So I'm trying to get Ice to start side passing with a little bit more fluidity. To the left he picks it up quite easily, it usually takes him a step or two backwards to start moving correctly. However, on the right he'll back up in circles before he side passes. I've gotten him to side pass once or twice to the right, but he moved his back end before moving his front. Is this normal to the right? He's an 11 y/o TB off the track for about a year and a half, and he is VERY left sided....I tried working on leading him from the right side today and he kept dropping back behind me and coming back up so I was on his left. Also any tips would be helpful. Right now I'm just doing it on the ground, so I'm standing in line with his shoulder when I cue him. It works for the left, but should I try standing somewhere else on the right?
My suggestion? Practice, practice, practice. Only with practice will he become comfortable with it. Make sure to always release pressure and praise him even if he does a single step correctly. Push for one step, then after he is comfortable with one, push for two. Just keep it up and don't give up. He'll get there.
How my trainer taught me to teach my horse was to utilize the wall. Lunge them in a smaller circle at a walk at first or slow trot. So let's say you want them to side pass to the left while facing the wall, you want them to lunge clockwise for a few laps each time getting closer to the wall.
As Your horse is about 3/4 around the circle and is headed in the direction of the wall, walk toward his rib cage (keeping your few feet of space of course), swing the end of your lead rope in the direction of his center as well. You don't need to tap him with it per say, but I would have in my case if he didn't loosen up his front end to move. Keep his nose pointed toward you slightly and keep his feet moving with you pressing into his space. He may stumble on his own feet at first, but it gets better.
Sorry if that isn't a very good explanation, I tried! And then you can do it in both directions. I did that a few days in a row, and then my gelding picked it up under saddle no problem. Much easier than poking him in the side with constant "physical" pressure.
I for the life of me couldn't get Thunder to do it under saddle, he would just swing his hind over and/or back up. So this way worked for him, it may not work for everyone, but I have seen it work on several horses, especially when the rider has trouble communicating what they want to the horse(not saying the OP does, but I did)
The way I go about teaching a horse to side pass is to first get the hips and shoulders connected to the reins.
I first teach the horse to move the hip to the right by bringing the horses nose toward his left hip until the hip steps to the right, then release. I would repeat until the horse steps over easily off less rein then I would work the right rein. I would then add my leg. I would work until the horse moves the hip off my leg and very little rein.
Then I would move to the shoulder and connect the left shoulder to the left rein moving the shoulder to the right. I would switch reins fairly often until the horse is moving both shoulders easily then add leg.
I now have a shoulder cue with rein or leg and a hip cue with rein or leg. I then start moving the shoulder then hip, shoulder then hip, working my two cues closer and closer together until, between them, I have a side pass cue.
If and when the horse goes forward or backward, I counter move them and reapply the original cue (shoulder or hip). If there is an big issue with backing I will take the time to teach a more solid go forward cue and back up cue as well.
When the horse does a movement we do not want, take the time to teach a cue for it and they will learn to wait for the cue.
^^^ That's great advice! Without realizing it, I had worked on those things in saddle as well, but didn't put the two things together that it would all help in side passing. Very good description ReigningTrainer.
Except I taught the cues for yielding from the ground instead of in saddle.
Start by teaching him to yield his hindquarters from the ground, both ways. Then to yield the front end both ways from the ground. Once he knows how to do that well, have him face a fence. Yield the front and then the back, then the front, then the back..... Keep practicing until he starts moving the front and the back together.
Then you can do the same thing from the saddle. Start with yielding the hindquarters, then the front, then go to the fence and alternate between front and back.
Before you know it, he'll be sidepassing like a dream!