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August 2002
    2006 Cherry Hill

101 Horsemanship and
Equitation Patterns
Becoming An Effective Rider
From the Center
of the Ring
How To Think
Like A Horse
How to Think Like A Horse by Cherry Hill
Your Horse Barn DVD
Your Horse Barn DVD
How to Think Like A Horse by Cherry Hill


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      What hand do I use on the reins?
      What should happen with the hindquarters when I neck rein?
      What is the best way to teach the sidepass?"

BONUS TIP: "Where can I find Panel Caps?"


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What hand should I hold split reins in?


When showing in a western pleasure class I'm confused on which hand my split reins should be in! I have had many people tell me it should always be in your left hand and I have had people say it doesn't matter because you work both ways in the ring and you have right and left handed people Can you help me? - Laura

Hi Laura,

I am right handed and always hold my split reins in my left hand. This keeps my right hand free for opening and closing gates, for holding the lead of a horse that I am ponying, and for any other task that I'd rather perform with my right hand.

However, since a horse show judge wouldn't know if you are right handed or left handed and holding the reins with either hand is "legal" in the show ring, it boils down to a matter of your personal preference. When you ride, do you feel more comfortable and coordinated when you hold your reins in your left hand or right hand?

One thing I do want to mention is that in a few classes in certain associations, there is a rule that once you commit to holding the reins in one hand at the start of a class, the hands may not be changed. You'll need to check your breed association handbook for general performance rules and for specific class rules for the classes you are showing in.

For more specific information and illustrations related to holding reins, refer to:

Best of luck, Cherry Hill, award-winning author of books on horse training, riding, horse


What should the hindquarters do when neck reining?

Dear Cherry,

I decided to teach my English horse to neck rein (for convenience while trail riding) and I have very little Western experience. We are making pretty good progress, but I am confused about one thing. If the horse is at a standstill and I apply a neck-rein cue for a left turn, do I want the hindquarters to move to the right around the front end, as in a direct rein cue, or do I want the front legs/shoulders to move to the left around the hindquarters? Please help, as I haven't been able to find the answer anywhere. Thanks. - Pat C.

Hi Pat,

Great idea. You'll be the envy of all your trail riding buddies because you'll have a free hand for taking a sip of cool water out of your canteen while your horse continues down the trail!

Western neck reining, when performed from a standstill, is a turn on the hindquarters. So if you want to make a 90 degree turn to the left (by applying a right indirect rein on your horse's neck) you will also be using your right leg behind the cinch (girth) to hold the hindquarters from swinging to the right.

Neck reining is always preceded by a "check" which is the western equivalent of a half halt, a slight lifting up of the reins to shift the weight of the horse to his hindquarters. Then the neck rein aids are applied and the horse turns with his weight balanced on his hindquarters with the forehand moving around the hindquarters.


Happy Trails, Cherry Hill, award-winning author of books on horse training, riding, horse


What is the best way to teach the sidepass?

Hi Cherry,

I am trying to train my 19 year old QH mare to side step. She was a pet in her early years, then a trail horse, then a Western/English pleasure horse and now she is mine. I have had formal training and for the most part, can train a horse to do various things well. However, she has not responded well to my efforts. Any help would be welcomed. Thank you. - Merlin

Hi Merlin,

Like so many other maneuvers, it is best to break down the sidepass into its components and teach them one at a time so if you have a particular problem, you have various places you can go back and "tweak" or review. Once your horse knows all of the simple components, the sidepass will be a "piece of cake". Here's the progression I follow to teach the sidepass:

    • Move forward energetically from pressure of the lower leg aids.
    • Stop square.
    • Master the turn on the forehand (hindquarters moving around the forehand)
    • Master the turn on the hindquarters (forehand moving around the hindquarters)
    • Master the leg yield (moving forward and sideways at the same time)
    • And finally! Master the sidepass (moving directly sideways)

Since it sounds like you've had some experience with these maneuvers, you will be surprised at how easily it will all come together when you follow the progression. Plan to take a week or two to teach or review all of these steps to your horse so she doesn't become confused by progressing too quickly.

If you need a review, all of these maneuvers are described in detail in:

Best of luck with your training, Cherry Hill, award-winning author of books on horse training, riding, horse

Where can I find Panel Caps?

Hi Cherry,

My sister and I read your article "Instant Fence" in Western Horseman and would like to find the Panel Caps that you mention to use on our round pen. Can you help us out?


Panel Caps
1809 E. Sherman Ave.
Nampa ID 83686


Many of the questions that I receive each month have already been answered on the Horse Information Roundup Before you send in a question, be sure to research the article page. You can do this two ways.

    1. Scroll through the list of articles. We've tried to make it easy by categorizing the articles by topic and alphabetizing by title. OR
    2. Type a word or phrase into the Pico Search box to find related information that I've already posted.

If you can't find the answer to your question, you can submit your question to Ask Cherry


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  2006 Cherry Hill 

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