The trot is a two beat gait. When a horse trots it reaches forward with its left foreleg, and right hind leg, and then reaches forward with its right foreleg and left hind leg—the diagonal legs are synchronized. With a trot there are always two hooves on the ground and two in suspension. The footfall pattern remains the same whether the horse is turning left or right. So the horse doesn’t actually have diagonals. At a trot it is the rider that needs to be aware of what diagonal pair to rise or sit on to help the horse balance and flex. When circling and turning, the rider rises when the outside foreleg and inside hind hits the ground. Nothing about the horse’s trot changes when the rider changes diagonals, which they will do when they change direction to circle or turn in the opposite direction.
Basic's for the Cutting Horse...
Today Boss-Man's Assistant Trainer asked me to trot both ways on the horse I was warming up for him. I thought he was checking her soundness. After I was done he asked me if I'd ever ridden English, I replied with "Uhm.. not really.. why?" He just shrugged and said, "Because you know your diagonals." I stared at him blankly, before finally squeaking out (wondering if I was being a total idiot and generally confused about what was happening) "Yes. Doesn't everyone?" Apparently not, according to him, a lot of people he sees in the industry don't seem to know their diagonals. He told me that, in fact, it was only a few years ago that he found out about trot diagonals from a past Boss' wife who rode Dressage. Our two year old trainer chimed in that, he too, did not know about diagonals until recently and said "I thought it was an english thing..."
Please remember that these are both pretty accomplished guys that both have a keen interest in proper technique and training. They regularly have in-depth conversations about the "mechanics behind the proper footfalls in the turnaround." Like, what does that even mean? & they didn't know their diagonals until a couple years ago...
Now, are most of you shocked that people who ride competitively don't know their diagonals? Because I most certainly was.
Assistant Trainer finished off the whole diagonal discussion with explaining to me why he was so interested in diagonals lately. He claims that he's noticed a lot of our horses hopping into their lope departures, and he's been spending a lot of time working on bending them and working them slowly at the jog and trot. He said that one of his ideas behind why they are doing this is because some of our lopers don't use the correct diagonal, and when they ask for the lope departure in the corners of our arena, it is causing the horse to have to over-compensate into the lope. He said he wasn't sure if that's actually why they were doing it, but that it's one of the ideas he's working on. Finally, the discussion turned in to one of the basics of horsemanship, and how he believes that the industry is lacking a sense of horsemanship, and that it's sorely missed. All in all, very interesting.
This story has a point... i'm getting there... I promise.
I have a very hard time picking up my right diagonal correctly. I literally have to count the gait out to get it, and it frustrates me to no end. It's literally a mind over body thing, i'm getting much better but every once and awhile I have to do the 'ol double-bounce into the correct diagonal and I always get embarrassed about it. So, to find out, that a) my co-workers probably weren't even noticing and b) hey, I'm doing something right that other people aren't... is a nice feeling.. because it brings us all to:
Our Second Topic Today...
Ie. Where am I going & What am I doing & [insert general spiral downwards here]
Toto... we ain't in Kansas anymore..
Looking back on my "career" thus far at the ripe 'ol age of 21, i've grown exponentially month by month with horses and my own riding since I was 16. When I was16, I didn't know how to pick out a horses hoof... let alone my diagonals, leads, leg yields etc. As I get older and have more time to devote to riding and my general focus on horses, that exponential growth seems more directed, and rapid. However, I am ridiculously hard on myself, and I can't help but compare myself to other 21 year olds that are winning in the cutting pen, that are finding themselves already in the Hall of Fame, are working amazing jobs where they are training high-level horses etc. etc. I'm just not there yet, I'm barely there, I have a toe kind of in the door and i'm death-fighting to get another in. It can be very frustrating.
BUT, today I was thinking hard about all of these things i've mentioned... my direction is atleast on the right path and i'm hungry for it. Hungrier than i've ever been for anything. I think that fighting instinct, that i've had for the last couple years, is a really good thing. I'm not slowing down and i'm fighting to keep going faster in the right direction.
Plus, I need to remind myself that comparison gets you nowhere. I'm not those people, the only person I can be is me, so I need to take that for what it's worth and just keep on going. However, yes, a tiny little piece of me felt a little gratified that, for once, maybe for the first time ever, it was pointed out to me that I knew something about riding that the people around me didn't... and it was so simple!
Finally, horsemanship is very important to me, and one day I want to be able to have an intelligent, comprehensive discussion about the proper mechanics of the footfall of the turnaround, and more...! Today, I watched a video on my facebook wall of someone working a horse on the flag... it was not very flattering. I am beginning to be able to pick up on the nuances of what is good, and what is bad when working a horse on the flag, and on a cow. That's something I wouldn't have been able to do even 6 months ago... So, it shows me that i'm learning, i'm growing and i'm somewhere on the right track, even if i'm stumbling around on aforementioned track.
Perhaps this post was really more for me than anything, but hey - maybe you'll enjoy my introspective ramblings as well.
We've come a long way baby..
a wee 15 year old Louisa & Windsong