Ask the Expert Archive
Q: Could you please explain the new dressage rule about posting on the correct diagonal? Why is this important and should I change my posting on the shallow trot loop? Thanks! Alyssa D, Vashon, WA
A: From Pony Club through the levels, riders are taught that properly posting a horse’s trot diagonals is a feature of good horsemanship and equitation. We know that correctly posted diagonals are biomechanically important and can assist the horse and rider with balance and timing of the aids.
As an instructor and a judge, I always notice a rider’s posting diagonals; however, until recently, judges have been taught to disregard this issue as it was not a USEF defined rule. As you know, the USEF approved a new rule, effective April 1, 2013, that calls for correctly posting the trot diagonals when rising trot is permitted. I say it's about time this part of riding became defined in our rules. Canter leads certainly are—why not posting diagonals?
Here are some things to keep in mind:
Try to start each rising trot sequence on the correct diagonal: sitting when the inside hind/outside fore are on the ground. Don’t rush—it is perfectly acceptable to sit a step or two as you transition into trot.
If you catch yourself on the incorrect diagonal, simply switch over as smoothly as you can, showing concern for balance and harmony for your horse.
When trotting across the arena on a diagonal line, switch as near to X as possible.
In a trot lengthening, try to stay on one posting diagonal while in the lengthening so as to not disturb the horse’s balance and flow. It is acceptable to change your posting diagonal at either the beginning or end of the movement.
When riding a single loop or serpentine, switch diagonals when you change bend—upon crossing the quarter line or center line.
When riding up the center line at the beginning or end of a test, the posting diagonal is your choice!
One last thing: riders should not worry excessively about this new rule. From a judge's perspective, a momentary diagonal 'infraction' will not be viewed harshly. It is information that the judge will use as a score modifier when deciding, for example, between a 6.5 and 7.0 for a movement; it will not drop your 7.0 movement score to a 2.0 or 3.0.
Follow up Q: Is is it "wrong" to change diagonals in the "up" phase of posting as opposed to the sitting phase? I was taught to change diagonals in the up phase, and taught that it is easier on the horse (provided of course that you can stay balanced, which is quite a trick. -- Diane, La Pine, OR
A: Hi Diane. Good question. No it is not wrong -- or right -- to change diagonals on either the up or down phase. As you stated, it's the balance, grace, and harmony that the judges are looking for.
Enjoy your rides!
DR 117.7 was approved by the USEF Board of Governors on 1/19/2013 and will take effect 4/1/2013. The new rules states: When rising trot is permitted in a test or class, the rider should change the diagonal when changing directions, except during a lengthening. The correct diagonal is considered to be when the rider is sitting when the outside front foot and inside hind foot are on the ground.