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The How and Why of Posting to the Trot

By: Galadriel Billington

10:31AM Apr 8, 2004

Let's first discuss why we post. Walking and cantering are fairly smooth gaits; the trot is very NOT smooth! If you try to sit and hold yourself still, you will bounce all over the horse's back. This is obviously not fun for the rider; bouncing can make your derriere sore and bruised. It's not much fun for the horse either; imagine having to jog with a heavy backpack bouncing all over your back.

So we post. In posting, we do actually still bounce; we just do it in a controlled manner, so that neither the rider nor the horse ends up sore. When the horse takes a step with one pair of legs, it pushes the rider out of the saddle. Let that push happen; let it push you right up and out. Follow the movement. Keep your lower leg steady and softly on the horse. Pivot from the knee. Don't squeeze your calves, or your knees; just leave your legs still from the knee down. (For more on why your lower leg should be on, even when you're not using it, read Point your Toes In.)

When the horse's back pushes you out of the saddle, just let it happen. You do not have to push yourself--don't add any energy to this bounce. Some horses won't push you more than half an inch out of the saddle--this is fine. You're not trying to clear air here :)

You're now out of the saddle, as far as the horse pushed you. Your job now is to sit softly and quietly, without hurting yourself or the horse. This is where your main muscle exertion comes in. With your lower leg steady, pivot from the knee back into the seat of the saddle.

That was easy, wasn't it? Well, there is a bit more :) You are trying to post in time with the horse's trotting; thus, you let him push you up with one step, and you sit with the next step. You rise and fall once each per "stride"--that is, by the time the horse has moved all four legs and is ready to start over. Up, down, up, down, up, down rhythmically is your goal.

Well, maybe it wasn't "easy." It will take some practice at first, and posting is one of the few activities that use that particular set of muscles. When you are first learning to post, you will use the inside of your thighs particularly, as you gently lower yourself. It's normal to feel sore the day after heavy exertion; as you practice more, you will build your muscles and be less sore each time.

Your "posting diagonal" as you post is based on the direction in which you are going; you rise with either the left or the right shoulder of the horse. When you are not making very tight turns, it does not make a very big difference, but it is useful to know. Also, if you are trotting straight for a while (out on a trail, for example, just having fun), it is helpful to the horse if you change diagonals every so often.

I would like to mention, as a last thought, that you should try to keep your hands still as you post. This is another part of posting that is difficult to learn; your upper body is moving forward and back, but your hands should stay still. Eventually, you want to move just your pelvis area as you post; keep your lower leg and upper body still.

It is quite difficult to keep your hands still as you learn to post. It can be helpful to have a grab strap on your saddle or a neck strap on your horse; that way you can hold to it to keep from jouncing the horse in the mouth with the reins, while you are learning to post securely.
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2004 Galadriel Billington. All rights reserved.