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Can't feel the diagonal

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  • Can't feel the diagonal

    Hello, a friend and I just started riding again after a 20 year hiatus. I was never ever able to feel the diagonal without looking down and I made some progress this fall with the dressage instructor we started back with who had us do a lot of sitting trot. I'd start a trot sitting, feel the diagonal and start posting.

    However, long story short, we had to leave this place and now we're taking more of hunt seat instruction where the instructors insist on posting the trot immediately and I cannot feel the diagonal. Half of the time I guess wrong and have to look down to correct it. I simply can't feel the diagonal in the post and its really annoying.

    Any suggestions? I feel like a putz always having to look down. I'd like to get it right the first time.

  • #2
    Your dressage instructor was right. Feeling the swing of the back in the sitting trot should only take a stride or two if your horse is moving through his back properly.

    If it's been 20 years since you were last regularly riding, you've earned the maturity and the gravitas to let the dang instructor wait a second for you to find the diagonal you're seeking.
    Last edited by Bayou Roux; Mar. 16, 2009, 08:40 PM.

    Comment


    • #3
      Oh, I am with you. I can't 'feel' the diagonal to save my life, never could. My instructor refuses to let me even pretend to THINK about looking down. I have learned to keep my head still and drop my eyes just a tad to let my periferal vision pick up on the shoulder. Still she catches me. The weasle. I am having to try to create nija ways to see my diagonal from the corner of my eye. Do I find some exercises to increase my periferal vision?? Yes, if I cann!! I am at home, right now, this very minute, with a soldering iron and shards of mirror, testing out mini mirrors at various angles on several pairs of glasses. Now all I need to do is get these glasses back to the barn and surreptitiously switch from one to the next whilst trotting until I find the ones with the correct angled mirror where I can see the shoulder during my post. Without letting my trainer know how focused I am on "cheating".

      Problem is, mirrors reverse things. Now, is that the right let or the left leg, there.... <bounce bounce>
      Airborne? Oh. Yes, he can take a joke. Once. After that, the joke's on you.

      Comment


      • #4
        I have ridden for 28 years, have evented to intermediate, shown dressage to 2nd level and consider myself a pretty competent rider. I still have trouble 'feeling' which diagonal I'm on and often have to look. I've gotten very good at having eyes in the bottom of my chin!

        Don't feel bad, just do your best, and congrats on returning to riding!

        Comment

        • Original Poster

          #5
          Thanks Watermark Farms. I'm really enjoying riding and kicking myself for waiting so long to get back.

          So I'm not the only one that looks out of the corner of my eyes. I think my problem is that it takes me at least 3 sitting strides to feel the diagonal. If I count 1-2, 1-2, I usually start posting on the 5th or 6th beat. Which is too long for this trainer. Oh well, Bayoux Rouge, I like your approach.

          Comment


          • #6
            I can't, for the life of me, feel the diagonal either. And I have been riding for ten years. Don't beat yourself up about it too much, there are worse faults than having to look down.
            I saw the angel in the marble and I set him free. - Michaelangelo

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            • #7
              The best way to start learning to feel it is to sit the trot and concentrate on which hind leg is pushing you forward at each step. When you feel that outside seatbone pushed forward, that's how you know when to rise. As you rise, that hind leg will be pushing back and the outside fore will be coming forward.

              That's how I figured it out at least

              You can start working on that feeling at the walk. Go back to the old days of counting each footfall. I like to start with the outside hind as 1, and in that step it will be pushing my outside seatbone forward. The inside hind is 3, and that is also the step in which I like to give my squeeze at the walk.

              Anyway, that might help you all out a bit!

              As for the OP, have you told the instructor that you can feel your diagonal best when you've been allowed to sit a couple beats first? I always sit the first two or three, though I have been occasionally lucky to have felt the diagonal upon transition up to the trot. Rare though it is, it HAS happened! So, you might try telling her that and see if it helps. She may just not have thought of it as an option.

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              • #8
                Here's a deep, dark secret the trainers out there in hunter land may not wish to admit-- if you can't feel it, the horse probably isn't working through his back as well as he could. Might benefit from some gasp dressage suppling!

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                • #9
                  I had a novice adult ask me this the other day and I didn't have an immediate answer. I think it is much easier when you start riding as a little kid and are allowed to look for a while yet adult beginners get yelled at for doing the same. My suggestion was to spend time (your warm-up) concentrating on where every leg is, all the time at every gait. Be disciplined about this for a while and I would think it would become natural. For those that claim not to know after riding for some time, how do you know the timing for your aids during latteral work...if you don't know where your horses feet are?
                  "look deep into his pedigree. Look for the name of a one-of-a-kind horse who lends to his kin a fierce tenacity, a will of iron, a look of eagles. Look & know that Slew is still very much with us."

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by sisu27 View Post
                    I had a novice adult ask me this the other day and I didn't have an immediate answer. I think it is much easier when you start riding as a little kid and are allowed to look for a while yet adult beginners get yelled at for doing the same. My suggestion was to spend time (your warm-up) concentrating on where every leg is, all the time at every gait. Be disciplined about this for a while and I would think it would become natural. For those that claim not to know after riding for some time, how do you know the timing for your aids during latteral work...if you don't know where your horses feet are?
                    I agree. You should look! Until you figure it out. And if you have to take a quick look a year from now, so be it. Time will help but if you don't know what each sides feel like, how can you post it correctly?

                    Here is my training method:
                    When your horse is trotting (don't post -sitting), begin to swing your hips and upper torso (forward and back -not up and down) to their stride in their shoulders/back. Do this in an extagerated fashion. This will give you some body memory of what their movement really feels like. Then do this excercise when you know what diagonal they are on (looking). Then put the two together! Sometimes, when you are just learning your diagnonals, you can do this excercise for just one stride in order to figure it out and then start posting.
                    Luistano Stallion standing for 2013: Wolverine UVF
                    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8IZPHDzgX3s

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      This is how I teach my students to feel for the diagonal. Basically, trot your horse in a circle sitting (about as big as you would lunge your horse) then start posting don't look and post for maybe 7-10 strides, then sit two and change diagonal and post for 7-10 more strides do this around in the circle just switching. after a you get a feel for your horse shorten the strides you post to maybe 5 instead of the 7-10, you will begin to feel what feels off balance and what feels right as long as your horse is going in a circle. You can then shorten it to maybe 3-4 strides change post 3-4 strides and keep doing that over and over. once you get to where it feels right keep posting on that diagonal and check it and 99% of the time you will be correct. Going in a circle is making your horse use his hind so it should be easier for you to feel.

                      If you keep practicing this you will develop a feel for how your horse is moving and you can make the circle bigger and bigger until you work to the rail.

                      hope this helps!

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I only began riding English a few years ago....so getting the correct diagonal was something that was a little challenging for me too.

                        Three things improved my odds of getting it right.

                        1) Having friend on ground. In a straight line, I would pick up a sitting trot then try to "feel". Friend would holler "left!" or "right" and I would try to feel it. NO LOOKING DOWN as it kind of disconnects you for the feeling. She'd yell yes or no. If no, back to sitting and try again. I think it's HARDER in a straight line, but for someone getting back into riding, it does eliminate some of the other "thinking" that comes with trying to keep a nice bend, don't let that shoulder drop, etc etc.

                        2) Practicing same kind of exercise as above only by myself. Mentally choosing which I was going to take, feeling for it then after a few strides, looking down.

                        3) Riding a horse with actual suspension. LOL It was a LOT easier to post correctly and on the correct diagonal when I was riding bigger moving horses.
                        A good horseman doesn't have to tell anyone...the horse already knows.

                        Might be a reason, never an excuse...

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          This is how I feel. When a horse' hind leg is lifted up, that side of his back drops. So if I'm going to left at trot, the moment I feel the back side of my "left" seat bone drops along with the horse, I know he is lifting his left hind, and that is the time I need to post up.

                          It is really not that hard. It still takes a little bit of getting used to but once you get it once or twice, it becomes your second nature.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I don't want to steal your thread, but would you teach a 9 year old child any differently. Reason I ask is my daughter is learning english this year for 4-h and will need to know her diagonals.

                            She has an arab to learn on so she should be able to feel it well. Shetland not so much. I'm hoping her and the arab will pull it together in the next 2 mon. and become a team otherwise its western shetland and lord knows thats just mean making her sit that trot!
                            The View from Here

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by qhgal View Post
                              This is how I teach my students to feel for the diagonal. Basically, trot your horse in a circle sitting (about as big as you would lunge your horse) then start posting don't look and post for maybe 7-10 strides, then sit two and change diagonal and post for 7-10 more strides do this around in the circle just switching. after a you get a feel for your horse shorten the strides you post to maybe 5 instead of the 7-10, you will begin to feel what feels off balance and what feels right as long as your horse is going in a circle. You can then shorten it to maybe 3-4 strides change post 3-4 strides and keep doing that over and over. once you get to where it feels right keep posting on that diagonal and check it and 99% of the time you will be correct. Going in a circle is making your horse use his hind so it should be easier for you to feel.

                              If you keep practicing this you will develop a feel for how your horse is moving and you can make the circle bigger and bigger until you work to the rail.

                              hope this helps!
                              This works even better on the lungeline when you can close your eyes and really focus on what you're feeling.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by dogchushu View Post
                                This works even better on the lungeline when you can close your eyes and really focus on what you're feeling.
                                Yes, it does. I have done it this way also. I have done this with my students during their lessons and then they could practice it off of the lungeline the other way if they didn't have anyone there that could help them.

                                RU2U: If your child can post in an english saddle and is comfortable at the trot, have her do this. Depending on her skill level have her do the above with her eyes closed. If she isn't comfortable yet with closing her eyes stick her on the lungeline and have her just do the posting exercises.

                                Comment

                                • Original Poster

                                  #17
                                  Lots of good suggestions here. Unfortunately the lunge lesson is not offered where I'm riding so I'll sit the trot the next couple of strides. I have a substitute instructor this Saturday so I should be able to practice it then.

                                  I think Bayou Roux is right. The first horse I rode was trained in dressage and we were taught how to bring his hindquarters under him in walk by bumping with alternate legs. So when we got to the trot, it was really easy to feel the diagonal. I'm trying the same alternate bump with the current horses I ride but they seem to trot in a longer stride so that may be another reason its more difficult.

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