Once you’re confident in your horse’s ability to sidepass, it’s time to bring a new challenge to your skill set: sidepassing around a corner. You’ll see it called for in trail courses, as well as find it a fun way to challenge your horse’s maneuverability. If you’re still working on a basic sidepass, visit HorseandRider.com this month for tips to master it before trying this version.
You’ll need four 6-foot poles, set up to form a square in your arena. (Note: You can buy inexpensive 8-foot landscape timbers at a big-box home-improvement store and cut to length.) For this exercise, the rider will demonstrate how to sidepass a 90-degree angle on both the forehand (with the horse’s front legs inside the box) and on the hindquarters (with the horse’s hind legs inside the box). She’s riding one-handed, but begin by using two hands on the reins, or go back and forth as needed. The rider will work both maneuvers to the left; switch the cues to work to the right. Be sure to work your horse in both directions.
1. Let’s begin with the turn on the forehand around the corner. Set your horse up with his front feet inside the box and the pole beneath you, aligned with your hips. This will give you enough room to manage the turn as well as give him awareness of where the pole is underneath him. It’s the same placement you’ll use to begin the hindquarters turn, just facing outside the box instead of inside.
2. Cue for a sidepass to the left by using pressure from your right foot behind the cinch and placing more weight on the right side of your seat. Lift your hand and use your reins to block your horse from stepping forward and to keep his right shoulder elevated so his right leg can cross in front of his left leg. If your horse hits a pole, keep your cool and relax. Set him up again, and ask him to sidepass.
3. When your horse’s front feet reach the corner, lift your left hand slightly to stop the movement of his front end. Keep your hand in this position to keep his front end stationary as you push his hindquarters around the corner. Pressure from your right leg, placed behind the cinch, will help guide his body around his front end. Be sure that your leg is far enough back to only move your horse’s hindquarters.
4. Press your right leg behind the cinch to push your horse’s hindquarters to the left all the way around the corner using a press-release rhythm to move one step at a time. Too much continuous pressure could build momentum, leading to a large step that hits a pole and sabotages your horse’s confidence. Use your raised hand to block him from moving his front end. Once your horse’s body is square over the next pole, continue sidepassing to the left. You can continue all the way around the square, but be sure to stay calm and focused, taking your time with each step.
5. The following steps will help you sidepass a corner with a turn on the hindquarters. Begin with your horse standing squarely over a pole, with his hind feet inside the box and the pole aligned under your hips. Ask him to sidepass the same way you did in Step 2, pressing with your right foot behind the cinch and lifting your rein hand to block his forward movement. Continue down the pole until you reach the corner.
6. To guide your horse around the corner, use pressure from your right leg at the cinch to clearly cue for front-end movement and push his shoulders to the left. Keep your rein hand slightly raised, to the left of the saddle horn, and back to guide his shoulders to the left but still block too much forward movement. In this case, the rider might’ve pushed too hard with her right leg, resulting in a large step to the left. This could cause her horse to hit a pole. Smaller, methodical steps net correctness.
7. Once you’re around the corner, continue sidepassing down the pole to the left until you reach the next corner then execute the maneuver again. Repetition and patience are the keys with both of these maneuvers. If you or your horse gets frustrated, go work on something else and then come back to sidepassing the corner. End the session on a successful note to build confidence and teamwork.
Mark Stevens trains all-around horses and coaches youth and amateur riders for AQHA competition from his facility just west of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. From beginner riders to world champions, Stevens’ goal is the same: To communicate humanely and individually with horsemen and equine partners. Learn more about Stevens’ program at markstevenshorses.com.