Horse & Rider Weekly #1: Diagonals

Diagonals are one of the things beginner riders have trouble in the most. Often they forget to change their diagonals when they change reins, or start a rising trot from a sitting trot, and some have trouble in actually seeing what diagonal they are on.


You must have often heard during your lessons, your instructor can’t get over telling you “Change!” or “Diagonal check/change!” or “What are you supposed to do when you change reins?”. That’s your instructor referring to diagonals.

Diagonals are one of the most important things to take note of in your riding. Being on the correct diagonal means that when you are doing rising trot, when you sit in the saddle before rising again, the horse’s OUTSIDE shoulder should go back. When you sit, the OUTSIDE shoulder will come back. To be able to understand this further, let’s talk a bit about the trot itself; how the horse moves his leg etc…

The trot is a two-beat diagonal gait of the horse where the diagonal pairs of legs move forward at the same time with a moment of suspension between each beat. (Wikipedia)

Here you can see that the horse's right forefoot and left hind foot are forward simultaneously. In addition, the left forefoot and right hind foot are backward.

Here you can see that the horse’s right forefoot and left hind foot are forward simultaneously. In addition, the left forefoot and right hind foot are backward.

In the above picture, the right forefoot (which is forward) is to the outside. If there was a rider on this horse, and this shot was taken while the rider was standing (in the middle of rising) then he’d be on the correct diagonal. In addition, if the rider were sitting at the time of this shot, then he’d be on the wrong diagonal.

Okay, so I think you all are familiar with the concept of diagonals. But a lot of people (including me) sometimes have had trouble in checking what diagonal they are on. In addition, sometimes they forget to check/change their diagonals all together and this is a time when it is a real patience test for the instructors. Oh, and how to really change your diagonal? Double bounce. You’ll sit, then sit again instead of rising, then carry on rising. Seems difficult to understand but is really easy, in fact.

  1. I keep on forgetting to check/change my diagonal!
    From my experience, practice makes perfect. That also coincides with an instructor, who won’t get enough of constantly reminding you to check/change your diagonal. After a few times, your instructor won’t have to keep on reminding you that frequently, and after a few more times your instructor will have to casually remind you. After that, you’ll be checking/changing your diagonal on your own without any effort from your instructor.
  2. I have trouble in checking what diagonal I’m on.
    This is a bit of a tough question to answer from my experience because I really haven’t been through that. But from what I’ve read on the web here are some tips.
    * Try rising higher. Maybe you’ll be able to see the shoulders better if you rise higher.
    * Try placing a trotting pole on the ground and trot over that (while rising). The horse will raise it’s feet higher so you can see the shoulder better.
    * Ask your instructor for some tips.
  3. I did double bounce but am still on the wrong diagonal
    Actually that happens with me a lot, the answer is pretty simple. You triple bounced, meaning you sat 3 times so you are back on the wrong diagonal. Usually your instructor will call out if you did a triple bounce.

Also from my past experience, I’ve discovered that diagonals are much easier to maintain on a short horse, generally because they are less bouncy. Tall horses on the other hand are bouncy so often I keep on double bouncing without really meaning to do so.

So I think that’s all what I have to say about diagonals!

Here you go, my first Horse & Rider Weekly post 🙂 I might just publish a random post today as well… idk

If you enjoyed reading this article, please smash the like button!

With that, see you guys next post 🙂


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