How to Train Your Horse for the Sidepass

Spots on the side of your horse and doing gates are on my mind today. No, I’m not talking about gaited Appalooskies! I want to do some straightforward talk about moving sideways. Ranch work requires frequent opening and closing of gates a’horseback, and I’ve seen hundreds of ways to do that. My favorite is the way it’s done in working equitation trials. There, the horse side passes to the gate putting the rider in position to undo the latch, then he sidepasses the gate open. After he changes sides he sidepasses it closed, then again with the latch and he leaves. All very calm and smooth. There’s no leaning out, taking hands off reins or gate, no muss, no fuss, no bother. The secret to this apparently effortless act is that there is no secret at all. It is the result of methodical use of seat and legs of the rider to ask the horse to do sideways movement. In training a horse to do this I prefer to start from the ground. Holding the halter closely in one hand, and a stick in the other, I find a place along the horse’s side where I can touch or tap him, and he will step away with a hind foot. I do this on both sides and repeat it until I barely touch a place on his ribs that will correspond to where my leg will be if I move it backward a ways from its resting position when I’m sitting in the saddle. After working from the ground I get on and repeat the procedure from the saddle, placing my leg at the “hip move over” spot, then if nothing happens “reminding” the horse to move over using the stick. I repeat this until by moving my leg into that position, he responds by stepping over in front of his other leg. I don’t want to kick, I only want to position my leg. The stick does any necessary reinforcing. This is called the turn on the forehand. This simple command will put the horse in position to unfasten, open and close the gate. You have now put a “spot” on your horse’s side, that is a “push button” for moving the hindquarters sideways.

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