posting
Photo Credit: NBanaszak Photography

Not all rising trots are equal.

There are three reasons we rise at the trot. First, we might want to take our weight off the horse's back - and the easiest way to do it is to rise (or "post") every other stride in rhythm with the horse's movement.

Second, maybe we want the horse to have the opportunity to reach further underneath his body with his hind leg. By rising while the outside shoulder reaches forward (called rising on the correct "diagonal" leg), we remove our weight from the saddle just as the horse's inside hind leg comes off the ground. This encourages and allows the horse to step deeper with the inside hind leg, which is the balancing leg especially on a turn.

Third, we can influence the horse's activity level - we can change horse's leg speed by posting faster or slower. The horse tends to follow the tempo of our seat, and if we can control that tempo, we can be more effective without ever having to go to the hands or legs.

The next time you go to a show, or visit the barn when there is a riding lesson, stop and analyze the way that the riders ride the horse's trot.

Look for the riders that appear to be working most in tandem with the horse and then watch their technique. What do you notice?

They don't move up and down.

Instead, they move forward and back within the movement of the horse.



That is, their pelvis comes forward to the top of the pommel, hovers there for a moment (or even two), and then gently settles back into the saddle, off the cantle (ideally). The "forward" movement follows an upward arc toward the pommel, and the "back" follows a similar arc.

The knees are soft and the angles demonstrate little change.

What they are not doing is standing up and down in the saddle.

There is very little rise. Why not?

When you move straight up and down, you fall behind the horse's movement. As you work to regain your lost balance, you come back down heavily and push your weight straight down to the ground. This might shorten the horse's stride, throw him off balance by putting him to the forehand, and may even cause back discomfort over the long term.

Stay in balance in the trot.

If you can move forward and back with the horse's movement, you can maintain a much more organic balance.

Use the trot bounce to send your pelvis on the arc toward the top of the pommel and steady yourself at the top of the movement with your inner thighs. Then arc back with control so you can mindfully rest on the horse, causing as little discomfort and interference as possible.

If you can move efficiently within the horse's movement, you can even influence the horse's length of stride and speed. You can slow down the horse by slowing your posting down, or conversely, you can speed him up.

The next time you ride, pay close attention to your rising trot technique and play with forward/back versus up/down.

Then let us know what you think in the comment section below.

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36 Comments

  1. Since I have developed knee problems (age/arthritis) posting has become almost impossible. I am trying to learn to do a sitting trot which is not injurious to my horse or me. I will try moving back and forth more. Does that still require knee pressure?

    1. You can even completely sit the trot and semi-post within the “sit” movement. So, while you sit, just roll forward on the pelvis and then back, just as you would do for the rising trot. There should be very little change in your knee angle or pressure that way. It also still helps the horse in that you are moving in his movement, so you will be more in balance.

      Thanks so much for reading!

    2. Elizabeth, in posting forward onto your thighs, you don’t squeeze with your knees. You knee is a hinge and as you roll forward onto your thighs, your knee will slide down an inch or two as your thighs are carrying your weight. I have osteo & rheumatoid arthritis and I can still post in comfort

  2. I love this website. I learn so much by having little tidbits once per day… Thank you for creating this……

  3. Very well written! My trainer has told us before about slowing/speeding up our posting to get the horses to move slower/faster. I also find counting a slow, one, two, one, two rhythm silently in my head also helps slow them down to match the rhythm. 🙂

  4. Thank you for such a detailed explanation. Can’t wait to start practicing it and working more with my horse instead of against her.

  5. Love this one…great visuals to explain the movement. Esecially important for me to keep in mind that the angles don’t change. Thank you for taking the time to explain.

  6. It can help to realize that the horse creates the lift in the post and the rider then closes the hip angle to lower back into the saddle. A bigger lift, extended trot, comes from the riders leg aid first. The post is only as high as the horse lifts the rider. Slowing, or collection, comes from shifting weight back down into the seat (and leg) faster during rein backs. Always establish the trot tempo before starting to post. If you loose your timing go to the two-point and start lowering into the saddle to establish the post.
    These tips have helped the new riders I train to learn the post quickly. Oh, and watch out for the “trot game”. Horses love to keep trotting faster and have you post faster. Stop the game by slowing your post down. Thanks for the great article. Thumbs up, Hood River Equestrian

  7. I’m confused – “Use the trot bounce to send your pelvis on the arc toward the top of the cantle” – top of the cantle? or toward the pommel? Sorry – still learning! Love all your articles – they have helped me so much.

    1. OMG! Of the hundreds of readers of this article, you’re the first to mention (and catch?) that mistake! I really mean “the pommel”. “Send your pelvis on the arc toward the top of the POMMEL”!! Yikes! Going to change that right now.

      Thanks!

  8. Great description! I find that I can practice the movement even at a walk. This seems to make my horse happy, and it is a great way to strengthen my abs so that I can post my Belgian’s big trot.

  9. If you steady yourself by finding your balance over the balls of your feet in the stirrup or slightly snugging your calf against the horse’s ribs, you allow more energy to flow through the horse from back to front. Using your inner thighs runs the risk of shutting off that energy flow. LOVE your writing!!! Thank you!!!!

  10. Rising trot without stirrups is the easiest way to find this technique. I have bad 3 bone arthritis in my knee and can only continue to post at the trot by using the forward arc method as it is far less stressful on the rider’s joints. I find most people have too much tension and inward push in the inner thigh (without realising it) to perform this correctly so if you are struggling try posting without stirrups and transferring your thigh pressure to the outer thigh whiich sends it down the leg.

  11. Kudos on a good informative article. As I read thru it I could envision a novice rider’s literal interpretation of the first reason listed to rise the trot. I think clarification might assist some readers grasp the “forward/back concept vs the up/down.
    A rider’s weight is never somehow taken off a horse’s body by posting. We cannot post and magically suspend ours bodies into midair briefly relieving the horse of our weight. Rather a rider’s weight momentarily is relocated further forward during the rising phase. I feel If we have knowledge of the horses conformation and names of the lumbar areas we can see when posting it is the intent to shift the rider’s weight from the back towards the withers in coordination with the horse’s leg and back movements during the trot.

  12. When I first began taking lessons, I was told “Up & Down” and it created a sore lower back. I rode for years posting “Up & Down”. It wasn’t until I met Gordon Wright, the father of American Hunt Seat Equitation. He stayed at our house after giving a clinic in our area. He wandered outside to find me lunging a horse, showed me some things to do on-line and asked if I was going to ride. Gordon worked with me and asked if my back was sore and explained why and then how to correctly post the trot. As soon as I bent at my waist with my balance over the horses’ withers, the pain was gone. By rolling my weight forward onto my thighs and bending softly from my waist, the horse threw me up & forward about an inch or two. Then you sink into your crouch and repeat. It was a much smaller softer movement, following the horses’ movement And it didn’t hurt the back.
    I run into problems with students riding dressage on horses who are on their forehand
    and they have been taught to post from a vertical(up/down) position (kitchen chair). They are behind the horses’ balance and motion and look so stiff. Combine that with forcing their hands down onto the withers and their hands also bounce & bang the horse in the mouth disturbing the horses ability to relax and balance. I know that as a horse’s training progresses and their balance begins to shift towards their hind quarter and becomes more uphill, that your position posting will change to remain in balance and with the of the horse.
    I have seen videos of riders posting vertically on horses who are not off their forehands and the expert is approving this behind the motion posting. It bothers me that people are paying good money for incorrect instruction. When I have contacted the expert and discussed this , I was told I didn’t understand the dressage position! I have ridden, schooled, trained and shown horses up to 4th level and have ridden with well known & respected clinicians.- I don’t get it.

  13. Very well-written article! One note, though, is be careful of interchanging “rhythm” and “tempo” (especially with American audiences). Typically, you don’t change a horse’s rhythm with your (good) rising (or posting) trot….your desire is to change the pace, speed, ground cover, or tempo. 🙂

  14. I think that when we are taught how to post, the easiest way to learn it the ” up and down” movement. After learning that way, I watched my instructor and noticed the difference in her post vs. my own. So I imitated her, and that’s when I began to roll forward and back with the motion! So much better. Less wasted energy!

    1. I start teaching my students to post from the walk at a half seat by rolling onto thighs and sinking down to crouch and repeat I have found this better that having students try to post from a seated position
      I teach them the half seat & 2 point walk & trot till they are comfortable and balanced, then I begin to teach posting. I also use the half seat to teach canter until they are comfortable and balanced, then I begin to teach 3 point canter

  15. I love the articles that I have read… In my training with posting…we talk about bigger posting or smaller posting to influence the stride of the horse…I do not want the horse to get faster or slower per se, but to increase or decrease his length of stride to help engage the back, belly, and hindquarters which means I have to engage my core & calves as well as carry my upper body well to influence the horse for effective trot work. I understand this a basic overview of posting… thank you for letting me put my 2 cents in…

  16. Reading the comments here has left me in shock! Why aren’t instructors teaching this already? I’ve been teaching for years and this is the only way to teach a beginner to post the trot. Baffling….

  17. I teach my beginning riders to stand up at the trot so that they can get the feel of their legs underneath them. Once they have the leg position in memory the forward/backward finesse is taught. If they have their feet too far in front they will have a tendency to pull themselves up with the reins, thus creating discomfort for the horse.

  18. I teach my clients to post forward and back in a small arc, just enough that their hip goes from above their heel to their toe which should be under their knee. Also to stay standing in trot with a soft ankle, knee and hip to absorb the bounce in the horses movement and get used to keeping the lower leg in place. I commonly see riders push up from their feet instead of pivoting from the knee which causes loss of stability and balance . Love your articles by the way ?

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