Q: I’m having trouble getting my horse to sidepass. He wants to go forward, backward, or sideways with his body crooked. How can I get him to do it correctly?
Start by riding two-handed using a gentle snaffle or curb bit with short and freely rotating shanks.
Your first task is to move your horse’s shoulders to the right. With your horse standing still, take the right rein 4 to 6 inches away from his neck. Next, take the slack out of the left rein and make it taut enough that your horse flexes his head so you can see his eye. Hold your reins softly but firmly to discourage forward motion. Now slide your left leg forward to the cinch and apply pressure. When your horse takes a step with his shoulders to the right, release the pressure and reward him. Reverse these cues to move his shoulders to the left.
Move your horse’s hind end by keeping both reins close to his neck, while again flexing his head slightly away from the direction of travel. Your leg cue to tell him to shift his hips will be farther back on his body, 2 to 3 inches behind your normal riding position. Once he masters moving his shoulders and hips independently, he’s ready to sidepass.
For the sidepass, you want your horse’s head and neck straight. Your reins should be equal in length and pressure to help his body stay in alignment and softly discourage him from stepping forward (being careful not to pull him backward). Sit tall with your weight even on both seatbones and apply leg pressure in the center of your horse’s ribcage. If he steps backward, soften the reins and more actively encourage him to step to the side with your leg.
This article originally appeared in the June 2014 issue of Horse Illustrated magazine. Click here to subscribe!