment arrives when you
can't--well, I have some tips for handling those situations,
The Key to the Problem
The key to managing your horse's blowups and minimizing
their damage to your performance (and composure) is having
him on the aids. By "on the aids" I mean he feels relaxed,
willing, and rhythmic; he's creating energy with his
hindquarters; his back is round and swinging; his hind legs
are stepping well under; and his neck and head are
stretching forward into the bit and giving you a soft,
confident, relaxed, "conversational" contact.
Here's a straightforward exercise that will help you put
your horse on the aids (and confirm that he is on them), and
that will also give you a reliable quick fix when he does
"do his thing." It's leg-yielding, which is more basic than
shoulder-in but just as effective for dealing with blowups,
especially when you realize you can leg-yield anywhere. A
couple of steps of leg-yield may be enough to restore order
and get your horse moving off your seat and leg and
responding softly to your hands again.
Photo 1. To prepare Lugano for the leg-yield, I turn
early, bend him slightly at the poll, and straighten him
through the neck and body, so he's parallel to the long side
I feel his right hind come off the ground, I increase
pressure behind the girth with my right leg...
Photo 2. ...and he crosses his leg to the left. My
left leg on the girth keeps his haunches from swinging left
Photo 3. ...encourages him to take a big step forward
in the next stride.
Photo 4. Leg-yielding on the long side, I position
Lugano by bringing his forehand a stride inside the track,
almost as if I were going to cross the diagonal. My eyes,
shoulders, and seat "look" straight up the rail, and so does
Lugano's right hind leg as it crosses over.
--Photos by Mandy Lorraine
This article is excerpted from "Fix That BLOWUP!" in the May
1993 issue of Practical Horseman magazine. For more
professional tips on coping with spooks and blowups, see
Cooky McClung's "Bombs Away!" in the February 2005 issue.