Last week we discussed the importance of the posting trot. One of the reasons posting trot is so important is that it trains the horse and the rider the correct timing of the aids. Only with having the correct posting diagonal can we accomplish this skill.
The correct diagonal means that we are up while the outside shoulder is forward and the inside hind leg is stepping forward. On some horses this is an obvious feeling, on others it is not. Regardless if you feel the correct diagonal or not it is still ultra-important to the horse.
Until recently, the correct diagonal was not taken into consideration in the score. That changed, because horsemanship involves proper timing and feel. If one is on the correct diagonal, then they should be rewarded and encouraged to keep doing that. If a rider is not on the correct diagonal, then they should be corrected so that they keep seeking the proper feel for the horse.
Now, as for timing… the proper diagonal will give you the tools you need to develop yourself and the horse to a greater level. The reason we want to be up with the outside front and the inside hind is so the inside hind has the room to come through (which encourages inside rib cage to lift to meet the rider’s seat which then causes bend and the back to lift). The inside hind is responsible for activity, while the outside hind takes on more of a carrying role. This means that when we are up in the post, we can use an activating outside leg to encourage the horse to step through. Also, while we are up, we can step into the inside stirrup a bit more and allow the outside shoulder to come through to the inside a bit more. I see very often, riders squeezing the horse on the down phase of the post. This is just a waste of energy because the outside shoulder is back in at that point and unable to swing in and the inside hind is already down. Once a limb is down, the chance of influencing it is gone in that moment.
Once you have mastered this in the posting trot, then you can begin to feel where the legs are in the sitting trot and suddenly, the rider is able to influence more correct movement from the horse. Movement that protects the longevity of our equine partner. Movement that improves, acquires more grace, and builds more strength.
Spend as much time as you need in the posting trot to ensure that you really build this timing.