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Why Lateral Work is So Important

Updated: Nov 15, 2022

Asking your horse to move laterally can be something as straightforward as asking him to move over in the stable to the more complex ridden exercises such as half-pass.

When ridden correctly these lateral movements can be powerful suppling exercises for the back, pelvis, thorax, neck and body.

All lateral movements no matter how simple or complex can be thought of as gymnastic exercises, which help to create a supple horse who is loose, flexible and in balance.

This type of work has many therapeutic benefits and no matter what discipline you do with your horse is a valuable addition to your training toolbox.

The ability to move your horse sideways isn’t just for dressage horses. Yes, you probably incorporate many of these movements into your schooling sessions, but they are also extremely useful for when out hacking – turn-on-the-forehand helps you open and shut gates, shoulder-in is great for negotiating potentially spooky objects.

When and wherever you use lateral exercises will contribute to stability, manoeuvrability, lateral strength, coordination and confidence.

How Your Horse Moves Sideways

In the simplest terms your horse creates sideways movement by:

Moving his legs across the midline of his body in adduction

Moving his legs out and away from his body in abduction

Having a greater understanding of how your horse physically moves sideways will help you use these exercises more effectively. You can boost your knowledge in our webinar The Biomechanics of Lateral Work.

Gillian will cover in detail how your horse physically moves sideways. The subject will be brought to life with her signature anatomical painted horses and slow-motion videos.

Gillian will also suggest massage and mobilisation techniques as well as Pilates, in-hand and ridden exercises that will improve your horse’s lateral work.

The Benefits of Lateral Work


Learning how your horse moves sideways and using lateral work exercises is useful for suppling, assessing and establishing correct posture and way of going.

The intensity of lateral exercises can be increased by varying the gait, angle and degree of collection, are good for:

  • Mobilising the structures of the shoulder and hip

  • Strengthening and stretching the upper forelimb, hindlimb and trunk muscles

  • Developing topline

  • Strengthening the core

  • Toning the abdominal oblique muscles which further support the back

  • Encouraging relaxation of the extensor chain

  • Improving spinal lateral suppleness and flexibility

  • Improving body awareness, coordination, proprioception, control and balance


  • Reducing psychological and physiological tension

  • Improving bend and agility

  • Developing balance, straightness, stability and hindquarter engagement

  • Preparing for and developing collection

  • Improving hindlimb protraction

  • Improving posture and expression

The Biomechanics of Lateral Work webinar is a must watch for all riders, coaches and therapists. At the end of this webinar not only will you have a better understanding of the biomechanics of lateral movements but also techniques for assessing and improving them.

You can also learn more about lateral work in Gillian's books:-


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