I feel really stupid for asking this as I used to be good at my diagonals in trot and I am now quite an experienced rider but I have completely which leg to sit to and rise and I always seem to be wrong
Just ride in an arena where you don't have to worry much about your horse and let him/her trot around the arena. It's okay to look down at his shoulder at first until you can feel what diagonal to be on.
I have terrible issues with my diagonals... the result of years of never worrying about them.
The diagonals are a tool for helping bend your horse properly. For a horse to go in a circle, they must bend. That means the outside line of the horse is LONGER than the inside line.
To help the horse bend, you want to rise when the OUTSIDE front leg is going forward. You can look down and see when the outside shoulder is moving forward. You want to be rising when this happens.
When you rise up, you are putting a bit of push on the side that you are rising with. This helps lengthen the side that you are rising on. SO, you want to legnthen the outside, helping the bend. This helps the horse flow around turns.
If you find yourself having difficulty rising with the outside shoulder, it is likely because the horse is poorly (or NOT) in the proper bend. If they are counterbent, the longer line will be the horse's inside line making being on the proper diagonal uncomfortable. Learn to bend the horse and the diagonals will always feel correct.
I hope this makes sense. I typed and thought very quickly.
Allison, that is one of the BEST definition of diagonals I've read.
Believe me, ILMP, once you learn to feel the diagonals it becomes habitual. I can usually pick them up now without looking. When I started I had to glance down to check, so it's really normal to feel confused.
You know, when people rode an English saddle to get from her to there, they weren't as concerned about being on the "correct" diagonal, but more concerned (at least I hope) about changing diagonals often on a long straightaway.
Also, there are 2 ways to change your diagonal:
1) sit twice
2) stand (up) twice)
Both are good ways to practice.
Don't forget that having a buddy watch you is probably more helpful than a mirror in an indoor arena.
I've just always followed the movement of the outside shoulder. Never knew why, just knew I was supposed to and that I feel like we're going to crash and burn if I don't. Thank you, Allison, for explaining the physics of it. Very cool to know.
"You can just look down for a moment to see the shoulder"
This always bothered me when I was learning my diagonals. I thought, "Why could that help me?"
Until I heard this phrase,
RISE AND FALL WITH THE LEG ON THE WALL. So, when you look down, you should be posting in rythym with the shoulder and leg of the horse closest to the outside wall. If it's hard for you to get it by looking at the shoulder, wrap each of the horse's front legs in a different color. That way when you look down, you can see the leg moving forward.
I hope this helps you because it really helped me. :)