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Basic Liberty Exercises Series. Hindquarter Yield

March 28, 20244 min read


You may wonder what all these exercises on the leadrope have got to do with working horses at liberty. By starting our communication on the leadrope we are giving the horse the best chance of understanding what we mean. We need to be able to move the hindquarters, the forehand and ask the horse to back up happily. Not only will this make working with our horses safer, it just makes life easier when a horse is easy to move!

In this article we are going to discuss the hindquarter yield. Why do we start with this exercise? Why is it one of the most important basic liberty exercises? And how to teach it!

Hindquarter yield at liberty

1. Why is the hindquarter yield one of the most basic liberty exercises?

Firstly, it’s important for safety. If we know we can move the quarters away from us, it’s reassuring. Secondly, the hindquarter yield disengages the engine. This means that if the horse scoots off, we can yield his hindquarters to calm the situation back down again. Finally, moving the quarters away from us encourages the front end to move towards us relatively speaking. You can try this with a whip, Push one end of the whip away from you.. what happens to the other end? By encouraging the horse to look towards us, we build focus and connection and this can initiate the draw (Draw is when we ask the horse to move towards us)

2. How do we teach the hindquarter yield?

I liken training to going up a staircase. The perfect unit of behaviour we’re after is at the top of the staircase and we can break it down into many steps on the way up. So our first aim is to help the horse understand how to move his bottom away from us, no matter how untidy everything else is. We can tidy all that up later. 

You can use your hand or a whip as a visual cue. A sensitive horse will step away as soon as you lift it. A less sensitive horse may just stand a look at you! If nothing happens when you give the cue, we need to apply the rule, ‘new cue/ old cue’. We have to find something the horse already understands to use as the old cue. Do you push his bottom over in the stable? Or maybe he steps over when you pull his head gently towards you? Now we have found something he understands, we are going to follow the process below;

New cue (eg lift whip)... micro pause… old cue… horse attempts behaviour.. release (stop asking)... reward.. Relax… repeat! 

Through repetition and association, the horse will eventually anticipate that when the visual cue is given, he needs to move his quarters away. At this point, you start to fade out the old cue. Make sure you pause after the new cue to give him chance to think and to see if he will offer the behaviour. If not, keep using the old cue, following the process above, until he gets it.

3. Taking the next step up the ladder

The next points you need to address are asking the horse to keep his front feet still rather than stepping round in a circle. You can help him with a gentle whoa on the rope saying ‘nice idea.. But i’d like you to step over not forward.’ You also need to ensure he is not stepping into you with his inside foreleg. You can do this by raising your inside hand to encourage him to stay put. Finally, you need to keep your own feet still whilst asking for the movement. 

Each one of these points is another step up the ladder. Don’t expect it all to be perfect at once. When you start one bit, you might lose another. My rule of thumb is if you take a step up the ladder and ‘fail’ twice, you need to come back down a step and consolidate before you move on again. 

In summary, help the horse to understand what to do by asking yourself the question, ‘how can I help my horse get the right answer?’ Move up your ladder in small steps and be prepared to come back down a step if necessary. Video yourself to check your own timing and positioning… and most importantly.. have fun :-)

Other resources to help you get started

If you would like to have a go at the level one exercises, why not download our FREE workbook to guide you.

Liberty Exercises for Beginners

Liberty Horse UK runs monthly online shows, progress awards and trick titles. Members have access to a video library which runs you through the progressive training programme. For more information, click here,

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