What Are Diagonals And Why They Are Important
 By Winniefield Park   •   4th Aug 2013   •   8,139 views   •   2 comments
What Are Diagonals And Why They Are ImportantA very long time ago, the Western Horseman Magazine published very useful pamphlets that you could order through the mail. One such pamphlet was called ďThose Cantankerous Leads," and its purpose was to help new riders understand leads at a canter or lope. However, you have to learn to trot before you canter, and that means learning diagonals. Here are some tips to help you conquer those darn diagonals as you post the trot.

What Are Diagonals?
Your horse doesn't have diagonals like it has leads. The rider is the one who determines what diagonal they are on. Whether or not youíre on the right or wrong diagonal depends on the direction of the track you are taking. If you are riding on a left circle or bend, you should be sitting down as the outside (right) front hoof hits the ground. At the same time, the inside left hind hoof will be in the air. The opposite should happen if you are riding a bend or circle to the right. To rise as the outside front hoof hits the ground means youíre on the wrong diagonal.

Why Are Diagonals Important?
Traditionally, itís been believed that taking weight off of the inside hind leg helps the horse balance and make turns a bit easier. To bend smoothly your horse must contract its muscles and swivel slightly with the back inside leg while extending slightly further with the outside foreleg. Coming out of the saddle alleviates the weight from the horseís back for an instant, allowing him to adjust his stride a little easier.

Over long distances, itís important to change diagonals as you trot, because often we get in the habit of always riding on the same one. That can put extra stress on one leg over time, and lead to lameness and sore backs.

How to Identify The Correct Diagonal
When you first learn about diagonals, youíll probably want to look down to see that you are rising up as the horseís outside front leg reaches forward. Eventually, you should just use your peripheral vision as looking down by tilting your head stiffens your spine and affects your position in the saddle. Youíll soon learn to feel whether youíre on the correct diagonal, and not need to use your eyes at all.

Tips for Correcting Your Diagonal
To remember what diagonal you should be posting on try chanting, ďrise and fall with the leg on the wall." The leg youíll be rising and falling with is the outside foreleg. When you change directions at the trot, sit two beats and that will set you up so that youíll now be rising and falling with the outside foreleg, but going in your new direction. Some horsesí trot will throw you on one diagonal or the other, and you may find you have to check and correct yourself occasionally. If you find yourself on the wrong diagonal, sit two beats to get back on track.

Image Credit: © Peter Muzslay |
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Beeswax Crusade  
This reminded me of something. So, I was doing a pattern, and they had you switching diagonals while on a straight line, and I was trying to figure out which way I should post for "right diagonal" and "left diagonal" since I overthink everything. Going the right diagonal would be rising with the left leg, right? The name of the diagonal just indicates which way you should be tracking if you were going in a circle?
  Aug 4, 2013  •  10,248 views
Mighty Oak Gelderlanders  
I've been looking at my diagonals and making sure they are correct for years (my trainer taught me the saying "rise and fall with the leg on the wall") but I had no idea why diagonals were important until now. Thanks for the enlightenment :)
  Aug 5, 2013  •  8,658 views
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