Horses know how to move sideways, and do so quite often whether we want them to or not. The key is to get them to do it when we want as well as the direction we want.

Just like backing the horse, safety is the first practical reason for sideways movement. It essential for optimum maneuverability as well as being an integral link for teamwork between human and horse.

Many people feel that trail riders do not need the maneuverability of backward and sideways, but I have been pointing out how important they are for safety and respect. These respect secrets cut back on humans being knocked over and stepped on. In the saddle, they improve brakes, and keep them under us. Horses can dangerously move sideways when they are afraid of their surroundings or when they realize that their 1000-pound bodies can push us around. Either way we have to teach them that moving into us is not an option, unless we ask them to. Sometimes when we are mounting a horse, especially from a fence or a stepping block, we will ask them to move toward us, otherwise they need to respect our space.

Sideways movement for maneuverability is one of the biggest things that makes a horse handier than an ATV. It enables us to go through gates, and work with equipment without getting off the horse. It also gives us incredible turns as we get our horse to cross their legs over as well as under. I have explained in the past that I equate the example of Jesus Christ (God in the flesh) as a teamwork example between boss and fellow workers. Sideways movement helps this human-horse teamwork happen easier.

Mike Daniels

Mike Daniels

We can start the sideways movement on the ground by taking a horse to a fence. We would then ask it to move to the right along the fence and ask him to tip his nose to the left moving sideways to the right.

This can seem confusing, because we are asking the horse to move from us, yet we are pulling on the lead rope to tip his nose back to us at the same time. If a horse is having trouble with this, we can just barely ask them to tip their nose to us. Their body can still be fairly straight at this point, as though we were driving them. Then when they start getting the hang of it, we can gradually ask their nose to come back further until they are eventually nearly perfectly sideways moving from us. We can use a 4-foot stick to tap the hind end then possibly the front if it begins to lag. You may find out at this point that you have a horse that has a tendency to kick (if you did not know before). If this is the case, you will probably need to have a 6-foot by ¼-inch inch string attached to the stick to stay out of kicking range.

Some horses are very natural with cueing them to move sideways, yet others have a tough time getting the concept in the beginning. After they get the general idea, we can add more speed to the situation. Remember that speed helps us practice bringing the emotions up on purpose so we can plan ahead for emergency situations.

The prerequisite for sideways movement in the saddle is to be able to pivot a horse independently on the front end and also the hind end. We then ask the horse to blend the hind end turn to the right with the front end turn to the left to begin to side pass to the right. Then we would do the opposite to side pass to the left. I tell people to try to think of side passing as simple as possible. Imagine pushing a box across a kitchen table. We take our left hand and push on the left side of the box to move it to the right, and vice versa to the left. In the saddle, we put more weight on our left seat bone to go to the right. We also begin to apply pressure to our left calf, then our left heel. We will then tip their nose slightly to the left, yet remind both front end and hind end to go to the right. We can use a stick to help us do this, using rhythmic motion, alternating from front to back as we did when we were on the ground. Besides moving in rythym with your horse, sideways is a great test for good horsemanship. It is the practical hovercraft abilities that have not yet been duplicated in practical machines yet. Even so, it would still not be a partnership relationship such as with horses and humans, or Christians and Jesus Christ.

Next time I will try to bring out the value of partnership in horses and want to that compares with true religion.

Mike Daniels is a horsemanship trainer and barefoot trimming specialist from Raymondville. Email: