Trotting diagonals is one of the best strength building and balancing exercises you can do for your horse.

A trot is a two-beat gait in which a front and hind leg on opposite sides of the body move together. This is called a diagonal gait and the pair of legs in motion is called the diagonal pair.

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So the right front moves with the left hind. And the left front moves with the right hind.

To Post Or Not To Post

Posting the trot is where you slightly rise out of the saddle for one stride and sit for the opposite stride. Apparently, there is a myth going around that you should never post the trot in a western saddle. For a slow trot, sitting is not a bad idea. But for an extended trot, posting will help take the stress off your horse’s back and muscular system. It will allow his back to stay in a neutral or even rounded configuration and increase his longevity, strength, and balance.

Learn more about The Value Of An Extended Trot

Many people over exaggerate when they post. They rise up too far off the saddle seat. This is totally unnecessary and will make you tired in a hurry. Experiment with barely coming off your butt when you post. You will see that a slight rise is much more efficient and keeps you in better sync with the horse.

Diagonals Rise And Fall

When posting a trot, the rule of thumb is ‘rise and fall with the shoulder on the wall’. So as you are going around to the left in an arena, the horse’s right shoulder will be ‘on the wall’. To properly post that diagonal, you would rise when the right front shoulder and left hind foot go forward. You would sit when the left front shoulder and right hind foot go forward.

When you change directions and go on a circle to the right, you would rise when the left shoulder goes forward.

You will always be in sync with one of the diagonals. Allow the horse’s impulsion to dictate your timing. 

Make sure to spend equal time going both directions. If you notice one side is weaker, spend a little more time on that side.

Mistakes When Trotting Diagonals

Most people will naturally post on the right hand diagonal (with the right front and left hind foot). We must be conscious of which diagonal we are posing on so that we can make sure to balance it out. If not, the horse will get stronger on one side. Therefore, he will be crooked with uneven muscling. 

This can cause the horse to have a hard time picking up the correct lead. It can also make the horse less balanced in his turns. Not to mention the physical ailments an unbalanced horse will eventually develop.

Switching Trot Diagonals

Even when you are trotting your horse in a straight line, get in the habit of switching diagonals. Start out with the diagonal you typically use. Then stand or sit for an extra beat and post on the opposite diagonal. Unless your horse is already very evenly muscled, you will swear he went crippled. Both diagonals will not feel that same until the horse becomes more balanced.

But switching diagonals on a regular basis will greatly help with that.

Check Your Saddle

Correctly posting diagonals will be much easier if your saddle is configured so that your stirrups hang straight down, not at a forward angle. Your shoulder, hip, and heel are on a straight line. With your feet directly under your hip, posting will be much easier. If your saddle throws your feet too far forward, posting correctly could be a struggle. 

There are some minor adjustments you can make to a saddle that will cause the stirrups to hang more naturally. We have a video titled ‘Trotting Secrets’ on that demonstrates how to easily alter stirrup leathers. 

Listen To My Podcast: The Benefits Of Trotting Diagonals

Carson James
Carson James

Carson James' background is in Vaquero Horsemanship, and for the majority of his career, he worked on cattle ranches where he rode horses all day, every day. His knowledge comes from real life experience using traditional Buckaroo horsemanship to train horses and fix problems. He is now taking all of this knowledge and experience and sharing it with horse owners through his blog, his Insider list, and his Buckaroo Crew. He has a unique way of breaking things down where they're easy to understand, both for the horse and the human.