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 their seat.
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 reins.
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
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
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
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.
|Woodland Horse Center
16301 New Hampshire Avenue, Silver Spring, MD 20905
301-421-9156 fax: 301-421-9049