I get a lot of questions from readers and clients about how to train your horse to do some of the Obstacles in the competitive trail challenges. So I am going to do a series on some of the obstacles that you might see doing a trail challenge or at a fun play day.
This month I am going to start with, sidepassing while straddling a log.
I see this one often when I am judging these events. It is a fun and challenging obstacle. But I also see a lot of people that have never tried to do this with their horses until they are at the event. Horses can get quite upset if they have never been taught how to do this. So this is the one that I am going to start with because this is one of the ones that I get asked about the most.
First the sidepass is a lateral move where the horse’s front and hind feet cross. If you are going to the right, your horse’s Left legs (front and back) should be stepping in front of the other legs.
Here is how I teach horses to do this. First I start on the ground. Everything you do on the ground will only help and make your horse better in the saddle. So you are first going to get your horse to understand the sidepass cue on the ground without a pole. What you will need is a halter and lead, natural horsemanship stick or riding crop. Stand facing your horse and hold right at the clip of the lead rope. Then take your stick and lift it up and start tapping softly on your horse’s side. Do not just tap them once, do a rhythm like tap, tap, tap, tap, etc. If your horse does not move then tap a little harder until your horse moves his feet in the direction you want them to move. If your horse moves forward, pull back toward your horse’s chest to stop the forward movement. Once your horse steps one or two steps sideways pet them to show them that is what you wanted and then start again. Do this over and over again until your horse can do as many steps sideways that you want them to with just a lift of your stick or a soft tap. And do this on both sides, both directions.
Now you are ready to start with a ground pole. Pick something that is like around 6 or 8 feet long, and only a few inches off the ground. Ask your horse to step their front feet over the pole about in the middle of the pole. Now ask your horse to sidepass off the pole using the same cue you have now taught your horse. If your horse tries to step forward over the pole with the hind feet just pull back on the lead toward the horse’s chest until they stop trying to move forward and step in the direction you want them to step in. Do this over and over again on both sides. Once your horse gets good with this you can now ask your horse to start at and end of the pole and sidepass over the pole and all the way off, on both sides.
Now you are ready to mount up and try it in the saddle. So ask your horse to sidepass while you are in the saddle without a ground pole. The way I ask this is – I pick up light and even rein contact in both reins, then I put my leg on my horse’s side with light and even pressure where my leg naturally sits. If I want my horse to sidepass to the right, I put my Left leg on, and if I want my horse to sidepass to the left, I put my Right leg on. If my horse moves forward I correct with my reins by lightly pulling back. If your horse backs you know that you have too much rein contact and if your horse moves forward you know you have to little contact. If your horse is not moving you know that he is not listening to your leg. So you can take your riding crop and softly tap the side of your horse’s hindquarters while keeping your leg pressure on until your horse steps sideways. Then pet your horse and start again and again and on both sides until your horse does it good.
Now you are ready to do it with your ground pole. Start by stepping your horse’s front feet over the pole in the middle of the pole. Ask your horse to sidepass off the pole. Do this on both sides until your horse can do it. Then you can start asking your horse to start at one end and sidepass the whole pole, both ways. Always remember to praise your horse for doing it right.
I hope this helps you.
Thank you for reading,