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How to rise on the correct diagonal in trot without looking

In one of my previous blogs we have talked about why it is important to rise on the correct diagonal in rising trot. Most riders are only taught to look for the correct diagonal by glancing down at the horse’s outside shoulder and syncing their rise with the forward swing of the outside forelimb. You might have heard the phrase ‘rise and fall with the leg on the wall’. This is an easy visual technique and with practice you will  be able to check whether you are rising on the correct diagonal with just a quick glance. But is it possible to learn to pick up the correct trot diagonal without looking down? Absolutely! 🙂

1. Start at walk

What? I thought you were going to teach me about rising trot! Yes BUT first you need to check that you can feel your seat bones moving independently in the saddle. Try feeling how your horse moves your left and right seat bones one at the time in walk. Allow your hips to follow that movement – it should feel like your hips are walking with your horse – as one hip is pushed up and forward, the other one is drawn down and back.
What your hips are feeling is actually the ‘engine’ of the horse – or in other words, the hind legs stepping. So when your hip on one side is being pushed up, it means that the hind leg on the same side is in contact with the ground and beginning to push. Similarly, the other hip will be swinging down as the other hindlimb is being pulled forward in the swing phase. By focusing on your hips, you will always be able to tell which leg is in contact with the ground. The walk is different to trot as there is no suspension phase but it is useful to start to feel this movement in a slow pace.

You can also take away your stirrups as you will be able to feel the movement better that way. You can also try closing your eyes – many riders feel the movement better that way. Experiment to see what works best for you.

Note: Make sure that your horse is suitable for this exercise (safe and calm!) or ask your friend to lead you/lunge you in walk.

2. Practice in sitting trot

When you move into trot, this hip movement is going to become much quicker. It is important that you do not brace against the trot and do not tuck your pelvis underneath you as it would block the movement of the horses back (see my blog How to perfect your sitting trot).

Practice this for short periods of time and focus on the outside hip dropping and rising. The reason why I teach my student to focus on the outside hip is because it is in sync with the ‘rise and fall’ they have learnt to recognise visually. When your outside hip is drawn down and back that is your sitting part. When you feel your outside him hip being pushed up and forward that is your rise 🙂 

Remember that if you are rising on the correct diagonal, your should rise when the outside forelimb is beginning the swing phase which means that the outside hindlimb is beginning to push off from the ground. Therefore, you should feel a little ‘push up’ from your outside hip which is in sync with your rise.

3. Make this part of your routine 

When riders are asked to do a rising trot, they usually shoot straight up from the saddle into rising trot without allowing themselves to feel the correct diagonal. Before you jump into rising, allow yourself to sit for a few strides – make this deliberate practice. This way you will allow your body to feel what is happening and you will become quicker at feeling the correct diagonal. With time it should only take you a couple of strides to feel when to start rising.

Few points to note:

  • It might take you a little while to feel what is happening with your hips in trot as the movement is much quicker. However, most students get the idea within one lesson. Don’t be discouraged if you do not get the correct diagonal every time – it is a process but persevere.
  • Most riders have a ‘favourite’ hip. I feel my right hip more than my left so it is easier for me to pick up the correct diagonal when I am on the left rein (feeling the right ‘outside’ hip movement). From my coaching experience, majority of riders can ‘feel more’ with their right hip. Only a very small number of riders favours their left hip or are equally good with both their hips. Don’t be surprised if you find one rein easier than the other 🙂
  • You might be able to feel what is happening but not quick enough to rise when you feel the push. It is often easier to focus on the ‘down’ of your outside hip in order to be ready for the ‘up’. Play around with it and find what works for your.
  • Make sure your horse is sufficiently warmed up before you practice your ‘feeling’ in sitting trot. If your horse’s trot is nice and soft, you will have a better chance of being able to sit to it and feel the movement of the back.

I hope you found these tips helpful and I would love to hear from you if you have any specific horse and rider training questions. Are you looking for a horse riding instructor with a prove record of helping riders achieve their riding goals? Book your first lesson now with an experienced BHSAI  freelance riding instructor in Hertfordshire and start your journey to success.


For horse training, rider coaching &  equestrian career tips, visit my blog or follow my page on social media.  

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