Once you've got a pretty good handle on "forward", some suppleness over the back and strong, pure gaits with good rhythm, it's time to move on to the side-to-sides of horseback riding. The reason? Well, you need sideways almost as much as you need back to front.

Here are brief explanations (there could be a lot more detail!) of what each movement means and requires the horse to do. 

Leg Yield

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Leg Yield To The Right

This is the most basic of the lateral movements, although it is not necessarily easy to develop at first. The horse moves away from your leg with a straight body while his legs cross over in a diagonal movement. The leg yield should take the entire length of the ring so the horse doesn't need to move too quickly. There should be more forward movement than sideways.

The leg yield is done off a straight line. You can start the leg yield at the quarter line, with the horse moving parallel to the rail to help you gauge straightness as you ask him to move diagonally away from your leg. The idea is to keep your horse straight while he moves sideways, front and hind legs crossing over in each stride until he gets to the rail. The horse's head may be straight or slightly flexed to the outside in this movement.

If you have a young or inexperienced horse, you might need to take plenty of time developing this movement before the rest on this list. So just get started but be patient enough to wait for your horse to fully understand what you mean by a leg aid that asks for sideways movement.

Half-Pass

This is a more advanced version of a yield to a leg. The major difference is that the horse is bent in the direction of the movement (not straight). The flexion is in the direction of the movement and the body has a bend to the inside. The front end may lead slightly, to keep straightness. Both front and hind legs cross over until the rail is reached.



This movement is called the "half" pass because there is still considerable forward movement while there is also sideways movement.

Full Pass (Side Pass)

The full-pass is rarely used in modern dressage but it does make a strong appearance in the western disciplines (called side pass) and can be invaluable in the training of the horse. In dressage, it is called the "full" pass because the horse moves completely sideways in this movement. There is (next to) no forward stepping. Rather, the legs reach to the side, both front and hind legs cross over in a steady rhythm, and the horse moves directly sideways.

The full pass can help you "find" your horse's hind legs and encourage the inside hind in particular to lift and step sideways - this is something that is difficult to isolate in other movements.

Shoulder Fore

shoulder-fore
Shoulder Fore

The shoulder fore is a lateral movement that is generally taught on the rail. It is designed to help you straighten your horse even while he is moving straight ahead. Of course, you can shoulder fore anywhere in the ring, especially when you feel that your horse is moving his shoulder too far to the outside - whether you are on a straight line or a turn.

The shoulder fore is called a "four track" movement. This is because the horse's legs create four tracks as he moves forward down the rail. Each leg has its own line of movement because the horse is on a mild bend (to the inside of the ring) which keeps his shoulders just to the inside of the hips.

 

 

Shoulder In

shoulder-in
Shoulder In

The shoulder in is a "steeper" shoulder-fore, in that it has a deeper angle and more bend in the horse's body. This movement is different from the shoulder-fore because it is a three-track movement.

Because of the increased bend, the horse's legs travel on three lines, with the inside front being most to the inside, the outside front and inside hind on one line, and the outside hind on its own line furthest to the outside.

 

 

Travers (Haunches In)

This is a four track movement with the haunches coming to the inside. The front end of the horse should stay parallel to the rail while the hind end steps in enough that there are four tracks showing. The trick here is to avoid letting the horse bring the hind end in while stepping out with the front end, thereby making it a leg yield (with a straight body) with the head and neck pointing to the outside. The horse should be bent to the inside of the ring, with even more bend than the shoulder in.

Renvers (Haunches Out)

The opposite of travers, the renvers teaches the horse to step to the outside with the hind end, while keeping the front end parallel to the rail. You must leave enough room for the hind end to swing out toward the rail in this movement. Once again, there is a bend in the direction of the movement (toward the outside in this case) so the horse cannot be straight in the body or travelling diagonally along the rail.

The lateral movements are at times really difficult to get a good handle on, but at other times - when everything seems to fall together - the best feeling you can get! "Listen" to your horse carefully before and after the lateral movements and see if you can feel the difference. The whole purpose of lateral work is to improve the basic gaits, so feel for better engagement, swing, and bounce to your horse's gait after each exercise. You know you're on the right track when you can feel your horse loosen up and become more supple overall.

Do you have any preferred lateral movements? Which ones are you working on at the moment? Post in the comments below.

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Related reading:

Get Rid Of That Tension: 4 Tips To Improved SupplenessWithout suppleness, you and your horse are left to always ride in tension and with a counterproductive posture.

What Is A Neck Bend? And What To Do About It: The neck bend causes the horse to be imbalanced. No matter which movement he performs, his neck is essentially taken out of the equation and the horse moves out of straightness.

5 Reasons Why Most Horses Should Slow Down: It turns into a vicious cycle. He goes faster so you go faster so he goes faster.

What Do Leg Aids MeanThe leg aids are one of the most basic, "natural" aids we have to communicate with the horse.

Do You Make This Timing Mistake When Riding Your HorseThe timing of the aid has to do with everything - time it wrong, and you might as well be doing nothing, or worse still, irritating your horse.

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