Perfecting the Sidepass With Your Horse, Part 2

AQHA Professional Horseman Bill Bormes finishes up this series by teaching how to position your leg to cue for the sidepass and how to do some more advanced maneuvers.

From The American Quarter Horse Journal

Last week we left off where your body is centered in the saddle, hips loose and free, feeling balanced on your horse. Depending on your horse’s balance, you position your left leg to fit it. Here's how to do that:

If it feels like her hip needs to move first, I slide my left leg a little farther back. If she’s feeling balanced, I keep my left leg in the middle of her ribs. If I need to move the left shoulder to the right first, I move my left leg forward. These moves are usually miniscule, never more than 3 or 4 inches from the center of her ribs.

Here’s how I position my leg to cue her. First, I turn my toe out by releasing my knee from contact with the saddle. This allows the back of my foot, my spur and the back of my lower calf to be the main contact area on my horse’s side to signal her to move laterally or sidepass.

Because my left leg is the driving or aid leg in this movement, I am also sitting more heavily on my left hip. As I cue her, I simultaneously release the tension in my right hip so that my right leg is relaxed and slightly away from her side. This “opens the door” and allows her to move freely to the right.

The sidepass maneuver is meant to emulate a maneuver you might have to do to safely maneuver through a tough place on a trail. To learn more about trail riding safety, download your FREE copy of AQHA's Trail Ride Safety Tips report today.

Then we laterally cross the log, smoothly and without jabbing, adjusting the position of my leg and hand to keep her hip and her shoulder in alignment as needed.

The way a horse correctly sidepasses to the right is with both the left front and the left rear foot crossing toward or over the right front and right rear foot. If you’re traveling to the right, the left foot should cross over in front of the right foot. Correctly performed, the sidepass almost feels as if the hip is leading the movement.

Again, perfecting the sidepass requires practice, practice and more practice. This develops you and your horse’s confidence in your muscle memory. The first time you ask a horse to sidepass shouldn’t be at the show. Please remember not to make the sidepass a drill. None of us enjoy having something crammed down our throats.

Our horses are also creatures of habit and easily learn what we want of them if we practice intelligent, kind, consistent education. Drilling on anything over and over sours everyone.

If you do a lot of trail riding, you might have to do some sidepassing every now and then. You might also run into some sticky situations. With AQHA's FREE Trail Ride Safety Tips report, you can be sure that you'll know what to do when those sticky situations arise.

Lateral movement is a fundamental part of all higher-level riding. Ranch riding puts us and our horses into all kinds of predicaments. Our horses must be ready to cooperate. That’s why the sidepass is such an important facet of the ranch pleasure patterns.

Advanced Maneuvers

It’s intriguing for me to trot my horse halfway over the pole, stop on top of it and then sidepass her. This is just one more challenge for me to use in developing my harmony, rhythm and connection with my horse.

Another test is loping up to the pole. If I can do this and stop correctly, I should certainly be able to walk or trot my horse to the pole and stop correctly.

I really enjoy taking my horse outdoors to test her skill. The more natural the environment, the more naturally my horse reacts. Doing this, I really get a feel for how my horse travels, and she sees the sense in what I’m asking her to do. I’m not asking for her to perform yet another boring arena exercise.

Take your horse outside the arena and find a natural log to sidepass over, or find a gate and sidepass up to it, then open it. Test your skills, keeping kindness to both horse and rider in the forefront of your mind. Make certain your horse sees the purpose in what you’re asking her to do. If you work on sidepassing regularly, just a little bit, soon you and your horse will find it easy, and it’s one more talent the two of you share.