Cow horse trainer Russell Dilday points out the many ways that sidepassing can help your horse.

Russell Dilday trains cow horses and runs cattle in southern Oklahoma. His experience in and out of the arena has made him a go-to source for horse training questions. Whether showing in the arena or working cattle on the ranch, he wants his horses to perform well. He considers sidepassing to be as essential as stopping, backing and turning.

Dilday says the maneuver has many benefits, from teaching the horse to yield to your hands and feet, to setting it up for clean turnarounds, or spins.

Dilday often sidepasses his horses while facing a wall or fence. This prevents them from stepping forward, so he doesn’t have to pull back on the reins. Instead, he can focus on asking the horse to move left and right with his feet and the reins.

In addition, sidepassing can be used on a horse that is overly energetic or pushy. Rather than the rider having to pull on the reins excessively or reprimand the horse, this exercise gives the horse a job and a direction.

“You don’t have to get in a fight with the horse,” Dilday says. “It will work their body and slow their mind down.”

Dilday has won more than $638,000 in reined cow horse competition. He claimed the National Reined Cow Horse Association’s World’s Greatest Horseman contest three times riding Topsails Rien Maker, a stallion owned by Dilday and Kevin Cantrelle.

In the December 2018 issue of Western Horseman, Dilday discusses how returning to ranch work has helped him improve the performance of his cow horses.

“Getting back to working cows lets me slow down and think back to what I used to do,” he says. “I go to cowboy now, and it is even more fun because I’ve got a horse with more feel and finesse, and a goal for that horse. I recognize how the horse is doing things on its own.”

Dilday lives in Wynnewood, Oklahoma, with his wife, Tanna, and sons, Ace and Colt. For more information, visit


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