Posting Trot

Question: I hope you can forgive my pestering but there is one question I really need to ask of you and that is 'what is the true relevance and/or/why are we encouraged to post a trot (or in the UK rise to the trot)'?

Now my understanding is that it helps to distribute weight on the forelimbs of horses however is this not insane? Or am I missing something? When I was a child I was discouraged from trotting a horse for any long length of time in my earliest experiences of riding in the Middle East and I never asked why. Actually I thought I was galloping until I saw older riders actually gallop that soon shut me up for a while however I was only a child.

Can you explain its origins and your take on it because after reading your articles whenever you mention about it it seems that you allocate it to the past-times of an amature. I would really like this dispelled once and for all because I simply cannot see the reason behind it.

First I would like to say that I do not know why you have been discouraged from trotting the horse, but as I always say one should pay more attention to what he is not supposed to do, rather than to what to do, when riding horses. I am sure the folks had some legitimate reasons of which there could be several. The trot is not always the suitable gait, especially not on the hills or fairly uneven terrains, in which case the walk is preferred, that is if one cares about the well being of the horse and its longevity. When I was in the horsemen-school we often made a school trip to nearby "Equine Museum", where something similar to the following was posted by the entrance, as some sort of silent request by the horse, "Do not chase me up and down the hills, run me on the flats if you wish, and then do not forget me in the stable". And so as you can see what kind of speed and where, or what kind of gait and where, must be decided in relevance to well being of the horse and its longevity, as well as to the safety of the rider.

Your question about the posting trot is fairly interesting and I believe that my reply will help in clarifying any confusion regarding the posting trot. First I would like to say that the riding styles differ from regions to regions, and often they had to do with the type of horses and their uses. I do not know where and how the posting or the rising trot came to being, but I would presume that it evolved from the so-called half seat, where a rider partially sits in the saddle near the pommel and partially stands in the irons. And so it would be fair to say that the posting trot came to being after the invention of the stirrups, which the Mongols brought to perfection, hence such success on the battle field. One could say that the light seat, to which the posting trot also belongs, was invented due to having the stirrups, since the light seat is mainly supported by the stirrups rather than by the top of the saddle.

The Mongols had very small horses, and so they had to adjust not only the saddle but also the stirrups to the smaller size of these horses. From the eastern parts of Europe, like from the Don region far to the east, the style of riding was much different than the style of riding in the central and Western Europe where the more traditional heavy seat was practiced.

The half seat was fairly popular in the trot, and since the trot is less demanding on the horse than gallop, but also fast enough to cover longer distances, the riders had to figure out what is the easiest way to travel on the horse, and so in many regions the half seat was practiced, like by the Cossacks. Amazingly you can also see this half-seat practiced by some of the "cowboys", and that not only in trot but also in the gallop, since it is more difficult to stand up in the irons and bent forward in the western saddle during the gallop due to the high horn on the saddle. The posting trot is fairly unorthodox when riding in the western disciplines and in the western saddle.

The light seat itself is primarily used in sport disciplines, like racing or jumping, which is all about freeing the horse's back. The posting trot or the half-seat is more or less about the comfort of the rider rather than about the comfort of the horse. In relevance to the horse the half-seat differs from the posting trot mainly in the fact that in the half-seat one is partially off the horses back, as opposed to the posting where one actually sits down into the back on every other step, which by the heavier riders could become more burdensome on the horse, especially if and when the rider is landing on the cantle, and also if the saddle is too far back, as in the case of western saddle, hence most reasonable western riders do not post in the western saddles.

And so as you can see, and as usual, people are feeding you a genuine bullshit to justify their riding style, as the posting trot is all about the rider and his or her comfort, and has nothing to do with any weight distribution in relevance to the front end, which is, as said, just plain bullshit. In addition to that, if one can feel the horse enough when posting, he should become aware of the changes in the suppleness of the back when he changes the posting from one diagonal to another. Once you change the posting to the opposite diagonal, what should become more than obvious is, that at the first few steps after the change, the horse's back has much more spring in it than before the change, which points out the fact that we increase our weight on the horse's back every time we sit into the saddle when posting, as opposed to when sitting in the deep seat where the rider's weight is diagonally equally distributed. Of course all this depends on how people post, which I am referring to in more details below.

The posting is part of the half-seat and not part of the heavy seat, while both belong to the light seat, and so when posting we should never sit down on the horses with full weight, as per the previous sentence. For this reason we post on horses more or less in the forward seat posture, as in partially leaning forward, and the faster we trot the more we lean forward, but of course not as much as when galloping or jumping. If and when you see people posting in straight up posture, especially when sitting down with full weight, they are people that simply feel nothing when on the horse, or better said have very limited feeling of the horse under them.

Furthermore and in addition to the above, if and when I am evaluating the soundness of the horse when being ridden by another person, I ask him or her to do either of two things, to keep sitting while trotting or to stand up in the irons. This because the posting often disturbs the rhythm of the horse's motion because of the unequal diagonal weight distribution, and so some horse could look lame, or the lame horse could appear sound depending on what diagonal one is sitting down. This alone bears witness that the posting is more demanding on the horse, while the only reason for it is the comfort of the rider, who more often than not has difficulty sitting in the deep seat, especially on horses with strong dynamics, and ends up bouncing on the horse like some yoyo. Ironically this bouncing does not bother the horses at all, as some greenhorns would make you believe, which they often use as an excuse for their poor deep seat and or unbalanced horse, as well as a reason for posting on the horse. The unbalanced and uncollected horses are more difficult to sit on in the deep seat, hence the half-seat or the posting trot is used. The bouncing of the rider on the horse never bothers the horse as long as the rider sits as close to the withers as possible, which most riders today do not do, especially in the case of women, who are physically handicapped and cannot sit in the deep seat as a man can. This of course does not mean that men sit on horses any better than women, because most of them have never learned the deep seat. The fact that many women are the "riding instructors" of men these days also contributes to the fact that such men will never learn how to ride like men, obviously.

As far as the Arabian horses go, the Arabs pretty much adopted the same style as the Mongols, hence no posting because these horses were too small, mainly referring to the length of the back in proportion to the rider, as well as the saddle, hence when posting one would end up sitting too far into the short back, thus bothering the horse while making it more difficult for the animal. Most commonly these horses were ridden in the half-seat in gallop and trot or pace alike, especially in the case of the Barb horse that had to carry the rider in deep sand, as opposed to the Arabian horse that traveled mostly on a rocky desert. This is also why many of these horses adopted the pace rather than trot, and so today most pacers have in them the blood of the Barb.

In any case and God willing, I will have more on the light seat and posting in upcoming articles, but first my intentions are to write the final segment to riding aids, which are the leg aids. I am also hoping to make some video to show the different type of seats and riding. And so as you can see there are no right ways and wrong ways to do things with horses, but rather there are the suitable and unsuitable ways of doing things with horses, whether riding, driving or handling. One needs a great experience to understand all the various ways of doing things with horses, not to mention a lot of travels to different regions, meeting different horsemen and such and so forth.
I hope you'll find this answer satisfactory.

I am including below a video to bring some points out relevant to this reply, or article if you will. Please read everything below before you watch the video, that is if you want to know what you are looking at, as most would simply have no idea what the video is about.

The girl in the video is a typical pleasure rider that does mostly trail riding and rides only once or twice per week. She can never learn how to ride simply because she does not ride enough, but also because she has no desire or need to become a rider, and she also lacks the talent for it. In addition to all that she has a bad foundation and in riding it causes the development of bad riding habits, of which one of them was improper posting on the horse, and so I helped her little to eliminate some of the flaws. This tape is from the day she was learning to correct the inadequacy, and so in this video she is doing the corrections for the first time. It is a good video where I can point out the common flaws in the posting trot.

The most common error is that most people either teach or learn the posting trot from sitting in the saddle, as opposed to learning or teaching it from the light seat, as in standing up in the stirrups first. This unfortunately teaches the rider the bad posting habits, which are very hard to correct, especially if one is riding more often, in which case the habit will become more rooted in.

This girl has very weak legs in the light trot, which is obvious in the standing in the irons, as well as when posting. To have solid light seat one needs to be conditioned for it, otherwise he or she will be flopping around as this girl does.
Here are some points that you can see in life, and then learn from it. Many riders when they post do three common errors, one is that they lift themselves too far out of the saddle, the second is that they post off the stirrups rather than of the horse's motion, and finally their hips are moving not only up and down, but also back and forth. The back and forth motion of the rider's hips during posting not only reduces his or her stability of the seat, but it also works against the horse's motion. This because every time the rider's ass is coming down, it is also coming back, literally colliding with the motion of the horse, since the animal is moving forward in steady speed and tempo. In the next segment of posting, when the rider is lifting himself from the saddle he or she has to literally catch up with the horse. In addition if the rider lifts himself too far off the horse, which by any decent rider is not more than one inch, he makes himself vulnerable to being unseated whenever something unexpected happens, like sudden stop by the horse or sudden change of direction. When you add all the flaws many riders end up like being shot out of a cannon when they fall off.

The safety aspects of posting trot are all about having the hip move only up and down and never back and forth, letting oneself lifted only one inch out of the saddle, and when sitting down one should not only sit down fairly lightly, as in about half of his weight, but also as close to the pommel as possible.

This girl in the video had all the previous flaws in posting, and the video shows her after she attempted to correct them, which was about 80% of improvement, hence one can only imagine how poor it was before. In the first segment of the video she is learning how to stand up in the irons, which she could not do for any length of the time, and in the second segment she is posting. You can see how weak her legs are, but my main intent is to point out the lean forward in posting, as most greenhorns and amateurs often post in straight posture, which often causes the extreme back and forth movement of the rider's hips. Once a rider gets strong legs for the light seat, as in standing in stirrups, and once the rider finds his balance when standing in irons, only then one should learn the posting, that is if one does not wish to develop bad riding habits.

What the girl does is satisfactory within her riding ability, except that she is too weak, mainly in the legs, which is more than obvious. She is still moving somewhat back and forth in the hips, but much less than before, and she is also still posting too high, and still somewhat of her legs instead of the horse. Please note that she has longer stirrups, which is the whole point of reeducation, especially in this case, since she cannot post too high out of the saddle even if she wanted. Now you may also understand why the deep seat is the foundation seat for all styles of riding.

I have also added a third segment to this video, where I am presenting more or less the more suitable way of posting, presented by a military officer at the 1932 Olympic Games during dressage. Unfortunately it is a very short segment and so I had to multiply it several times. Please notice mainly the change from the heavy to the light seat, which is visible in the forward lean, and also notice there is no back and forth movement of the hips.

After you watch the below video click here to see how not to post. There is also another YouTube video that was removed since this article was published, but still can be seen here (WMV) (FLV), which is downright humiliating, and also points out the more people think they know, the worse they actually are. Don't people know just how ridiculous they are, especially the rider in this video, where there is no firmness of the seat, and she looks like she is made out of jelly. Both videos show the pounding of the rider's ass into the horse, as well as landing on the cantle, and what the movement of their hips resembles, well, I rather not say.

Written by Ludvik K Stanek a.k.a Lee Stanek