Feeling the correct diagonals - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 14 Old 06-09-2011, 12:35 PM Thread Starter
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Feeling the correct diagonals

I've just recently started taking riding lessons (hunt seat) and have progressed to the point where I need to start paying attention to my diagonals.

One of the things I've noticed is that being on the correct diagonal seems to feel different (more right) than being on the incorrect diagonal - but I don't actually know what it is that I'm responding to with that feeling. The riding gets a little easier when I'm on the correct one, but I don't really understand why.

As it is, I'll have an idea that I am on the right/wrong one, but I feel like I need to actually check...and when my trainer took a video of me posting in the arena last week, I was horrified to see just how long it takes me to check and verify the diagonal, and how awful my posture in the saddle is when I'm doing that. At this point, I can tell about 70% of the time when I'm on the right one - I'd like to increase that to 100% so I don't have to crane my head over and watch the horse's shoulders!

I checked with my teacher to verify that it *is* possible to feel the right/wrong diagonal, but she wasn't really able to verbalize how you can tell with your seat. I'm hoping someone on this forum knows what I mean by this, and can shed some light on it?

The good news is that it doesn't seem to be any problem for me to change from one diagonal to another - that part of it, I managed to get right away. Now it's just figuring out how to know by feel that it's right, or that it's wrong & needs to be changed.

Also, is this something that will just be automatic after a while - where once you get some experience, you just sort of start out on the proper diagonal? Or is it something you're always having to kind of think about?
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post #2 of 14 Old 06-09-2011, 01:41 PM
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I can't always tell , after 12 years of riding. But I get better at it. And I can sometime tell if it's wrong. Some horses kind of PUT you on the diagonal that they prefer.

Why would they prefer one ove the other? Well, each time you come up the horse is kind of pushing you up with the thrust from his hip as he pushes that leg backward to drive the body forward.

So, if you are circling to the right, you will go up at the left leg reaches forward. Why? Because as the left leg reaches forward, the left rear is pushing backward. Right before it pushes backward, it carries the horse's weight and thus the hip on that side goes up. You utililize that push upward of the pushing hip to raise you out of the saddle.

But why is it important, on a circle, to rise with the outside rear hip pushing backward? Because that (outside) of the body is longer, stretched more and have need of more freedom to reach and push than the inside rear leg. So, your rising off that outside, pushing rear leg (left in this example) gives the horse more freedom to move in a curve to the inside (right in this example)
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post #3 of 14 Old 06-09-2011, 02:01 PM Thread Starter
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The way it feels when I'm on the wrong diagonal around a curve is like the push-up out of the saddle makes me go more sideways and less forward - so that makes sense given what you're telling me.
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post #4 of 14 Old 06-09-2011, 08:57 PM
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I'd say it'll be automatic after a while (when you get more experience).

The best way to feel is to know where the horse's legs are. Good exercise would be to walk a horse, close your eyes and feel it. Ask someone to watch and tell them which leg is going forward you think, so that person could tell if you are right or wrong.

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post #5 of 14 Old 06-09-2011, 09:12 PM
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Just time and practice

But here's something you can try: Once you have established a rising trot, sit two beats and feel the rhythym (normal diagonal change) then sit three beats and feel, then sit four beats and feel, then five beats...then two beats.

Odd numbers you remain on the same diagonal, even numbers you have changed. Then sit several paces without counting - which one are you on now? Keep practicing, you will get the feel of it don't worry! But it does take time, the fact that you picked up how to change diagonols without too much fuss is great news, that can be tricky to begin with!

With practice you will know which diagonal you will be on from the first beat of the trot when you transition upwards from the walk, similarly you will know which diagonol you need to be on for the first trot beat as you transition from the canter, you will just be able to feel it and you probably won't even conciously need to think about it.

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post #6 of 14 Old 06-10-2011, 04:40 PM
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It is easier to just 'feel' on some horses more then others... but to REALLY know how to feel your diagonals on every horse in every situation, the key is to be able to feel where your horse's HIND FEET are. You're going to want to learn this anyways, because as you progress in your riding it will be more and more important to be able to influence your horse's hind legs.

Kitten-Val had it right. But first you need to know the footfalls of the gaits. At the trot when the outside front goes forward (the leg you post off of) the inside hind is also going forward, correct? So if you now the inside hind is about to take off, you will know that you are about to stand up.

To do that, i would start off at the walk. Take your feet out of your stirrups and feel your horse swing his back, and feel the hind legs go left, right, left, right, etc. When you get a good feel of that pick up the trot and try to also be able to feel left right left right. This is much much harder. :) But once you start to get that feel you can 'feel' your diagonals and be set up for really influencing your horse's hind end.
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post #7 of 14 Old 06-10-2011, 10:32 PM
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My trainer had me walk the horse, feet out of the stirrups, legs relaxed, then had me watch his outside leg go up and down, feel the movement. She also had me lean back and place my hand on the horse's rump, and feel it that way, to see and feel where his legs were and the motion. After a lap or two, she then had me trot without looking down to see if I could feel the diagonal. It definitely helps.

Granted, it's been a few months now, and I still miss the correct diagonal occasionally, but it's getting there.

Sally Swift's book 'Centered Riding' has some good exercises for getting the 'feel' of your horse at different gaits. This was one of the sections that my instructor referred to during the lesson.
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post #8 of 14 Old 06-10-2011, 10:42 PM Thread Starter
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Ooh - I love that book. I'm meditating on the chapter about "Hands" right now, because the other thing I noticed from watching the video of me posting is that my hands are up-down-up-down-up-down. At least they're in rhythm with the horse's movement, but I would like them not to be doing that at all.

Thanks for the advice everyone! I am soaking this up like a sponge...
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post #9 of 14 Old 06-11-2011, 04:40 PM
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You actually can feel it (more and less depending on the horses way of moving) But when you post on the correct diagonal, you are moving with the outside shoulder, which controls the amount of control you have on the reins. You can feel that. And you feel it in your seat, especially while you're doing turns, because you're hips take different shock than when you're on the correct one. I really wish I could just draw it out and show you, lol. It will probably take a little while and you will get better at telling diagonals. Mine is automatic (except when I change rein and forget to change diagonals!) But what helps me a lot is that if you post on the first step of the trot, you are on the correct diagonal. This is the same from any gait, walk-trot or canter-trot transitions, doesn't matter, just post on the first step (sometimes that is hard if you are just learning, you can't always tell when the trot will start) and you will always have it right! Unless you were starting the trot in the middle of nowhere or you were on the wrong lead in the canter... Hope this all helped!

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post #10 of 14 Old 06-12-2011, 11:49 PM
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I know when I'm on the wrong diagonal because when I come back down I feel kindof a bump up instead of landing smoothly on the saddle. Depending on what horse I ride I'll post imedidiatly and if I missed the diagonal I'll switch or I'll sit a couple strides the post. I'm pretty good at trotting I love posting so that's what I do the most. Not a lit of canter work yet. Hope that helps :)
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