Ask An Expert – Side Pass Over Pole Part 2

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This time we are following on to Part 2 from Claire’s question in the prior post;

What is the easiest way to teach a horse to side pass over a pole?  My horse is more comfortable side passing if we practice with the pole in front of him but he worries with the pole underneath.

Secondly, since starting to learn this he often will anticipate this and then not stand over the pole and halt.

Answered by Maree McAteer;
Sidepass Training

Part 2

In part 1 of Sidepass training we addressed how to get a worried horse OK about having a pole between his front and hind legs and starting the idea of moving sideways from an initial aid.

Sidepass is a very steep half pass when done with the bend in the direction of travel and the forehand slightly ahead of the hindquarters.  It can be done in walk and canter. This allows each leg to have it’s own line of travel and not interfere with the other legs hence having fluent crossing and steady balance.

With already having observed how your horse does the initiation of sidepass from halt both in hand and under saddle we will have a good idea which bend is easier and which direction is easier.  I like to start horses by halting over a pole near the end and then from halt sidepassing off.

With this simple pattern we can hopefully have a high success rate therefore rewarding for your horse while you observe that if the pole were longer what might I have to correct or enhance in the next step. For Example:

Does he walk forward or back when asked sideways?

Does the forehand or hindquarters move most easily?

If I stop asking does he slow down and stop moving or does he walk off and need a correction?

Is there one leg that moves less easy than the others?

What happens to the bend?

Can you touch him with a light aid to move or do you have to push?

Does he do it on his own and not wait for the aid (anxious)?

Can you do it slower or do you have to hurry him to get the movement?

When asking can your seat stay in the middle of the saddle or does it go over the side? Why?

Which bend do you have in your body ?

Can you feel which leg is moving at any moment?

Most horses have one leg that is harder to move than the others – can you feel which one? 

Can you match the other 3 legs to the slow one and enhance symmetry and balance?

It is a long list but fascinating when you get into the detail. I have taught this to my own horses in great detail and have often been grateful for it when riding out through the sagebrush in Colorado and running into old barb wire (from when they ‘tamed’ the west). The ability to stop and then move one foot at a time in any direction slowly out of the predicament is cool.

Part 3 of this series will be the physical and mental set up for approaching and sidepassing the whole pole as we do in the competition.

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