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More Basics…Moving Sideways

It seems like just yesterday that we published our Fall 2001 Newsletter. My fall into winter months brought many new lessons about life, the importance of my Mother’s influence on my being, and again the comfort and omnipotence of horses. With the passing of my Mom and also Susan’s Dad, along with the tragedy of September 11th, it seems we have been drawn closer to the gifts the Creator has given us to share, one of which is the horse. My resolve is ever stronger to listen to the lessons the horse has to teach us about becoming a better human. I know 2002 will be a wonderful learning year!

Beginning with the Summer 2001 issue of the "Partnership Journey" we focused on the importance of the basics:

"It’s all about the Basics.

The better the horse goes forward, backs-up, moves sideways, and particularly disengages, the better he will do everything else."

To date, we have discussed disengagement and willing movement forward, so let’s talk about the principles of moving sideways in this issue.

Why is the movement sideways such an important basic?

To truly understand the answer to this question we need to begin with some simple definitions. Different horsemanship disciplines use a variety of terminology from side pass and leg yield, to shoulder-fore and shoulder-in, from haunches-in to half-pass in describing types of "sideways" maneuvers. So let’s make sure we are on the same page with a very basic definition…

Sideways movements are those that require the horse to carry the energy from it’s inside or outside hindquarter towards the opposite fore quarter.

Therefore, the typical definitions of all the terms previously listed would qualify as "sideways" type movement.

So what is the importance of adding "sideways" to our basic foundation? The first thing that comes to mind, being an ‘ol ranch girl, are the practical uses, such as getting a gate from atop your horse, keeping your horse laterally rounded when watching livestock, or keeping a rope tight when doctoring a calf. The bottom line importance for both the ranch horse and the dressage discipline is exactly the same…

Sideways movements help the horse and rider to balance, particularly laterally, & ultimately with vertical flexion, in order to promote "self-carriage" and posture.

Sideways exercises, that yield HUGE results!

As with most of my suggested training activities, I find great success by starting on the ground, or with "work-in-hand". Try these maneuvers first with your horseman’s halter and 12’ lead rope, and then progress to closer-in work and the use of the snaffle bit bridle set-up, and dressage whip.

1) Our first order of business is to free-up the hip. Review the disengagement exercises described in the mid-Summer 2001 edition of "Partnership Journey". As the hip develops effortless movement, the horse will begin to seek the balance from his inside hind to his outside fore quarter.

2) Play some ground games that ask your horse to move sideways on a circle. With your halter & 12 ft. lead rope, send your horse on a circle to the left. Note if his feet are "tracking-up" with inside hind, pushing the inside front foot on the same line. Picture a railroad track on a circle, and place your horse’s feet perfectly on the two-tracks.

3) Slide you hand down the lead rope, tipping the horse’s eyes towards you, as you continue to walk forward in the circle. Simply squeeze the lead rope, as your horse begins to find his balance, moving his inside hind foot further under his body, towards the outside front shoulder. Help facilitate this movement by compressing the air between your extended right hand & shoulder, towards the horse’s inside hip.

Keep Moving Forward!

  • THINK about expanding the circle, with the hip traveling a bigger circle than the shoulders.
  • FEEL the air between you and the horse, and drive or roll it forward on that circle to the left, as if you had a huge ball between the two of you.
  • ALLOW the horse and yourself to seek a balanced, rhythmic dance.
  • REWARD comes to both horse & human when the dance is effortless, and you both stop to congratulate one-another!

4) Now try the same exercise, but replace your halter with the snaffle bit bridle. Shorten your loop rein, so that you have contact or a "feel" on the outside rein. Position yourself much closer to the horse than with the lead rope set-up, and at the shoulder.

5) Again, going on a circle to the left, grasp the inside rein near the slobber strap with your left hand. Let your wrist get heavy, with your palm upward, but don’t pull down. Wait for a softness, then extend your right arm, with dressage whip in hand.

6) Compress the air between your right shoulder and horse’s left hip. If nothing happens, politely wake-up your whip to encourage the left-hind foot to step under the belly.

Once this is working, so that all you have to do is point at the inside hind foot and the horse gracefully disengages, it is time to carry this "sideways" on a circle.

7) Start with the same close-in positioning, but as the foot begins to swing under the horse, change your toes and belly-button towards the shoulder, and move your feet forward. The idea is that you still have that cushion of air between you and the horse, but is a smaller ball than with the 12’ lead rope.


The "sideways" movement may not happen on your first try!

  • Be patient, give yourself & the horse time to think.
  • Envision the movement & feel for the cadence.
  • There is not a lot of lateral flexion of the neck in these exercises, so try not to over-bend your horse.
  • Allow him to find his own balance, with his attention to the inside of the circle, slightly.
  • Seek a balance from the inside hind quarter to the outside shoulder or rein.

The result will pay off in spades as you begin to apply these "sideways" movements to riding achievements.

A balanced horse & rider, that flows in a dance!

(Next issue we will talk about applying these "sideways" ground maneuvers to movement off the circle to the diagonal, to shoulder-in and even haunches-in postures. Oh Boy!)

What’s on the Horizon?

Colt Development Course:

Imagine working with a young horse for 22-days of consistency and understanding. Give yourself the time to go deeper into the comprehension of how the horse thinks, moves, prepares his eyes to position his feet, to ultimately become the willing partners we all seek. Bring your own young horse, or work with one provided by the MacKenzie Ranch. These are fine 2-yr. old quarterhorses, with exceptional breeding. Participants can purchase horses for a pre-arranged price.

Space is limited, so call today for further information. Registration Due 3/1/02

Cost is $1,500 for 22-days of training. May 4 – 31, 2002. Accommodations available at the T&T Ranch, or in near-by Haines.

Prerequisite: You must be able to walk-trot-canter on a loose rein, and have studied with Alice or someone of similar horsemanship principles.

You won’t believe how far we will go!

Olympia, Washington Clinic  July 17th – 21st:

Join us in Olympia at the Outback Stables for a 5-day Horsemanship & Cow Clinic. We will spend the first three-days practicing the skills of preparing ourselves and our horses for the positioning, balance, posture to achieve willing movements. Then, have fun applying these skills to reading, moving, and sorting cattle. Don’t think you have to have a cow horse to participate! The principles are great for all horsemanship disciplines, and all types of horses.

Cost is $300 for 3-Day Clinic   $5oo for all 5-Days Deposit & Registration Due: 6/15/02

Boarding at Outback Stables: $10/day        

Contact: Bonny Melby 360-273-5117 or T&T Horsemanship 541-856-3356

Round Pen to Riding      August 11th – 16th:

This is a new format, and one I am very excited offer. One of the things the horse has taught me over the past several years, is that I need to have good posture, focus, balance, timing, and feel. In fact, if I develop good posture, most of those other elements will fall right into place! In this 6-day clinic at the Haines ranch, we will concentrate on developing our "riding" or "equitation" skills. Lots of time will be given to the round pen, riding at liberty and finding that balance. Afternoons will be spent in a bigger environment, such as hay fields and mountains, & with cows…applying our good posture skills.

You will feel of, for, and with your horse more than you ever thought possible!

Cost is $600; Deposit Due: 7/1/02  Accommodations available at the  T&T Ranch, or in near-by Haines.


Please visit our past Newsletter Archives:
Going Forward... Disengagement Holidays 2001 Tom Dorrance Lessons for 2000 Sideways Self-Carriage NWHS 101


T&T Horsemanship
15477 Sky Ranch Lane 
Haines, Oregon 97833
(541) 856-3356

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