Earlier, I shared an exercise you can crack out on days when it’s too hot to ride hard. This next exercise will also improve your horse’s balance and responsiveness to leg aids. All you need is four ground poles and a little patience.
Side-passing over an L
Arrange your ground poles in an L-shape to create a chute that’s three or four feet wide. The wider the chute, the easier the exercise. If your horse is anxious working around poles, walk him straight through the chute and over the poles until he’s calm and ready to focus. Then, take a few minutes to practice your side pass.
When you’re ready, walk your horse straight up to the chute and step over the poles. Try to line up the heel of your boot with the pole. Ask your horse to slowly move sideways. Try to keep his neck and body straight, and focus on taking one step at a time. When you reach the corer, ask your horse to turn on the forehand. Move his hindquarters around until you’re standing above the next section of poles. Then carry on. When you clear the poles, give your horse a pat and then walk a large circle to give him a break. Then turn around and try it the other way.
Check out the video below to see my gelding and I practicing the exercise. We only learned how to side pass earlier this year, and we’re still quite green. I have a bad habit of riding with really long reins. If you ride with shorter reins, you’ll have an easier time controlling your horse’s body.