Nail your diagonals

Posted in Flatwork

Fed up of your instructor telling you that you’re on the wrong diagonal? Here’s how to get them right every time

Checking your on the right diagonal when riding

Getting to grips with your diagonals is one of those things that when you’ve got it, you’ve got it forever. But until that eureka moment, it can be quite confusing – trust us, we’ve been there! Understanding why diagonals are important will help you remember how to check them, so soon you’ll be getting it spot on without even thinking.

Did you know?

In many European countries, they don’t worry about what diagonal they’re on at all. But in the UK, they’re thought of as quite important.

What’s the point?

Rising on the correct diagonal in trot is all about helping your pony’s balance. When he’s trotting, most of his power comes from his hindlegs and, on a corner or bend, he takes a lot more weight on his inside hind as his outside hind has to stretch further.

You can help him by taking the weight off his inside hind by rising when he’s using it.

What’s correct?

As your pony’s outside leg moves forward, you should be rising. As it comes back towards you, you should be sitting.

Correct diagonal when riding

Did you know? 

Your pony’s outside leg is the one closest to the edge of the arena. If you’re not riding in an arena, then it’s the one on the outside of your bend. 

How do you check? 

Ponies trot in diagonal pairs, which is where the phrase ‘correct diagonal’ comes from. When your pony’s legs are working in a diagonal pair, it means his inside front moves at the same time as his outside hind, and his outside front moves at the same time as his inside hind. This means you can work out what he’s doing with his back legs by looking at his front.

To check if you’re on the correct diagonal, glance down at his outside shoulder while you’re trotting. You should be rising as it moves forwards, and sitting when it comes back towards you .

Top tip

Use the phrase ‘rise and fall with the leg on the wall’ to help you remember to check your diagonal by looking at his outside leg.

Changing diagonal

If, when you check, you realise you’re on the wrong diagonal, there’s no need to worry because it’s super-easy to change. All you need to do is stay sitting for an extra trot step and then rise back up again – ‘up, down, up, down, down, up, down, up’. Then glance down at his shoulder again to check you’ve got it right.

Test yourself

Ask a friend to watch you trot then, without looking down, call out whether you think you’re on the correct diagonal or not. They can tell you whether you’re right so you don’t have to look down.

You could also try closing your eyes for a few strides to see whether you can work out if you’re correct without looking, then glance down after you’ve made your guess. This will really help you get the feel for how your pony’s legs are moving underneath you and soon you won’t need to look down at all.

Top tips

  • Try to keep your checking glance quite short so that you’re not looking down for too long. 
  • When you go into trot, stay sitting for a few strides to see if you can get the correct diagonal first time.
  • Try closing your eyes for a few strides to help you get the feel of riding on the correct diagonal. 


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September 2020

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