Train Your Horse to Move Sideways from the Ground

Woman brushing a horse.
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Good ground manners while grooming and leading include moving away from you at your cue. It is important that your horse knows how to move away from you on the ground, and move away from your legs while ridden. From the ground, you will often want your horse to move sideways when you are doing things like grooming, getting it from its stall, or moving by other horses while leading. Moving sideways on cue is essential for good ground manners. It makes your horse more safe and enjoyable to work with.

While ridden, your horse should learn to move sideways on cue. Even if your horse is 'just' a pleasure horse and you only ride out on the trails on the weekends, teaching your horse how to move away from your leg will make your horse safer easier and more fun to ride. These movements are learned easier when started on the ground.

Remember that horses learn at different rates, so some horses will learn this more quickly than others. Be patient and remember too, that consistency is essential while training and working with your horse.

To begin, you’ll need a few things. Your horse will need to be wearing a halter with a lead rope attached. You will want to work in a distraction-free area such as an arena or ring. You may wish to incorporate clicker training or treats for positive reinforcement. Eventually, you will work from your horse’s back, with it saddled and bridled.

Here's How to Teach Your Horse to Move Sideways

  1. Start by teaching your horse to move away from pressure on the ground first. This serves two purposes. If the horse doesn't already have polite ground manners it teaches them to move away from you when tied or led. It also makes it easier to teach them to move away from your leg once in the saddle.
  2. With your fingertips press into the area where your leg would cue. You may also use the vocal cue ‘over’. Adding a vocal cue such as this will be the cue that remains consistent once you are training from the saddle. The leg aid ‘over’ will not feel the same to the horse as a fingertip cue. Reward any attempt by the horse to move away from the cue. Clicker training lends itself nicely to teaching horses like this.
  3. What you will expect the horse to do once it understands that it must move sideways from my cue, is to step directly sideways crossing foot over foot. Hold the lead rope and guide the horse to turn its head in the direction of the motion. The more exact you can make this maneuver from the ground, the easier it will be from the saddle.
  4. rain from one side until the horse is responding to the cue consistently. But, be sure to train from both sides so the horse learns to move away from the cue from both sides. Your horse may not instantly understand the same cues from the opposite side. A very eager horse may try to step towards you, rather than away when you first start. Stop it, without reprimanding it, and help it move in the opposite direction.
  5. As soon as the horse understands the cue from the ground it is time to start working from the saddle. The first thing you may want to teach is a turn on the forehand. This is the basis for many ​dressage movements and is used for moving away from other horses on the trail, or opening gates from the saddle.