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How to Help Riders Who Struggle to “Feel” Their Posting Diagonals

Submitted by member: Sara

I have a couple of young students who are having a very difficult time learning their diagonals. They have good basic positions and can change diagonals easily when asked, but they don’t seem to be able to see or feel what diagonal they are on. They can tell what diagonal another rider is on when watching. But even when I count out the rhythm of the correct leg (up, down, up), they often can’t tell whether they are moving with it, or opposite. I’ve tried every way I can think of to help them. Any specific ideas of how to help young children who just can’t seem to “get” diagonals?

Answer by Bernie

Sara, I encounter this in clinics quite often, and I do have a technique that has been successful with most riders. I will address this, as well as steer you to a free topic on that I did specifically for this issue.

First, of course, the rider has to be able to visually identify the right from wrong diagonal.  Some riders do require more time to get this, but it’s worth spending the time to focus on this.  If they visually can’t see the inside shoulder/leg coming back on the rising part, then have them look at the outsider shoulder/leg going forward as they rise.  Have them change diagonals 100 times a day for a couple weeks with your (or someone’s) help identifying right from wrong, and I think they should easily be able to at least visually tell.

Once that is mastered, now comes the important part: “Feeling.”  Riders that know visually the correct diagonal, yet still have trouble feeling the diagonal, usually comes from always looking at the diagonal first, rather than feeling first.

So my fix for this is having them sit the trot, begin posting and look ahead.  Take a few seconds to feel, make a decision, then look to see if it’s correct or not.  If not, sit a stride and feel the correct.  Sit another stride and feel the incorrect one.

They will instinctively want to look first, or cheat the exercise, so watch their eyes. Repeat this over and over.  Feel first, then verify.  I really doubt it will take more than two weeks to almost master this if they practice this daily.  And they can practice on their own. I did have one girl who had a terrible time feeling them, and she was in her 30’s.  As you will see in my topic, I put her on a lunge line and had her shut her eyes and do this exercise.  Taking that sensory away seemed to do the trick!

Video Recommendation:

horse, lunge line, bernie traurig

FREE VIDEO: Diagonal Issues? Feeling Your Diagonals
Bernie Traurig
Bernie Traurig takes the frustration out of missed diagonals. With just a bit of practice, you’ll be feeling your diagonals with your eyes closed!
Running Time:  3 minutes and 43 seconds

View Video

Learning Diagonals
Susan Deal
Part 11 of Susan Deal’s “Forward Riding Series – Exercises for a Rider’s First Year.” In Susan Deal’s 11th topic from her video series, she works with two young riders at different stages of learning their diagonals. As the result of early horse show competition in her young riding career, the first student has learned to look to determine her diagonals and is in the process of learning to feel them instead. Her second rider was taught to feel the rhythm of her pony’s trot and easily pops up on the correct diagonal every time without looking.
Running Time:  3 minutes and 6 seconds

View Video

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Bernie Traurig

As a Horseman, Bernie is renowned for not only his riding talents but for his teaching and coaching gifts. As a competitor, Bernie has represented the United States Equestrian Team both at home and abroad on many occasions and reached the top of the sport in all 3 of the International Equestrian Olympic disciplines: Show Jumping, Dressage, and Eventing.After amassing 60 years worth of training and riding techniques and experiences with thousands of horses, Bernie is driven to give back to the sport that has given him so much fulfillment and success.

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