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Posting the Trot

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A post is a controlled bounce.

Saddle Seat posting is different from other disciplines. In Hunt Seat and Dressage the rider posts up and forward over their knees which makes the thigh more perpendicular to the ground. They bring their hips towards their hands more because their lower back is loose and almost squeeze their glutes together. In Saddle Seat the rider's back is one unit so there is no swinging the hips to bring them over the knees so the hips stay under the body. The rider allows the horse's momentum to push or lift them up out of the saddle. There is no need to use more energy to lift up out of the saddle. The muscles of the leg control the movements but do not to force them. This limits the height of the post to a couple of inches. While in the up part of the post the thighs stay at about a 45 degree angle to the ground with the ankles under the riders hips. Then the rider softly lowers back to the saddle. The Saddle Seat posting style accentuates the Saddle Seat horse's movement.

The correct body angles while posting.
photo by Doug Shiflet

When posting the goal is to not use the hands to lift out of the saddle but to use the correct positioning which will also you to use your body efficiently and balance to go up and down fluidly with the rhythm and movement of the horse. 

The stirrups are there to rest the foot in not to push on.  They are there to carry the weight of the legs not the whole body.  When one pushes from the stirrups stiffness runs through the whole body of the rider.  If the rider relaxes and is in the correct position while letting the stirrups just carry the weight of the legs the body is more relaxed and is able to work correctly. (Swift 66)

Posting must stay in rhythm with the horse’s legs; the horse’s momentum will push the rider up with one stride and then let the rider fall with the next stride.  The motion then becomes up, down, up, down, up, down rhythmically is your goal.” (Billington)


What is a Diagonal?  When a horse trots diagonal pairs of legs move together.  The front left moves with the hind right and the right front moves with the left hind.

Certain diagonals are used when going in certain directions.  When riding to the left, counter clockwise or the first direction of the ring the rider rises with the right front leg.  When riding to the right, clockwise, or the second direction of the ring the rider rides with the left front leg.

This is confusing for a lot of students; you rise with the opposite leg from the direction you are turning.  You sit up with the right shoulder when you are turning left! That's not fair!

“You can tell which pair of legs is moving by watching the horse's shoulders, at first. Eventually, you can learn to "feel" which diagonal you are on. If you glance down every few strides, you can make sure the outside shoulder is still moving forward as you do. Try to move just your eyes, and make it a quick "flick" of the eyes down and back up again. Moving your head can put you off balance, and you don't need to lose your balance.

Let's talk briefly about why we do it this way. When you shift your balance forward in posting, you push the horse's balance forward slightly also. The legs he is using can travel forward a little bit more with that shift forward.

When you are in a circle, the outside front leg has to move farther. The inside back leg needs to come up higher and do more work, to keep the back end curved. So here, in a left-turning horse, the right front and left hind legs need more forward "lift."

Now, since this is important for making balanced turns, you can actually ignore diagonals if you are moving straight, or even if you are making large turns. It is only very important to be on the correct diagonal when you are making a sudden, or tight, turn. If you are trotting in a straight line for a fair distance, it is nice to the horse to change your diagonal every so often.

Learning your diagonals is useful, and it's good for the horse; it helps him balance on turns.” (Billington)


When trotting, you don't want to go up and down high; you do want to go up and down slightly. Don't land on the saddle with your butt; try to sit more on your crotch part. Now, when you've finished the part of your pelvis/hips moving, try it again doing the same thing but keeping your belly and chest straight as a board. This is the correct way to post and it looks beautiful.

Posting off your stirrups - You can always tell when a rider isn't supporting their body and not using their legs to post and leaning on their stirrups. This is beyond common, and when you see someone's ankle and legs moving up and down as they post, then they are posting off their stirrups. Horseback riding requires muscular endurance and the only way to fix this is simple leg strength work; extensive two-point work, and no-stirrup work as well.  A popular exercise is to alternate between sitting, posting, and two-point after a number of strides. Say, you sit for ten trotting strides, and then go into two-point for ten trotting strides, and so on, as time goes on make the number of strides longer. Everyone hates leg strength work, but it's essential.

Stay relaxed. Don't go tense, because it's harder to feel the horse's rhythm.

Pacing the trot - when posting to the trot you want to make the horse adjust the speed to the beat. Also when you want the horse to slow down you can post slower, to speed up you post faster. Make the horse go at the correct pace for the post so the horse’s weight is what pushes you up so you don't have to work so hard to post, which looks bad. When doing a sitting trot ask the horse to slow down but keep trotting. This makes it much easier to sit to and less bumpy. You can slow the trot by taking deep breaths and relaxing yourself. They can tell it when you relax.

If you can't see your horse's foreleg, then just watch his shoulder or neck muscles moving.

If you find yourself posting on the wrong diagonal, sit an extra beat (rise-sit-sit-rise).



Hill, Cherry.  “101 Horsemanship and Equitation Patterns.”  North Adams, MA: Versa Press, 1999.


Swift, Sally.  “Centered Riding”.  New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press, 1985.


Billington, Galadriel.  The How and Why of Posting to the Trot and Diagonals in Posting.  2004.  Lorien Stables. 15 December 2008 <>