Last week I hopped on Manny for couple rides, and admired the way he moved easily off my left leg. I mentioned this to Christy, who noted that my left leg, which is a bit unsteady, ‘nags’ at Derby’s side.  She theorized that he’s dead to my leg on that side as a result.

So responsiveness has been on my mind.  As my strength is coming back, I’m riding the horse more forwardly, and am correcting him when he stalls out and slows down.  I’m getting better gaits out of Derbs, but lateral response can be best described as “meh.”

I also tend to second-guess myself, thinking “I must not have asked correctly” if Derby fails to respond to a request I make.  However, Christy has proven to me repeatedly in the past that for love of all things good and holy, I know how to move a horse off my leg and bend.  Zero response, she reminded me, is not an option.  “He didn’t even swish his tail!” she commented after observing one lame attempt.

austin yield

Christy executes an enviable leg-yield on Austin.

So she set me to work, trotting laps down the long side, and abbreviating the end of the arena by turning deliberately before the end.  She asked told me to start down the long side on the quarter line, and to leg yield to the rail before getting to our turn on the short end.  “Do not turn unless you are on the rail. GET THERE,” she insisted.

The first couple attempts were ugly, and I dropped back to the walk to get my ducks in a row.  After one “listen to me!” correction with the whip, Derby yielded nicely off my left leg.  We picked up the trot, and things were immediately better, and they continued to improve.  Derby became downright responsive, and as I gained better control over the inside hind, his gait quality improved too.

It was a particularly illuminating lesson, and very motivating.  The results – improved responsiveness and better gaits – were pretty immediate, once I got the horse properly motivated.  I’m going to be adding the leg-yield exercises to all of my warm ups.  I now know where those buttons are, and I need to keep fine-tuning them!

About Sarah Skerik
Sarah Skerik is an experienced digital business executive and strategist with a long track record of success in team leadership, employee development, marketing and business development.

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