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Need help with Diagonals...ideas?

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  • Need help with Diagonals...ideas?

    I started riding English *full time* after taking a package of 4 lessons. I've ridden it on and off for years, but never had formal instruction.

    The lessons are over, but I'm still having a hard time "feeling" for the correct diagonal.

    Sometimes I feel it and get it correctly, yet at times I think I feel it, only to peek down and find I'm wrong.
    It is so darn frustrating.

    Is it harder to pick them up on a pony? My POA is 13.1 hands if that makes a difference.

    Does anyone have any tricks, secrets, ideas that work for yourselves?

    I just moved to a more expensive barn and cannot afford additional lessons at the time.

    Thank you...
    MnToBe Twinkle Star: "Twinkie"

    Proud member of the "Don't rush to kill wildlife" clique!

  • #2
    For me, it's just something I developed over time by getting used to the movement of the horse and how it felt. It's not something I really thought about, it sort of improved on its own. Hope someone else here can give you a better answer, because I'd be interested!
    Please copy and paste this to your signature if you know someone, or have been affected by someone who needs a smack upside the head. Lets raise awareness.


    • #3
      Some equines have a much more smooth trot that makes the diagonal harder to feel. Ponies are more likely to have this 'issue' than horses. It just means you have to get better at feeling diagonals.

      A good idea is to find a place to do a figure eight or do serpentines. Switch your diagonal in the middle each time and just concentrate on what each diagonal feels like. Try not to look down, just switch diagonals. Something that we did when we were learning was to be not allowed to look down and our instructor would ask us to trot, then ask if we were on the correct diagonal. Maybe getting a ground person and working on this exercise would be helpful also.


      • #4
        Forget looking at the front leg -- feel the hind leg.

        Rise and fall with the horse's OUTSIDE HIP. Try "posting" to the outside hip at the walk until you can clearly feel which hip is doing what. Practice "changing diagonals" at the walk. ETA: If you cannot feel at all when each hip is rising and falling, you have stiffness in your back that is blocking the "feel".

        Then try changing diagonals at at short intervals the trot. On the rail: ten steps left diagonal (or whichever one you come up on), change diagonal, ten steps right diagonal, change, ten steps left, change, ten steps right, etc, etc, etc, etc.

        This won't help much for feeling the correct diagonal, but it will provide the repetition you need to get the timing. Half the problem with getting the "right" diagonal" is being "right", but being "right" just a nanosecond too late, which is just enough to bring you up on the "wrong" diagonal.

        Once you get that feel, you'll wonder how you could have been so inept as to have not instantly gotten the hang of something so dang easy!

        No horse is so smooth that a rider can't "feel" what's going on. The only thing harder about it on a pony is that the interval between rise and fall is so much shorter that you don't get much catch-up time if you miss the beat.
        Last edited by greysandbays; Nov. 21, 2009, 11:02 AM. Reason: had another thought...


        • #5
          This is something that gets easier with practice, so don't stress over it. Your pony probably has a nice smooth trot, so that makes it more difficult to "feel" which shoulder/foreleg is forward. Makes for an easier sitting trot! It will be much easier if you learn to feel each stride - G&Bs outside hip teaching is great.

          Don't look down too much or you'll have a bad habit for life. Look up, between your horsies ears. When you start trotting, establish a good forward rhythm, and practice switching diagonals:up down up down bump bump (sit a beat) up down up down bump bump up down up down, etc. The bump bump is the diagonal change in case that's not what your instructor called it. In no time at all your instincts will kick in and you'll develop a feel for outside vs inside and never worry about diagonals again. If you take the time to really get this, leads and lead changes will be much easier as well. You can also change diagonals by staying "up" a beat instead of the sitting bump bump. Sometimes this is easier on the horse, or on a horse that doesn't "throw" you up as much.


          • #6
            I agree with the others: this is something that you pick up with time, practice and becoming more in synch with your horse's movement. If you have a trainer or someone who knows safety, have them put you on the lunge line so you can work on closing your eyes and feeling the horse's movement without distraction.


            • #7
              Originally posted by chai View Post
              I agree with the others: this is something that you pick up with time, practice and becoming more in synch with your horse's movement. If you have a trainer or someone who knows safety, have them put you on the lunge line so you can work on closing your eyes and feeling the horse's movement without distraction.

              You can really feel it when you close your eyes. When I started out my intructor did this exercise with me and I got it every time.

              And agreed, it just comes with time. Now I can feel and see in my minds eye where the horses legs are so I know when to post. That isn't to say though that I still don't miss it sometimes


              • #8
                The easiest way to develop feel, as opposed to looking, is ride a relatively small circle, 20 meters or so. Because centrifugal force is going to push you to the outer edge of the circle, you will feel more balanced when on the correct diagonal. The old saying 'rise and fall with the shoulder on the wall' makes sense when you think of centrifugal force, because when you are on the correct diagonal, the inside hind is pushing you up out of the saddle and out in the same direction as centrifugal force. If you are on the wrong diagonal (being pushed out of saddle by outside hind and inside fore, which makes you fight against centrifugal force), you will feel off balance.

                There is no harm in a quick glance down at the shoulder, and over time you will get so you can feel it. Bear in mind too, that some horses are stronger muscled on one particular pair of legs (usually due to a rider who does not post each diagonal pair equally) and the horse itself may encourage you to pick up what may be the 'wrong' diagonal for the direction you are going.

                I was a riding instructor through my high school years, and the above instructions usually helped my students 'get it'.
                Last edited by sdlbredfan; Nov. 21, 2009, 12:16 PM. Reason: fix typo
                RIP Sasha, best dog ever, pictured shortly before she died, Death either by euthanasia or natural causes is only the end of the animal inhabiting its body; I believe the spirit lives on.


                • #9
                  my trainer used to make me get going really well on the correct diagonal, and when I had a good rhythm going, she would have me switch to the incorrect one just to feel the difference. After doing this a lot I finally started feeling what "wrong" felt like.


                  • #10
                    What I remember my instructor teaching me years ago was to follow the footfalls of the hind legs and we did that by riding with our legs on and feeling for the sway or motion of the barrel. What she said was that as the hind foot came forward the barrel would sway to the opposite side to make room. Then we would walk and call out footfalls, left right left right. At that time I could "feel" well enough to rise on the strikeoff and get it right pretty often. Definitely more than 50% anyway LOL. Couldn't feel my canter lead though, not on that horse anyway.

                    When I came back to riding using many different school horses I couldn't remember which leg to rise on but I still had some feel in my seat.

                    I have since found that different horses have different ways of going. I rode a large pony and yes, they have a shorter flatter stride and almost less motion to feel. Rode one particular horse and felt a huge difference, very easy to feel the diagonal pairs moving, and once I had put that feeling together in my head it was easier to identify in other horses.

                    So anyway. It does help to have someone on the ground to tell you if you are getting the footfalls right, but you can do it on your own, you just need to practice feeling what the feet are doing behind you. You may already do it, if you have ridden a lot, just need to put the sensations together with the action you want.
                    Last edited by ReSomething; Nov. 21, 2009, 01:05 PM. Reason: add a bit
                    Courageous Weenie Eventer Wannabe
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                    • Original Poster

                      Originally posted by greysandbays View Post
                      Forget looking at the front leg -- feel the hind leg.

                      Rise and fall with the horse's OUTSIDE HIP.
                      WOW, this made a world of difference today!

                      I practiced the sitting trot for a little bit to get the feel and it was so easy to pick up the correct diagonal using the outside hip.

                      My mare was getting tired of all the trotting we did today, so I haven't had a chance to try the other pieces of advice, but will give them all a try.

                      Gosh it feels good to learn something new...
                      MnToBe Twinkle Star: "Twinkie"

                      Proud member of the "Don't rush to kill wildlife" clique!