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Why should I rise on the ‘correct diagonal’ in trot?

Have you ever wondered why we are taught to rise on a ‘correct diagonal’ in trot? Does it even matter? And what is the ‘correct diagonal’ anyway?

Brief introduction to the biomechanics of trot

Trot is a two-beat, symmetrical gait with synchronised diagonal limb movement. Or simply put, each diagonal pair of limbs (left fore + right hind or right fore + left hind) will be in contract with the ground (stance) followed by a brief moment when no limbs will be in contact with the ground (suspension phase).

What do we mean by the ‘correct diagonal’?

In rising trot (posting trot in the US), the rider will be rising on one diagonal while sitting on the other diagonal. Riders should alternate between diagonals dependant on which rein they are riding on. Usually riders will first learn to watch 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. Therefore, if on the correct diagonal, the rider should rise when the outside forelimb & inside hindlimb are beginning the swing phase and the inside forelimb and outside hindlimb are in contact with the ground.

A horse and rider in trot rising.
A rider during a sitting phased of rising trot on the left rein.

Does rising on the correct diagonal matter?

Correct diagonal during a straight-line trot

There is no such a thing as ‘correct diagonal’ when you are out hacking or only working in straight lines. However, rising trot still influences the horses locomotion. As the rider actively rises up in the stirrups, this creates a downward moment and this translates into decreased pelvic rise (reduction in horse’s push off) (1, 2, 3).

The uneven movements of rising trot produces an asymmetric load on the horse’s back affecting the motion symmetry of the horse’s pelvis and lumbar spine (4). So if you are out hacking (riding mostly on a straight line), you should alternate between rising diagonals so that you are loading the horses back and limbs (diagonals) evenly.

Correct diagonal during trot on a circle

Rising on the correct diagonal becomes important while riding in an arena as we mostly work in some sort of a circular pattern. Circular motion induces locomotory asymmetries in horses without a rider on board and a recent study showed that rising on the correct diagonal can counteract these circle induced asymmetries and thus making the horse more symmetrical on a circle (1).

On the other hand, rising on the ‘wrong diagonal’ increased the asymmetrical movement of the horse on a circle even more. Therefore, riding with correct diagonals in mind can improve the horse’s symmetry on a circle and can make your horse more balanced. 

Summary

  • Rising trot results in asymmetrical loading of the horse’s back and limbs.
  • During hacking, change rising diagonal frequently for even loading of the horse’s back and limbs.
  • If working on a circle, rising on the correct diagonal can make the horse more balanced.
  • Rising on the wrong diagonal can make the horse more asymmetrical as the circle-induced asymmetries are amplified.

I hope you find this little scientific insight into rising trot helpful. For more evidence-backed horse and rider training tips check out my other blogs:


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


References:

  1. Persson-Sjodin E, Hernlund E, Pfau T, Haubro Andersen P, Rhodin M. Influence of seating styles on head and pelvic vertical movement symmetry in horses ridden at trot. PLoS One. 2018;13(4):e0195341.
  2. Martin P, Cheze L, Pourcelot P, Desquilbet L, Duray L, Chateau H. Effect of the rider position during rising trot on the horse’s biomechanics (back and trunk kinematics and pressure under the saddle). Journal of biomechanics. 2016;49(7):1027–1033. pmid:26947029
  3. van Beek FE, de Cocq P, Timmerman M, Muller M. Stirrup forces during horse riding: a comparison between sitting and rising trot. Veterinary journal. 2012;193(1):193–198. pmid:22100209
  4. Roepstorff L, Egenvall A, Rhodin M, Byström A, Johnston C, Weeren PR, et al. Kinetics and kinematics of the horse comparing left and right rising trot. Equine Veterinary Journal. 2009;41(3):292–296. pmid:19469238

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