Leg Yield: Lesson Plan for Group with Physical Disabilities

I am excited to share that the instructors at the Advanced Workshop I attended at Heartland Therapeutic Riding have agreed to let me post their lesson plans! This one is from Sandy Webster of Gaits of Change, our phenomenal workshop instructor, who made this lesson plan and then taught it to riders as an example of an Advanced level lesson.

Leg Yield: Lesson Plan for Group with Physical Disabilities
By Sandy Webster
Given at Advanced Preparatory Workshop July 8, 2014
Note: I added some explanation where needed

Riders (notes that help make lesson planning decisions)

Rider 1

  • Diagnosis: CP, mild kyphosis (definition), verbal – MSI (define), walker
  • Goals: improve walking, independent living
  • Riding ability: independent, sitting trot attempted, 2 point

Rider 2

  • Diagnosis: Stroke, Right side weakness, Impaired arm/hand, Ambulatory, Delayed speech
  • Goals: ride own horse independently
  • Riding ability: leader in trot, 2 point in trot, half halt
  • Notes:
    • Due to right side weakness, always keep the sidewalker on the left because if she falls that direction she can’t catch herself with her right hand- or at least until you know the rider and horse well enough to trust taking the sidewalker away

Rider 3

  • Diagnosis: Limb-Girdle MD (definition), Ankylosing spondylitis (definition), Weakness in hips and shoulders, Ambulatory
  • Goals: Ride independently
  • Riding ability: Independent after warm up, Half halt, Walk/Trot/Walk transitions, Trot
  • Notes:
    • This rider has little muscle down her back and legs – so she can support herself side to side, but not front to back (if she falls forward she must use her hands to catch herself). Therefore she needs a horse with lateral movements, not anterior/posterior.
    • This rider normally uses the strings on the western saddle to encourage the horse to move forward. Sandy suggested in the future teaching her to use a crop as a way to support her leg aids. The barn said they tried this in the past but the rider didn’t like it, as she likes to have her hands prepared to catch the horn in case she falls forward. We discussed it takes more effort to turn and use the strings than to flick your wrist for the crop, although the crop is something staying in your hands. They agreed that since the last time they tried the crop, the rider’s balanced has improved enough that they might try it again.
    • The rider normally uses neck reining so she can keep one hand on the horn as needed. Sandy suggested they switch to direct rein steering because it keeps symmetry in the trunk, improving balance and core strength.

Lesson Plan


  • The riders will perform a leg yield in walk 2 times in each direction from the quarter line to the wall with assistance as needed.

Teacher Preparation/Equipment Needed (Rider, Horse, Tack, Leader, SW1, SW2)

  • Rider 1, Bay Horse, Laced with padding, English, Peacock stirrups with rubber bands on feet, Leader for warm up and trot, SW1 & SW2 for trot
  • Rider 2, Chestnut Horse, English, Reins leather on left and ladder on right, Peacock stirrups, Leader for warm up and trot, SW1 on the left
  • Rider 3, Grey Horse, Western saddle and stirrups with seat saver, Split western reins with snap center, Leader for warm up and trot, SW1 for safety, no SW2.
  • (Normally include everyone’s names above)

Arena Set Up:


  • 4 cones on rail near corners
  • 4 upright poles with cones on top on quarterline near corners

Lesson Content/Procedure

  1. Safety Check
  2. Mount (order and type)
    1. Rider 1 –crest
    2. Rider 2 – croup from block with assistance
    3. Rider 3 – crest from the block
  3. Safety check
  4. Introduction
  5. Warmup
    1. Rider 1 – after mounts, trunk rotations with hands on hips
    2. Rider 1 + 2 – after Rider 2 mounts and joins Rider 1, both do ankle rotations inside and outside at every other letter while riding side by side (identifying inside/outside prepares them to know the terms for the leg yield)
    3. All Riders – swing inside leg forward and outside leg back
    4. Rings Warmups and Review
      1. Hand each rider two rings or inside and outside.
      2. Arm circles – inside hand then outside
      3. Review opening rein with inside hand
      4. Review a half halt with the outside hand
      5. Half circle and reverse with an open rein
      6. Place ring on inside tow then outside toe
      7. Review quarter line, center line, and rail
      8. Introduce holding a crop and how to change the crop from one hand to another (crop is easier to handle at first – later can progress to dressage whip)
  6. Riding Skill Explanation (as reflected in objective)
    1. What
      1. Leg Yield is a lateral movement where the horse moves both forward and sideways away from the pressure of the rider’s leg. When done correctly, the horse’s legs cross and the shoulders and hips of the horse remain parallel. The horse moves in the opposite direction of the bend. (Because these were adults and fully cognitive, this was explained in detail).
    2. Why
      1. Suppling exercise for the horse which loosens up their hips, rib cages, and shoulders.
      2. Makes the horse more obedient and in tune to the rider’s leg aids.
      3. Rider’s benefits are: better communication with the horse, independent use of body parts, all 4 limbs are doing a different job
      4. Promotes independence on our horse
      5. If out on a trail or shutting a gate we may use leg yield to move sideways
      6. (These promote their life goals of independence)
    3. How
      1. Look ahead and where you want your horse to go – your weight acts as an aid by shifting the direction you are looking over that seat bone in the direction you want to go.
      2. Apply pressure with inside leg at the girth, with a push and release action.
      3. Open the inside hand to ask your horse to be in flexion.
      4. Half halt as needed with the outside hand to maintain a steady pace.
      5. Slide the outside leg behind the girth to guard in case the hindquaters move over too quickly.
    4. Where
      1. Turn at the quarter line by the vertical pole.
      2. Look to the cone on the rail.
      3. Ride from the quarter line diagonally to the rail.
  1. Safety Check
  2. Practice
    1. leg yield quarter line to rail 2x
    2. half circle reverse
    3. leg yield quarter line to rail 2x other way
    4. started with lots of verbal cues
      1. “squeeze and release, squeeze and release” with their inside leg
      2. “look the direction you want your horse to go, over their ear”
      3. “leader, make sure to let your horses move over”
      4. continually reminded them of the aids, what response they were looking for, and why they were doing this (instead of just stating it in the what/how/why and never repeating it again)
  3. Progression (if time allows)
    1. leg yield quarter line to E or B
    2. turn up centerline, leg yield to left 3 steps, then change bend and leg yield right back to center line 3 steps
  4. Wrap Up
    1. What is a leg yield?
    2. What are the benefits to the horse? To the rider?
    3. Why might you need to know how to leg yield to enhance your level of independence as a rider?
  5. Dismount (order an type)
    1. Rider 3 – crest to ground
    2. Rider 2 – croup to ground
    3. Rider 1 – crest to ground, close to exit for walker

Thank you so much for letting me share, Sandy!

About Sandy (bio from her website Gaits Of Change): Having found success both as a winning equestrian competitor and as a leader and innovator in the therapeutic riding industry, Sandy Webster has a commanding style that inspires all.  Her dedication to educational excellence is the foundation of Gaits of Change. Sandy Webster is a true competitor with a long history of wins and purses as a professional Jockey, Advanced Level 3-Day-Event rider, Dressage competitor and noted Carriage Driver. Additionally, for many years Sandy has been an outstanding innovator and practitioner in the therapeutic riding industry gaining much respect both within and beyond the industry. Sandy’s contributions span all fronts, yet her passion is teaching and education. Sandy’s workshops and speaking engagements are popular and successful. Sandy is an energetic, dynamic presenter who makes the material and work fun. Sandy’s passion for excellence is infectious and students often stay after hours to learn more! Her radiant personality, her belief in achievement and success, and her light but winning touch, motivates and inspires all. With a long list of experience, qualifications and certifications, Sandy has a wealth of knowledge to share.

If you would like to learn more about Sandy’s services, visit Gaitsofchange.com

If you would like to contact Sandy, email her at sandy@gaitsofchange.com 


Note: This is not professional advice, this is a blog. I am not liable for what you do with or how you use this information. The activities explained in this blog may not be fit for every rider, riding instructor, or riding center depending on their current condition and resources. Use your best personal judgment!

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