A Sideways Life

Sideways movement of a riding a horse in response to his rider’s leg signals is so important that one French cavalry general requested this inscription to be chiseled on his tombstone, “I spent my life teaching horses to move sideways.” The importance of lateral movement is actually more than simply being able to sidepass to a gate. It is the path to balanced movement, and effective control of a horse beyond merely turning him with the reins. A cutting horse who can pivot 180° on a hind leg can better control a cow than one who has to do a “motorcycle turnaround”. A dressage horse taught to understand shoulders-in can shift his weight to his hind legs in order to trot in place for the Piaffe and stay collected for the floating Passage seen in the Olympic freestyle. The horse is born able to do all these movements; our job is to work out a system of communication that allows us to ask for them when and how we want them.
I needed tools in my toolbox to get this done. I needed to understand how horses move, and more importantly how they think, and how it differs from the way I think. A big breakthrough came in the form of my first attendance at a John Lyons symposium. I sat enthralled for hours on a cold, hard, wooden bench in a drab indoor arena and never noticed a moment of discomfort. My eyes were opened to a two way, effective, method of communication with horses. It was the beginning of a learning process that I continue to add to daily, but that would have been a complete mystery if I hadn’t stumbled upon it. I always say “man has been training the horse for at least 5000 years, far be it for me to reinvent the wheel.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *