The following article is a partial transcript from Richard’s “Four-Part Harmony” video training tip series. You can view it here:
Now for me, this was one of the hardest exercises to master as it was kind of counter intuitive because I thought I knew how to side-pass my horse. But as I began to define what my horse’s body was doing, I was really just leg-yielding. A leg-yield for me means my horse is stepping over to the right but he is a little bit counter bent. When I stepped my horse to the right, he was counter bent looking to the left or when I stepped my horse to the left, he was looking to the right. I term that as a simple leg-yield. And if all I need to do is open or close the gate or pick up my soda can off the fence that’s probably good enough. But if you are wanting to advance your horsemanship to the next level, we need to go from the leg-yield to what I am going to clearly define as the side-pass.
In part number three I am going to want my spur to be right in the middle of my horse’s belly. You may want to get a friend to help point out where your spur is at any given time. Do you know when it’s up by the front cinch? Do you know when it’s too far back? If you are not careful it’s easy to bend your knee and constantly spur back by the back cinch. You need to learn a technique to turn your toe out and put the spur right where you want it.
So, part number three denotes a side-pass in contrast to a leg-yield. That means my horse is stepping over with straightness and I can see the eye in the direction that I am going. When stepping over to the right you will pick up on your horse with your right rein, lifting towards your left shoulder. Apply your left spur in the middle of your horse’s belly and step your horse over sideways with straightness. If you can’t see either eye when you are doing this, you’re in the ball park. But it’s ideal if you can see the eye in the direction in which you are going with even just a little bit of curve and bend in that direction. That really denotes a side-pass and control over part number three, our horse’s rib cage.
Don’t be afraid of a little bit of forward drift as you work on this. A little forward is alright. Going backwards is not going to serve you well at all. If you’re going backwards your horse is going to hit his leading leg with the outside leg as he attempts to step over. Again, don’t be afraid of a little bit of forward as you are pushing the rib cage over.
The eye that I can see really helps me understand how my horse’s body is shaped up. In part number three, I want to be able to do it with straightness and see the horse’s right eye as I step over to the right. That’s the difference between a side-pass and a leg-yield. It sounds pretty simple but as you start teaching this concept to your horse you will soon understand that it is not as easy as it sounds!
You don’t have to do it just like I do it. You don’t have to call it just what I call it. But you’ve got do something to get control over your horse’s body parts.