Play the Sideways Game


Want to know a secret? Well, let me tell you something that very few people know. The better your horse can move sideways, the better he does everything else! Did you know that?  Think you’re ready to start? Hold it! What is the most important of all the PNH Games? It’s the Friendly Game, and you play it with your horse before doing anything else. And before you play the Sideways Game, please make sure that you and your horse can successfully play the Friendly, Porcupine, Driving, Yo-Yo and Circling Games.

Once these are in place, the Sideways Game comes easily because all the ingredients are covered. Now before we start, I want to mention that a few of the horses in these photographs were rescued recently by the Thompson family, so even though their ribs show, the horses now have a really good home and will soon blossom!

A horse in the wild often runs away from something scary or something that he thinks might eat him for lunch. He always runs straight, right? He certainly never goes sideways! So sideways is not a movement that is commonly used by horses. Because he has to cross his legs, sideways is not a good escape mechanism for a horse. But sideways motion does cause a horse to think — so if your horse gets excited, play the Sideways Game with him until he starts thinking again!


It’s not “sidepass,” it’s “sideways.” Each of the PNH Seven Games has a purpose.
The Sideways Game teaches the horse suspension (lift) to his movement, it increases his athletic ability, teaches him to yield sideways, teaches him to think, and prepares him for more advanced movements like turns, spins and lead changes.


You’ll need a halter, 12’ lead line, and a Carrot Stick with a Savvy String. Because your horse will probably want to go forward (instead of sideways) when you first begin, practice this along a solid fence so you have a boundary.


The two “zones” that we mainly “talk to” for the Sideways Game are Zone 1 and Zone 4 (see chart). Zone 1 is the “space” in front of the horse’s nose; Zone 4 is the horse’s rump — the area between his flank and the top of his tail.


Hold your 12’ lead line loosely about 3’ from the snap, and using your Carrot Stick, move your horse’s Zone 1 (no touching!) away from you in a full circle (like in the Driving Game). Stop and rub your horse (Friendly Game). Now drive Zone 4 in a full circle by tapping the ground with the Carrot Stick, then rub him.
If he doesn’t move, you might need to tap him.


Walk up to a fence, then start walking down the fence with the rope in your hand that’s closest to the fence. The Carrot Stick and Savvy String will be in your other hand. As you walk, let the rope slide all the way out to the end.Keep walking and start flapping the Carrot Stick and String behind you so it causes your horse to move out and around you. As your horse comes toward the fence, put your arms in a “L” shape.

If the rope is in your left hand, then extend the left hand straight forward and the right arm out to the side. By having your hand with the rope stretched out forward, this will stop you from pulling on your horse. If he gets to the end of the rope just hold steady as you walk; don’t just pull on the rope or he’ll face you.

Keep walking at a steady pace and rhythmically “flap” the Stick and String out to your side.Ask for just a few steps sideways, then stop and relax so he’ll know he’s doingthe right thing. At first he might run behind you again, but if he does, don’t worry! Keep your feet still and—using your 12’ line and Stick and String—send him around you again just like you would in the Circling Game, but only in a half circle.

It’s important to keep a steady walking pace—not too fast and not too slow.
If you horse stops, don’t get closer to him. Use your Stick and String towards Zone 1 to get him to start moving again. The safest place for you to be is 12 feet away from your horse, especially while he’s learning.


Play the Sideways Game from both sides—a good test to see how coordinated you are!


Relax, slow yourself to a halt and allow your horse to do the same. Don’t pull your horse to stop him.

It’s fun to think about some great song while playing the Sideways Game to keep your rhythm consistent. What tune would you choose?

Even though these games are a great way for you to teach and play with your horse, make sure there is always a responsible adult present.


Learn how to play the  Squeeze Game (great for teaching a horse to load into a trailer). For more info on PNH, check out


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