Rising on the correct diagonal is important, but why?
Eva Marunova BHSAI PgDip BSc (Hons), explains why rising on the correct diagonal is so important
Have you ever wondered why we are taught to rise on a certain diagonal in trot – does it even matter? The short answer is – yes, it does! Everything that we do in the saddle, affects the horse – for better or worse, it is important that we understand the influence we have and, how we can help our horses move in a more balanced way.
How does rising in trot affect the horse’s movement?
In a straight line, rising in trot has been shown to induce changes in movement symmetry of the horse. The pelvis seems to be affected more consistently than the, head and two distinct patterns can be observed:
During the sitting phase the horse’s pelvis reaches a lower minimum position¹ and, there is a relative increase in the vertical ground reaction forces⁴.
As the rider actively rises up in the stirrups, this creates a downward moment translating into decreased pelvic rise (reduction in horse’s push off) after the stance of the limb we sit on¹ ² ³.
This uneven movement of rising trot produces an asymmetric load on the horse’s back affecting the motion symmetry of the horse’s pelvis and lumbar spine as well as uneven loading of limbs¹ ² ³ ⁴. Remember that this asymmetrical loading is repeated with every stride! So, if you are out hacking or riding mostly on a straight line, you should alternate between rising diagonals so that you are loading the horse's back and limbs (diagonals) evenly. Consequently, there is no such a thing as ‘correct diagonal’ when you are out hacking or only working in straight lines but, it is very important that we change the rising diagonals frequently, in order to avoid overloading and possible injuries.
When does rising trot make the horse more balanced?
Rising on the correct diagonal becomes important while working in an arena, as we mostly work in some sort of a circular pattern (i.e. on the left or right rein). 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, so making the horse more symmetrical on a circle (1). On the other hand, rising on the ‘incorrect diagonal' increases 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 help your horse be more balanced. Conversely, riding on the wrong diagonal increases asymmetrical loading of the horse's body and, can lead to uneven muscle development or injuries.
Take home message
As riders we need to be aware of the influence we have on the horse when we are riding and, how this influence can be positive for the horse rather than hindering its movement and balance. Rising trot induces an asymmetrical loading pattern on the body and, this uneven loading is repeated with every single stride. How many trot stride does your horse take in average riding session? It probably adds up, doesn’t it? It is therefore important that when we trot on a hack, we alternate between trotting diagonals to even out the load. When riding in an arena or on circles, we should be mindful about riding on the correct diagonal, as getting it right makes the horse more balanced and symmetrical while riding on the wrong diagonal intensifies the unevenness that is imposed when working on a circle.
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