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Western Posting The Trot

In every horsemanship clinic I teach, I start the mounted session by assessing all the riders in terms of their control, their riding position and skill and their authority over the horse. To do this, I put them through some regulated paces that involve changes of gaits and changes of direction. During this process I am watching the riders and their horses to try and figure out what are the most pressing things that need improvement and that will guide what I have each individual rider work on. As I make this assessment, I always ask for regular trot, slow trot, sitting trot and posting trot, specifically to see how much ability the rider has.

To me, it makes no difference whatsoever whether you ride English or Western; if you are riding the long trot you should be able to post and posting is a very fundamental skill. If your horse is so incredibly smooth gaited that you can comfortably sit the extended trot, then you are very lucky and probably a very good rider. But I ask for everyone to post the trot at some point to see if someone doesn’t know how to do it or uses poor technique (posting off the stirrup instead of off the thigh). Before the end of the day, they will learn how to post because it is an important skill for a rider and it would be silly to think that Western riders don’t need this skill.

Think about it, if you had 20 miles of fence line to ride today, would you do it at the sitting trot? When you need to cover ground on a horse over long distances, the long trot is the most efficient gait to ride and posting is easiest for both you and your horse. Besides, posting is a fundamental skill and  building block for more advanced skills—you wouldn’t want to leave a block out of your foundation.

So why don’t Western riders post in competition? Well, if you are showing at the long trot it is probably in some sort of pleasure class and if you are being judged on how easy and pleasurable your horse is to ride, you want to make him look smooth. If you are being judged on how great a rider you are, then sitting the long trot shows a lot of skill. In some cases posting in a Western competition is prohibited by the rules or dictated by the class procedures. In other cases, like versatility ranch horse competitions, you are allowed to post but in doing so, it may appear to the judge that your horse is so ungodly rough gaited that you couldn’t possibly sit the trot.

Anywhere you go where there are Western riders, you’ll see the riders posting– it is a pretty basic skill. Though they may not do it during an actual competition, it is a skill they need and use regularly. If you have the pleasure of riding a gaited horse that does not trot, you don’t really need to post and in fact may not be able to do it correctly on  gaited horse since correct posting involves using the lift in the horse’s back as he goes into suspension in the trot. Riding a gaited horse can give a false reading on how skilled a rider is; they are definitely easier to ride (if they are well trained and well gaited). If the rider has never developed the skill to ride the natural trot or canter (the gaits with suspension) she/he may not have adequate skill to ride in difficult situations or even ride a naturally gaited horse; she may not have developed a strong leg position, adequate balance and the strength to hold on when the going gets rough.

I doubt you would find any accomplished riders anywhere, in any discipline that do not know how to post. If you haven’t yet, you will. All riders should know how to sit the trot, post the trot and ride the standing trot and they each have their particular challenges. Learning to post seems tricky at first—it’s one of those skills that you think you’ll never figure out and then once you do, you can’t believe how easy it is. To me, it seems easier for people to learn the posting trot than the sitting trot (unless they are on an incredibly smooth horse). What about you? If you ride Western, do you know how to and use the posting trot? Or do you think that posting is only for English riders?

Enjoy the ride,




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  1. Julie,
    Could you elaborate more on what you mean regarding the difference between posting “from the stirrup” and posting from the thigh? I’ve only started riding English this year (western prior). I’m enjoying improving my riding and learning these skills…however, the tendency seems to be to tell people to focus so much on the dropped heel and still lower leg, that no one tells you what NOT to do with the heel/stirrup. I’ve generally ‘got it,’ and am improving with practice, but I would love to weave this bit of knowledge into the ‘foundation’ of my learning. Thanks!

  2. OK..What is the proper way to post? I got the, not from the stirrups, but from the thighs. How does one go about learning this skill??

  3. I love posting. In fact, it is one reason I wouldn’t really want a gaited horse. To me, other than a slow jog, it is much easier to ride the trot that way. If you are going any distance at a trot I can’t imagine sitting it. For those who can’t seem to get it, I’d encourage you to keep trying. I am one of the most uncoordinated of people and it took awhile but once you get the idea of it, you’ll have it. Of course, it is a never ending project to work toward perfecting it.

  4. I ride western, hunt seat, and saddleseat, so posting western comes easily to me. I learned bareback, though, on a really bouncy Morgan x Saddlebred that made posting a survival skill. My son learned to post early. He rides hunt seat and western and posts for both. I remember how shocked some people were to see him post in walk-trot games when he was little – some one even filed a complaint against him! I laughed until my sides hurt when he “ran” poles, as he carefully changed his diagonal exactly halfway between each pole.

  5. I had no idea there were so many types of a trot. I thought a trot was a trot and that was it.

    I do post Estes’ trot at times, sit it at others; just really depends on my mood.

    Guess I need to take one of your clinics.

  6. I dont think its only for English but I have tried and tried to post and just cant seem to get it so i try to relax as much as i can in the saddle (western) and sit the trot.

  7. I am a western rider – mostly trails – and I think for me learning the trot is VERY important. My Qtr horse has a very bouncy trot – and I have had back surgery – so riding that is very uncomfortable. I have been trying to learn to trot for some time – always getting off on the wrong diagonal – but i saw your post about it one day – and even tho I haven’t mastered it yet – I have a better grip on it than I ever had. Thank you so much for posting your learning tips online!

  8. Hi Julie, good point that you have on the posting trot. I have ridden Western since I started riding, and have only posted in a Western saddle a few times. It’s definitely useful, but posting seems to go better with English as we see it a lot in English competition. Posting trot should be used for both riding styles though, I’ve started riding in an English saddle over the past few weeks, and have actually had more problems getting used to posting the trot in the English saddle because it is so different without the horn. It’s something that everyone should learn and utilize in all situations, even though it is kind of tricky at first. I’m still having a few problems getting used to it! Completely agree with your whole article, thanks for sharing!

  9. i have grown up being told it was an english thing. so i never learned it. i had to learn to sit to the trot. but im now getting ready to go to an equestrian college to learn some skills in riding and training a western horse and to become a certified trainer. i have recently learned we learn the posting trot this was new to me. i have never seen many riders in western post other then younger riders my age. i was told thy only do that because they never learned how to sit to it. i now know from reading this that that was most likely only partly true. im sure some it was true for but others it wasn’t. thank you for this information i loved reading it!!

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