Teaching the side pass will teach the horse to move off your leg and prepare him for exercises including leg yielding and flying changes. When your horse is starting to learn the side pass it is important that you break the maneuver into pieces that he can easily learn.
Before starting this lesson it is important that you have already taught the horse to yield his hindquarters at a stand still and from a walk on the rail. By having the horse know how to yield his hindquarters over you will be able to create the motion and energy you will need for the horse to take a sideways steps. It is much easier at first to teach the side pass from a walk then it is the standstill. Also, starting this lesson on the rail will block the horse’s forward movement and encourage him to go sideways.
Start this lesson at a walk on the rail in an arena. Tracking to the left.
Yield the hindquarters by picking up on your right rein and bringing it up toward the horse’s withers. At the same time, slide your right leg back behind the girth and press. The horse should cross his hind legs while stepping his hind end to the left and pivoting on his front feet. Once he is facing the fence straight on, slide your right leg forward slightly toward the girth and press with your toes slightly out. While pressing with your leg, look to the left, and take your left leg away from his side, weighting your right seat bone.
When the horse shifts his weight to the left or takes a step in that direction, click, release your cues, look ahead straight over his ears, then feed. Let the horse rest for a minute facing the fence.
Continue practicing this exercise. I usually will ride this lesson one or two laps of the arena in each direction. At first only asking for one step then asking for two and building on that. Take it slow and don’t ask for too many steps at once or the horse may get confused on exactly what it is you want.
When you can side pass multiple steps from a hindquarter yield, start asking the horse to side pass from a stand still while still facing the fence. Again, only ask for one step at first and build up from there. The cues are the same as from the hindquarter yield, the only difference is that you don’t need to slide your leg forward you start with your leg right behind the girth, in the middle of the horse. Always click when the horse is preforming the movement that you cued, release your cue at the same time, and then feed.
When you can take multiple steps in both directions alongside the fence easily begin side passing your horse off of the fence. When you start teaching the side pass off the fence don’t ask for a lot of steps just one or two then add more gradually. When he takes a few sideways steps back him up, then ask for another sideways step or two; occasionally changing directions.
Not Rewarding the Horse – When using clicker training the horse has few resistances toward the rider and his work. If the horse has any of the below problems you may not be clicking at the right time or feeding enough. If you click and your horse has already moved over and is now standing, you are rewarding him for standing still. You must click right as the horse is doing the behavior you want. As far as not feeding enough goes, some horses need more to learn, others will do anything for two pieces of grain, and these will be the easiest ones to train. If your horse is not that motivated, give him multiple handful of grain when he finally gets what you were asking for. Also, get off and end the lesson on that good note. When you give your horse such a big reward he is much more likely to work harder for you next time you ask.
Horse Walks Forward and Sticks His Head Over the Fence– If your horse wants to walk forward when side passing block his forward motion with soft pressure on both reins. Don’t release until he has backed off of the fence and gives to the bit. If he walks through your rein aid back him up until he is soft in the bridle.
Hindquarters are Trailing– If your horse’s hind end lags behind you can give him a tap on the hindquarters with your whip to catch them up or turn your side pass into a turn on the forehand to remind him he need to move his back end over. Also, you can give your horse a jackpot when he moves his hind end over more than he has been to tell him that is what you are looking for.
Shoulders are Trailing– Do the same if your horse’s shoulders lag, by tapping him on the shoulder and even moving the shoulders around the hindquarters in a turn on the haunches.
Refuses to Move Sideways– If the horse gets stuck after he yields his hindquarters, use the whip to tap the side of the horse that is lagging behind. If the hindquarters were, tap them until they moved over a step, then tap his shoulders until he takes a step over with his front feet, then let him rest. Repeat until you don’t need to tap him with the whip. It is very important to use your leg and seat first before the whip as he will always need the whip if he doesn’t have a pre cue.
Backs Up– First make sure that you are not pulling back on the reins. Keep looking in the direction you want to go in, applying pressure on his side, and take your other leg off of his side until he eventually stops and takes a sideways step. If he is backing up so much that he is far from the rail use both legs to drive him forward all the way to the fence and let him rest while facing it. Then ask him to side pass again. Drive him up to the fence strongly each time he backs away from it then let him rest next to it. This teaches him that standing next to the fence is a good place to be.
Ignores Your Leg Aid– Keep your leg on while using the whip right behind your leg until he moves. You may have to use the whip on his shoulder or hind end to get one part of the horse moving forward at a time.
Doesn’t Understand– If the horse just isn’t getting it, go back to your groundwork and make sure you can side pass on the fence using both your stick and hand pressure.
With consistent practice your horse will take multiple sideways steps in both directions off of the fence whenever you ask.