How To Post On The Correct Diagonal
For some riders, learning to post on the correct diagonal can be agony. Here are some tips to make it a breeze.
What is posting?
Sometimes called "rising trot", the rider rises up out of the saddle on every other trot step. It looks like this.
Which is the correct diagonal?
In some disciplines, such as dressage, there is no correct diagonal. But it is customary to rise when the horse's outside shoulder comes forward.
Why bother changing diagonals?
There is a real danger in always posting on the same diagonal. Doing this repeatedly can actually make your horse crooked and unbalanced in his muscle development, which in turn can produce lameness, back pain and soreness. By changing your trot diagonal, you avoid putting continual stress on the same side of the horse's body. It is a way to help your horse in learn to activate both sides of his body equally. You can read about what scientists have discovered about the impact of rising trot diagonals on the horse's back and muscles here and here.
Why post on the outside diagonal?
When the horse is turning or is on a circle, posting on the outside shoulder ensures that your weight is off the horse's back when the outside hind leg is off the ground. That makes it easier for the horse to balance herself.
How to learn it
In my experience, riders are visual learners and some learn by feel.
Learning visually: If you're a visual learner and are having a hard time learning to post on the correct diagonal, mark your horse's shoulders so you can see clearly when each shoulder moves forward. You can do this by putting tape on the horse's shoulders, using a washable glitter marker, or even "white out" typewriter correction fluid.
Walk your horse and look at the shoulders. Say "right, left, right left" as you watch the shoulders move, "right" when the right shoulder comes forward and "left" as the left comes forward. You can see that in this video (advance to about 1:38 in the clip).
Denise Cummins has over 30 years experience as an equestrian and horse business owner. In The Thinking Equestrian, she shares valuable tips on caring for and training horses, giving riding instruction, and running a successful horse business.
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Then do the same thing at trot. Once you've got that down pat, walk your horse and say "up" and rise out of the saddle when the outside shoulder moves forward. Once you've got that, do the same thing at trot. Once you've got that, try it without the markings on your horse's shoulders.
Learning by feel: If instead you learn by "feel" here are two tips.
First, mark the shoulders as described above. Then place the fingers of your hand on the outside shoulder. Walk your horse and feel the outside shoulder move as the horse walks. Then do the same thing at trot. (You can sit while doing this or go into two-point.) Once you're sure you can feel when the outside shoulder is moving, put your horse into trot and rise out of the saddle when you feel the outside shoulder move forward.
Second, have someone put you on a longe line and walk your horse. Close your eyes and have the person on the ground say "right" when the right hind moves forward under the belly and "left" when the left does. Focus on what you are feeling under the saddle and in your legs as the horse's hind legs move alternately. Then try saying "right, left" in time with that movement, getting feedback from the person on the ground, until you get it down pat. Then put your horse in trot and do the same thing.
These exercises usually work even for riders who have a terrible time learning to post on the correct diagonal.
For more great tips for improving your riding, take a look at these:
Three Secrets to Developing a Secure Seat
How To Develop and Elastic Rein Contact--Your Horse Will Thank You!
The Best Way to Hold Your Reins
More great articles can be found here.
Copyright April 2, 2018 Denise Cummins, PhD
The Thinking Equestrian
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