How To Teach A Horse To Side Pass

If you just ride casually for pleasure you may not know what the side pass (a.k.a.: full pass) is, and/or you may believe that it’s something you don’t need to know about; however, this is not true. Side passing, in which your horse moves directly to one side or the other in response to your leg and rein signals, is a very useful move.

In this article, we will explain what the side pass is and why and how you and your horse should master it. Read on to learn more on how to teach a horse to side pass.

What Is The Value Of The Side Pass?

What Is The Value Of The Side Pass

Think about the way that you ride and just think of the many ways that being able to move quickly to the side could be helpful to you.

When your horse knows how to side pass, you can use the skill in a wide variety of situations. For instance, if you’re out on the trail with companions and some unruly horse raises a ruckus, you and your horse can simply sidle out-of-the-way.

If you’re going from one pasture to another or out of your pasture and onto the trail, being able to side pass makes it easy to maneuver to open and close gates from horseback. You won’t have to dismount to take care of this frequent task.

If you come upon an obstruction in a tight spot on the trail, if your horse knows the side pass, you can literally sidestep it.

Aside from that, when your horse knows how to side pass it means that he has also learned to be very obedient to your leg aids. This can be helpful in settling your horse if he spooks, in keeping him on course in activities such as jumping and in many other situations.

How Do You Teach A Horse To Side Pass?

How Do You Teach A Horse To Side Pass

When you teach a horse to side pass, you’re teaching him two basic things. He will learn how to move his forequarters around toward his hindquarters and then to simultaneously move his hindquarters around toward his forequarters.

To do this, begin with the right equipment. You’ll need a browband headstall equipped with a snaffle bit and split reins. Even if your horse is trained to neck rein, you’ll want to use direct reining for training this maneuver.

Begin by teaching your horse how to turn on the forehand. This is a foundational step that leads into learning how to side pass. You’ll teach these skills while mounted.

Here’s What You Need To Do:

1. Begin by applying direct pressure with your right rein drawn back in the direction of your right thigh. Simultaneously, lift the left rein and apply slight pressure or contact to your horse’s left shoulder. Done correctly, your horse will seem to be looking at your right thigh with his right eye.

2. Apply slight pressure with your left calf on or near your girth, and move your right leg away from the side of your horse. This move will encourage the horse to move toward the right. When he moves just a couple of steps, stop and allow him to relax for a moment.

3. After you’ve practiced a few times on the right, and your horse understands what’s expected of him, repeat the process to move to the left.

4. When your horse is fully competent in this move, begin work on moving the hindquarters. Begin as if you were going to have your horse move his forequarters only, but when you lift the rein to apply contact or pressure to his shoulder, simultaneously apply pressure with your heel behind the girth (nearer to the flanks) on the same side. This will encourage him to move his hips over as he has been moving his forequarters.

5. Work carefully alternating moving forequarters and hindquarters until your horse can execute both moves smoothly crossing leg – over – leg to move to the side.

6. Continue practicing, and as you do, make your cues more and more subtle. Once your horse has the idea of what you want him to do, you should be able to use your leg cue only once toward the center of his body rather than moving forward and back to signal forequarters and hindquarters. Your horse will understand that you want him to move his entire body sideways all at once if you take your time and put in plenty of practice.

TIP: Reinforce your leg cues by simultaneously shifting your weight in the direction you wish to go to help your horse understand what you want.

Take Your Time

Although these are just six simple steps, it’s important that you understand that it could take quite a long time for you and your horse to master them. Use short training sessions and be sure to reward your horse for even small successes.

The side pass is not a natural move for a horse, and it may take a while for him to understand the concept and what it is you want from him. Every horse, just like every rider is an individual. The combination of your horse’s skills and abilities and your own will determine the amount and speed of success you can enjoy.

Once you and your horse have mastered this maneuver, you will find that you are a more self-assured rider and that your horse is more responsive. Learning to side pass is a good exercise to help your horse learn to respond quickly and accurately to your quiet cues.

As with any interaction with a horse, be calm and patient and work in small increments. When you do this and pay attention to detail, you will surely and pleasantly meet with success.

Teaching A Horse To Sidepass

Nicky Ellis
Nicky has been an editor at Horses & Foals since 2017. Horses have been in her life from her earliest memories, and she learned to ride a horse when she was 5. She is a mom of three who spends all her free time with her family and friends, her mare Joy, or just sipping her favorite cup of tea.


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