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Diagonals in Posting

By: Galadriel Billington

10:31AM Apr 8, 2004

When you post to the trot, you rise and fall once each per stride. You rise as the horse moves one pair of legs, and you sit gently with the movement of the other pair.

The pairs of legs moving are diagonally across the horse's body; that is:
top view of right diagonal he moves his right front and left hind, and
top view of left diagnoal he moves his left front and right hind.

Depending on which direction you are going, it is preferable to rise and fall with one specific pair of legs. If you are turning to the left, you rise with the right front leg; if you are turning to the right, you rise with the left front leg.

tracking left So for example, when you are moving around the arena tracking left, you rise with the right shoulder. As you go around the arena, the shoulder on the outside--the one closest to the rail--is the one with which you post. This can be phrased as "rise and fall with the leg on the wall."

You can tell which pair of legs is moving by watching the horse's shoulders, at first. Eventually, you can learn to "feel" which diagonal you are on. If you glance down every few strides, you can make sure the outside shoulder is still moving forward as you do. Try to move just your eyes, and make it a quick "flick" of the eyes down and back up again. Moving your head can put you off balance, and you don't need to lose your balance :)

This is confusing for a lot of students; you rise with the opposite leg from the direction you are turning. You sit up with the right shoulder when you are turning left! That's not fair.

Let's talk briefly about why we do it this way. When you shift your balance forward in posting, you push the horse's balance forward slightly also. The legs he is using can travel forward a little bit more with that shift forward.
top view curved left When you are in a circle, the outside front leg has to move farther. The inside back leg needs to come up higher and do more work, to keep the back end curved. So here, in a left-turning horse, the right front and left hind legs need more forward "lift."
Now, since this is important for making balanced turns, you can actually ignore diagonals if you are moving straight, or even if you are making large turns. It is only very important to be on the correct diagonal when you are making a sudden, or tight, turn. If you are trotting in a straight line for a fair distance, it is nice to the horse to change your diagonal every so often.

Learning your diagonals is useful, and it's good for the horse; it helps him balance on turns. It is not essential for a lot of riding and it's not a matter of life-and-death, so don't worry if it takes you a while to learn it. Posting properly without bouncing is much more important, as is keeping your eyes up (don't look down all the time to make sure you're on the right diagonal). Look where you're going, ride with a soft seat and soft hands, and your horse will thank you.
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2004 Galadriel Billington. All rights reserved.