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Guest Blog post # 85: "All You Need is Leg" by Bill Woods
All You Need is Leg
(with apologies to Lennon and McCartney)
We were working on his flying changes—a middle aged OTTB with a flock of internalized tensions and a penchant for sucking back behind the leg. I was hoping to use some combinations of canter leg yield and canter half pass to make him come forward to the hand and to lessen the surprise of the change aids. When I asked his rider to make some adjustments within the canter, her horse objected.
“He had such a nice canter half pass all week,” she moaned. And what had she done to produce such a smooth and relaxed half pass? Wouldn’t you know— she had discovered he was happiest when she didn’t use her leg at all.
Here, the ultimate question is your long term goal. If you want to become Canter Half Pass Champion of the Universe, you might be onto something! But how functional, how useful is it if the horse won’t let you use your leg? While making the half pass superficially pleasant, she had inadvertently diminished her options.
I completely agree that the horse should tell you how much and what kind of leg will produce the prettiest, most harmonious result—so far, so good. But if he’s truly on the aids, you must be able to lengthen (or shorten) the canter within the lateral movement—or for that matter—at any other time you might like.
Forward may not always be the solution but absence of “forward thought” never is.