Learning the Posting Trot
If Toby wasn't used in a lesson prior to yours, your instructor probably will
have you review last week's lesson as a warm-up for the horse. After that,
you're ready to begin.
Start by standing up in the stirrups to improve your balance on the horse.
You may find yourself wanting to grab the reins to help you up, but that
makes Toby back up, so it's not a good idea.
To stand up, hold onto the mane or the front of the saddle, and stand
straight up. Now you're going to sit directly down into the saddle without
letting your feet move. If you stood up correctly, your lower leg is in the
proper position. Your feet are under your body mass; don't let them move
when you sit back down.
Try it again, but this time when you rise, lean your body forward slightly.
Feel the horse with your calves. The action is more forward than up; your
hips move toward your hands. Keep practicing until you can do this easily,
without holding onto mane or reins. You should feel more like you're
kneeling rather than sitting.
After standing up and sitting down several times without falling forward or
backward, you're ready to try the trot. First, though, you have to know how
to tell Toby to trot:
Aids to the Trot
1. Sit down.
2. Squeeze with your legs.
3. Push with your back.
4. Give with your hands.
Yes, these are the same aids you use when you ask the horse to walk. But
you insist a bit more to encourage the horse to trot instead of walk. The
farther back you position your legs and the harder you squeeze, the more
aggressive are your leg aids.
You'll feel two bounces for every stride the horse takes. You'll be in the air
when these bounces occur, and sitting in the saddle between them. You sit
for only a fraction of a second. It's really more like touching the saddle with
your butt than sitting down.
Go left around the ring. Chances are that the first time you ask Toby to trot,
your derriere is going to bounce! bounce! bounce! against the seat. That's
okay. You're learning.
Does this hurt Toby? It's certainly going to make him uncomfortable, and
you're going to owe him an extra carrot or two after class. But hopefully you
won't be doing this for long, and Toby's a patient fellow. Teaching you is
how he earns his oats.
Focus on finding the rhythm of the horse. There's a definite sequence to
the horse's bouncing. Learn to feel it. Picot forward from your knees, taking
your hips toward your hands and then back. Avoid moving your body
straight up and down. Remember, you should feel like you're kneeling.
When you first learn to post, your upper body will probably lean slightly
forward. That's okay for now and actually will make it easier for you to
learn. As you progress, however, your seat will become deeper because
your stirrups will be longer and your thighs straighter. The tendency to lean
forward will lessen or, hopefully, vanish altogether.
In time, you'll have the perfect balanced seat. In fact, you can tell how well
people ride (balance seat) by observing how they sit at the halt on a horse.
The more perpendicular their thighs are to the ground (the more their knees
point downward) the better their seat. The more the angulation -- that is,
the more their thighs come up and their knees point forward -- the shallower
A proper seat, and especially maintaining a proper seat while posting, takes
time to learn. Count on at least one hour of work to get the hang of the
posting trot (and I mean real sweat time), because there's a lot going on.
You've got to control the horse, tell him where to go, and at the same time
coordinate your movements with his. While you're learning, you're likely to
encounter at least one of the following problems.
What to do if...you're bouncing around wildly and your butt smacks
the seat hard every time you come down.
You haven't yet found the horse's rhythm. You're probably also posting
straight up and lifting yourself from your feet instead of posting forward and
back, pivoting from your knees. Chances are that your heels are higher
than your toes. Work on feeling the rhythm.
What to do if...you're falling forward or backward.
If your feet are too far out in front, you'll fall backward. If your feet are too
far back, you'll fall forward. Your feet must remain under your body mass to
find the correct balance.
What to do if...the horse goes faster.
A common mistake among beginners is riding with the reins too long or
holding onto the pommel. (Tip: You can pull on the pommel and the horse
will never slow down). Keep your reins the proper length and keep those
hands in their proper position: just two inches above the withers and four
inches apart. If necessary, go back to the beginning of this lesson and
practice posting at the halt until you can stand independently, without
supporting yourself on the horse's mane or the reins.
Another common problem is gripping with the legs, and especially the
heels. If the horse's eyes bulge or deep depressions mark the horse's
sides, you've probably had him in a death grip. Relax, and the horse will
too. If doesn't take that much contact to post.
What to do if...the horse keeps stopping.
Horses tend to do things at the same place at the same time. If your horse
stopped at the outgate this time, you can bet tomorrow morning's donuts
that he'll also do it the next time around. About 30 feet before you reach
the outgate, assume he's going to try it again, and aggressively encourage
him to move forward. See? You're controlling his thinking now.
Also consider that you may be pulling back on the reins to stand up. Try to
find the correct body position, because then you won't need to pull on the
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.
Keys to Learning the Posting Trot
1) You should feel more like you're kneeling than sitting.
2) Your hips should move forward toward your hands and then
back, not so much up and down.
About School Horses
School horses are very special creatures. They have different
people riding them all the time, many of them beginners, all using
slightly different aids because they're just learning them. It's easy
for a horse to get confused under such circumstances.
Generally, if school horses get confused, they'll slow down or stop
altogether. You might think they're comatose. But this is one of
the reasons they were selected to be school horses.
Other horses that get confused might do the opposite:
take off or get crazy. School horses may tend to be slower and
less responsive, but they're also tolerant and forgiving. You might
get frustrated riding them, but it's better to be frustrated than
fractured. So always give school horses the gratitude and
respect they deserve.
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