Posting to the Diagonal
If you watch more advanced riders, you'll notice that when riding around a
ring they always rise to the trot when a particular pair of the horse's legs
moves forward.  When the horse's outside shoulder moves forward, they
rise, and as the inside shoulder moves forward, they sit.
A lot of instructors focus on teaching diagonals.  That's because anyone
who will eventually participate in horse shows needs to know how to ride to
the correct diagonal.  And at higher levels of riding, which include intricate
circle patterns, riding on the correct diagonal not only increases your
comfort, but also is important to the balance of the horse.
However, I think instructors spend too much time teaching diagonals.  Most
beginning students have to look down to match their post to the outside
shoulder when they should instead pay attention to where they're going.  So
why am I even mentioning diagonals?  At some point, your instructor
probably will want you to learn them.
Master the posting trot before you attempt to post to the correct diagonal.  
Ideally, you'll be able to feel when the horse's outside shoulder moves
forward and you won't have to look down.  Unfortunately, it's unlikely you'll
be able to do that soon.  So when you do look down, try to make it a quick
glance -- just the second or two it takes for you to see the outside shoulder
move.  If you discover you're on the incorrect diagonal, simply sit down for
an odd number of bounces, which will put you on the correct diagonal.
Once you're in tune with your horse and posting on the correct diagonal,
don't look down again, unless you accidentally sit an extra bounce or the
horse missteps and throws off your rhythm.  If that happens, once again
glance down just enough to catch that forward outside shoulder motion, and
then refocus on where you're going.  Otherwise, you might never get there.


Warning Signs
The safety section in lesson 1 focused on your behavior around horses.  
But to stay safe, you also need to recognize when a horse shows warning
signs of impending trouble.
His ears are laid back on his head.  This could be described as making an
ugly face.  It's definitely not pretty.  The horse looks fierce, and he means
to.  If you're leading a horse and he lays back his ears and makes a face,
calmly call to an instructor or some other nearby experienced person for
In the meantime, keep control of the horse's head by holding the reins or
lead rope about five or six inches away from the horse's mouth; if the horse
moves, a strong check is in order.  Be sure to stand at the horse's shoulder,
not in front of him.
His tail swishes.  Horses swish their tails to get rid of flies, but sharp, rapid
swishes also can signal irritation.  You need to learn the difference.  A horse
grazing in a pasture on a hot summer day is most likely trying to get rid of
flies by swishing. If a mounted horse starts swishing his tail because the
horse and rider behind him are too close, look out.  Chances are he's
irritated.   You're more likely to notice this problem if you're the one on the
second horse.  Stay at least one horse length away from the horse in front
to avoid a possible kick.
If you're on the ground, remember never to walk up behind a horse,
especially one that's swishing his tail.
His eyes wider and the white around the iris shows.  This usually indicates
that the horse has been surprised, is in distress, or is frightened.  Calmly
but immediately call out to the instructor.
His nostrils are flared and he's fidgeting and sweating.  This indicates a very
upset, nervous horse.  Ask for another horse or ask your instructor to ride
the horse first to confirm that he's calm enough for you to use in your lesson.
He turns his rump to you.  This usually occurs in the stall.  The horse
doesn't want you to approach him.  Get someone with more experience to
handle him.
Toby is a Draft Cross -- a cross between a Draft (a large horse bred to pull
heavy loads) and another, smaller breed.  Although of average height, he's
big boned and bulky, and his feet are twice the usual size.  He has a long,
full black mane and tail, giving him a playful appearance, and playful he is.  
In the field, he's silly.  He likes to take the halters off other horses with his
teeth.  You'll also find him rubbing his neck on trees a lot.

Especially sweet and docile with people, Toby provides a calm and steady
mount.  He proves that you can't judge a horse's temperament by his size.  
He's patient with beginners and won't do anything crazy, even if you make
mistakes.  But like many Draft Crosses, he has a well-deserved reputation
for laziness, which can present a challenge for riders.  Toby can be
stubborn and refuse to go.
You're on track if you can:

Trot your horse at a slow and a slightly faster speed.

Post to the trot.

Use a crop safely.

Coordinate your hand and leg aids more frequently.


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Woodland Horse Center
16301 New Hampshire Avenue, Silver Spring, MD 20905
301-421-9156          fax: 301-421-9049