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Why Sidepassing is Essential for Every Horse and Rider

As an equestrian, you're probably well aware of the importance of training your horse in basic skills like walking, trotting, and cantering. However, there's another skill that's equally essential but often overlooked: Sidepassing. In this blog post, we'll explore what sidepassing is, why it's important, and how to incorporate it into your riding routine.

What is Sidepassing?

Sidepassing, also known as lateral movement, is when a horse moves sideways while staying straight. This movement requires a combination of forward and sideways energy, making it a great exercise for improving the horse's balance, coordination, and responsiveness to rider aids. Sidepassing can be performed in both directions and at different gaits, making it a versatile exercise for any level of rider.

Why is Sidepassing Important for Horse and Rider?

Sidepassing offers a range of benefits for both horse and rider. Let's take a closer look at some of these benefits:

Benefits of Sidepassing for the Horse

  • Improves flexibility: Sidepassing requires the horse to bend its body in a way that it may not be used to, which can increase its flexibility and range of motion.

  • Develops lateral movement: Sidepassing helps horses develop a better understanding of lateral movement, which can improve their performance in other exercises like leg yields and shoulder-ins.

  • Increases responsiveness to rider aids: Sidepassing requires the horse to pay close attention to its rider's aids, which can improve its responsiveness to other aids like leg and rein cues.

Benefits of Sidepassing for the Rider

  • Improves balance and coordination: Sidepassing requires the rider to maintain their balance while asking the horse to move sideways, which can improve their overall balance and coordination.

  • Develops feel and timing: Sidepassing requires the rider to have a good sense of timing and feel for when to apply aids, which can improve their communication with the horse in other exercises.

  • Enhances communication with the horse: Sidepassing requires the rider to be in tune with their horse's movements and responses, which can strengthen the bond between them and improve their overall communication.

How to Teach Sidepassing

Teaching sidepassing requires patience, consistency, and a step-by-step approach. Here are some tips for teaching your horse to sidepass:

Groundwork Exercises

  • Back-up drills: Start by teaching your horse to back up in a straight line. This will help them understand the concept of moving backwards in a straight line, which is a foundational skill for sidepassing.

  • Lateral flexion exercises: Teach your horse to flex their neck towards one side, then the other. This will help them develop the flexibility and range of motion they need for sidepassing.

Riding Exercises

  • Sideways leg yield: Begin by asking your horse to move sideways from your leg while traveling forward. This will get them used to the idea of moving laterally while staying straight.

  • Sidepassing over poles: Set up a line of poles on the ground and ask your horse to sidepass over them. This will help them develop the lateral movement they need for sidepassing.

Training Aids and Equipment

  • Ground poles/cones: Use ground poles or cones to create a visual cue for your horse to move laterally.

  • Training flags: Use training flags to create a visual barrier that your horse must move around laterally.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

When teaching your horse to sidepass, it's important to avoid these common mistakes:

  • Leaning to one side: Make sure to sit evenly in the saddle while asking your horse to sidepass. Leaning to one side can throw off your horse's balance.

  • Overuse of aids: Use your aids sparingly when teaching sidepassing. Overuse of aids can confuse your horse and make it harder for them to understand what you're asking.

  • Rushing the horse: Take your time when teaching sidepassing. Rushing the horse can cause them to become anxious or resistant.


Sidepassing is an essential skill for every horse and rider. It offers a range of benefits for both horse and rider, including improved balance, coordination, and communication. Teaching sidepassing requires patience, consistency, and a step-by-step approach, but with practice, it can become a valuable tool in your training toolbox. So why not give it a try and see how it can benefit you and your horse?

If your having problems teaching your horse to sidepass, check out our videos which are available to our members, there are great tools located there which every horseman needs in their tool box!

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