Changing your diagonal while trotting out on the trails?
Due to circumstance, I recently starting riding out on the trails rather than in the ring. (Which I've been loving btw )
My question is, when you're posting the trot for a decent amount of time (1 to 5 minute intervals), does it make a difference (as in help the horse out at all) if you change your diagonal every so often?
If so, how often? Or are my distances trivial and so I shouldn’t really even bother worrying about that.
Your intervals aren't oo long to stay on one diagonal but most riders tend to pick up the same diagonal a LOT unless they intentionally think about it. In other words, either the rider has an unconscious favorite diagonal or the horse is smooither to the rider on one diagonal over the other so the rider without thinking begins a trot on that more "comfortable" diagonal.
When riding trails at a trot I change diagonals every time the trail bends to a different side. So that I keep using both of them. If I'm trotting a long straight section I intentionally switch diags and try to get a feeling of straightness in my body and horse to keep in check the normal human tendency to become crooked.
I also practice changing diags when up off the saddle instead of "sitting a bounce" as it takes more focus and balance to "stand a bounce" than to sit a bounce. I've noticed that a lot of riders tend to sit a bit hard as they change diags. A dressage instructor caught me doing that years ago as I changed directions across the arena diagonal. As I changed diags I sat down hard and my horse hollowed and rushed the next steps. It was me, not the horse who caused this. Just something to think about!
you can also try putting in some two-point position while trotting. The more you change it up the less fatigue you and horse will experience. One of the most physically exhausting trail rides of my life was when a horse went lame miles from home, the rider got off to lead, and the rest of us ended up riding along at the walk for six hours with no changes in pace or rider position.
I change when I feel my horse start to become crooked or uneven -- depending on how tired he is, it could be after a mile, or after 20 strides. It keeps him from leaning or favoring one side over the other.
I try to switch about every mile or so. My horse is definitely more comfortable on one over the other so I have to consciously and deliberately pick up the 'bad' one. I try to ride the 'bad' one slightly more than the 'good' one to balance him out.
If we're going up an incline, I typically two point it. We're both happier that way.