Teaching the posting trot

Johnny is working diligently to become a competent horseman. He’s mastered grooming and can tack up Moe in dressage gear completely independently. He can mount up from a block or from the ground. He knows how to ask Moe to walk, to halt, and to turn right and left. He and Moe have conquered ground poles and crossrails at a walk. The two of them are quite a pair.

Johnny is ridiculously tall for Moe.
Johnny is ridiculously tall for Moe.

I’m doing most of the riding instruction, which works pretty well for both of us. I have a moderate amount of experience teaching; I spent a long time as an instructor at a therapeutic riding center and have taught lessons to various able-bodied people throughout the years. Here’s the thing, though: I don’t have a lot of experience teaching raw beginners. Most of the people I’ve taught were either incapable of riding independently or had already learned the basics.

Walking crossrails is maybe their new favorite activity.
Walking crossrails is maybe their new favorite activity.

Currently, Johnny’s working on trotting. Moe has an average trot: it’s not very smooth or particularly bouncy. Moe tolerates a lot of stuff: he’s okay if you bounce around a little, he’ll forgive you if you hit him in the mouth, and he mostly ignores extraneous leg aids. I’ve been putting Moe and Johnny on the longe line while Johnny’s learning. He has a grab strap on the saddle which he uses so he doesn’t pull on the reins, and he’s working hard to feel the rhythm of the trot instead of worrying about keeping Moe going or steering.

Leading the way on a ride through the hay field.
Leading the way on a ride through the hay field.

Posting has been kind of a struggle. I have a difficult time explaining the concept, because I learned it such a long time ago and by now, posting feels intuitive. Johnny also learns very differently than I do: he prefers very technical explanations and watching someone do something before attempting an activity, while I just start doing a thing and hope for the best. (That’s my whole life summed up right there: just start doing a thing and hope for the best.)

Sunday, Johnny achieved perfect posting for nearly a full minute. (Sure, he was on the wrong diagonal, but that’s slightly easier to teach.) I’m thrilled he’s getting the hang of it, but I thought I’d ask the equestrian community at large: how do you teach the posting trot? Do you have any tips for explaining it? Do you remember how you learned? Any advice for the beginning adult rider?

Author: Stephanie

Equestrian, amateur cook, people person.

19 thoughts on “Teaching the posting trot”

  1. Oh lord. I thought I’d have to give up riding because I couldn’t post to save my life for a while. I really don’t remember the thing that make it work, but it was like one day I just magically had it. I know that’s useless. haha. If it were me, I would possibly put him in a more forward type saddle and shorten his stirrups some. It may make it easier on him to come up out of the saddle when posting.

    1. He’s ridden in my jump saddle before (a very forward flap Ainsley XC Pro National) and proclaimed that he didn’t like it as well as the dressage saddle; however, I might tell him “too bad” next week and try your suggestion!

  2. at my first barn we actually learned to post by watching. an advanced rider would lead us around single file (we called them the ‘lead ponies’) and demonstrate new techniques/concepts to us when appropriate. maybe if you can manage to get Johnny riding when someone else is out there too they wouldn’t mind demonstrating? sounds like he’s already picking it up quickly tho!

    1. That’s something that has helped him a lot- there are usually several people at the barn who are happy to demonstrate! He’ll watch them for a while, then try it himself. He was talking about watching videos the other day- maybe I need to send him some!

  3. I’ve taught many beginners; I spent years as a summer camp riding director. The best way to teach posting is to demonstrate it and then just have them do it. For ever… I remember my husband learning to post – at a barn with an instructor, not me teaching him – and she would just have him spend most of the hour lesson posting. She would stand near me and we’d chat about horses and he would just post and post and post. It’s a muscle memory skill and so the only way to learn it is to do it a lot. Like, a lot. Fortunately, men tend to learn to ride a lot faster than women. It’s really not fair. You’ll have to take him off the lunge and let him trot and post around for long periods of time for multiple sessions. A real lesson on a school horse with a tough back might be worth it.

    1. I think he’s a little afraid at this point to trot on his own; he doesn’t have the muscle memory down, so he feels like he’s flailing around all over the place. I’ve been encouraging him to start trotting independently in the small indoor arena, but that’s been sort of crowded lately!

      I might see if I can borrow one of the lesson horses at the barn that will just keep going- Moe stops when he feels Johnny bounce too much. (Poor Moe, he is confused.) You are absolutely right that he just needs to post and post and post!

  4. I have the post the walk so they get the feel of the movement, and then when they start trotting I will yell “up down up down” to help them feel the rhythm.

  5. I have nothing to add. I was going to say the exact same thing as Lauren.
    Good for Johnny for working at riding. I can’t convince John to get on Tucker. Any tips? haha.

    1. I think it helps that Johnny has always been happy to come out to the barn and visit the horses; he’s always enjoyed petting them and feeding them and otherwise caring for them.

      He’s trying to learn to ride because I suggested we take a horseback riding tour of Iceland; he thought Iceland sounded fun and he thinks Icelandic horses are Not Scary (because they’re short, gaited, and cute). He wanted to be confident in the saddle before the trip and knew it would take lots of saddle time, so he comes to the barn weekly and rides Moe.

      He REFUSES to get on Gina, though, because he thinks she’s totally insane lol

  6. When the feeling isn’t coming, I tell them to pick a shoulder (the one the mane doesn’t fall to) and go up and down as it moves forward and back….

  7. I agree with trying to find a schoolie that will just chug along. I still miss the right diagonal more than I should but with enough repetition the rhythm becomes natural. I learned in a western saddle which felt really different to me. How awesome he’s learning to ride and you have a horse he can.

  8. I had the same experience just yesterday. One of the boarders at the barn that I just left asked me to come check on saddle fit (since I have gone down the long and rocky road with Sydney a few times) to see if the saddle was worth having a professional out to reflock. While she was riding she kept asking me for tips, and I was having a really hard time explaining the posting trot to her. Thankfully her horse is a saint and will just chug along regardless of what she is doing.

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