How to Teach The Side Pass from the ground

Led Trail – Sidepass

Training a horse to side pass is beneficial for multiple reasons, whether it be improving groundwork, being able to open a gate while seated, or preparing for yearling/two year old led trail class. Fortunately the process of teaching a horse to side pass includes training a turn on the haunch and on the forehand, two other useful groundwork and riding techniques. Follow these steps, and you’ll improve not only your riding but your horse’s response and performance.


Test your horse’s ability to move away from pressure. The natural instinct of your horse should be to move away from where pressure is applied – the same instinct humans have. Test this reaction in your horse by bumping them with an open palm near the girth where you would bump them with your calf. They should move away from your hand, possibly already in a side pass.

  • Continue bumping your horse near the girth with added pressure if they do not respond to you. As soon as they take a step away, release pressure and reward them.
  • Practice this until your horse needs only a single bump, or no bump at all (just pushing energy with your hand towards their girth), in order to move away from you.

Train a turn on the haunch. Put your horse on a lead rope, and if necessary grab a crop. Stand so that your body is positioned slightly behind the barrel of your horse’s body, and gesture with your arm or crop towards their shoulder. If they do not respond to this, then apply pressure on their shoulder. The goal is to get them to move away from your pressure by rotating their body around their back legs.

  • If your horse turns away or simply walks in the opposite direction rather than crossing their front legs in a turn, grab the lead rope and hold them straight ahead.
  • As soon as your horse crosses their front legs in a turn on the haunch, release pressure and reward them for doing what you asked.
  • Continue practicing a turn on the haunch on the ground, your horse will respond to the same cues when riding.

Train a turn on the forehand. Similar to a turn on the haunch, a turn on the forehand is done when your horse rotates their entire body around their front legs by crossing their back legs. Accomplish this by standing near the shoulder (to block shoulder/forward movement) and gesturing towards the haunch with your crop or open hands. If they don’t respond without pressure, add a bit by pushing against the haunch with your open hands, or tapping them with the crop.

  • Don’t remove pressure if your horse simply backs away or turns to the side. Straighten them out if necessary, but continue bumping with pressure until they take at least one step by crossing their legs.
  • As soon as your horse achieves a single step in a turn on the forehand, release pressure and reward them for following your cues.
  • Practice this over and over until your horse requires a minimal amount of pressure to accomplish a turn on the forehand.

Combine your groundwork to accomplish a grounded side pass.Stand next to your horse near the barrel of their body, using a crop if necessary. Bump the girth of the horse to tell them to move away; if they don’t move how you want, give them the cues for a turn on the haunch and a turn on the forehand. Continue working back and forth between your cues until your horse clues in and does at least a single successful step in a side pass.

  • Reward your horse and release pressure as soon as they take even a single step in the form of a side pass.
  • Continue doing this until they don’t need to be cued for a turn on the forehand and a turn on the haunch in order to recreate a side pass. Eventually they should only need to be bumped on their side near the girth.

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I am a retired professional horse trainer, active Certified rider coach, I coach riders and their horses throughout Australia and New Zealand, I am the author of the book From Go To Whoa - Training Your Own Horse, I am also a Certified Nutritionist and a professional Keto Coach. I am a keen fisher woman and I love the gym where I weight train 4 days a week. I travel Australia full time now with my husband and our Jack Russell Doug, booking and holding clinics and lessons throughout the country for many remote horse riders as well as not so remote. I love coaching riders and their horses along with helping people with nutrition and the ketogenic diet.

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