What lifts You and Keeps You Balanced in Rising (Posting) Trot? (plus Video Exercise)

Let’s start with an experiment. [if you do it please leave a comment sharing how it felt:) ]

Exercise: It will only take you 2 minutes. You can sit on the floor or on your bed.ย Sit on your heels, upper body straight. Take your arms to your sides and move up so your are kneeling. Repeat 3-4 times. Do it side by side with a mirror if you can or rest your phone somewhere so you can film yourself doing this. Then, read on and see video at the bottom of this post ๐Ÿ™‚ And share your views!

Exercise 1
Exercise: Sit on your heels, upper body straight. Take your arms to your sides and move up so your are kneeling. Do it side by side with a mirror if you can or rest your phone somewhere so you can film yourself doing this. Then, see video at the bottom of this post ๐Ÿ™‚ And share your views!

Let’s have a think now…

In basketball,ย there is a clear difference between bouncing the ball up and down against the floor, and throwing it up and forward on a nice arch so it goes through the net. Different body position and use of limbs, back, shoulders, fingers must be assumed for either.

In equestrian, inย rising [or posting] trot,ย there is a similar difference between an up and down rise when we use the bounce of the horse plus push from the stirrups or forward and up rise & sit when hips of the rider travel on an arch and we lift our body without changing neutral spine posture. Different use of back, abdominal muscles, hips, feet and..thighs.

So, which way is the right way, and why?

You might think, hey I’ve been doing rising trot for so long I don’t even remember when and how I learnt it but if you have issues with your horse’s forwardness, impulsion, straightness, back roundedness, connection back to front, consistency of contact to name just a few, stay for a little longer, it would be great to hear your views!

Over the last 20 years I taught over 14.000 complete beginners or novice riders to ride (I am actually slightly overwhelmed by this number as I decided to under calculate it as not to exaggerate!) and sadly, half of those I would have taught by an up-and-down mantra. In 1997 I came across Centred Riding and changed my ways slowly until I was able to eliminate the need for up-and-down instruction from my teaching vocabulary.


Rising by using your back, upper body motion and/or by pushing up from stirrups (standing up on them) has a huge effect on rider’s ability to stabilise own body, achieve independent hand, encourage free, forward movement in the horse, use their lower legs independently of upper legs, ask for greater collection later in training and the list goes on.

Random freeze frames

I typed in You Tube: ‘my horse riding lessons’ . Below are random freeze frames from some public videos showing what most of us assume is a stage “we all have to go through”. But do we really?


rising trot bad 1
To make things worse these frames are from a video titled: how to ride posting trot. You need to be very selective in what you watch if you are a novice rider seeking to learn on You Tube…

On above photos riders are completely dependent on their horse’s balance having none of their own. Their rising trot mechanics is such that they push themselves upwards using hands, upper body swing and rely on stirrups as if they were a springing platform. This is highly detrimental to horse’s back and willingness to work and for this reason alone it would nice if we avoided it but there is another side of the story: it takes much longer for the rider to acquire balance and confidence if they are taught to rise up and down.

When riders use upper body swing to help with lift they cannot use their upper body to stabilise the horse’s ribcage later when they learn to school. If they don’t learn to achieve stable, controlled thigh position they struggle immensely with using them for turning and positioning the horse’s shoulders.

Let’s look at more freeze frames of rising/posting trot where riders use their thighs to lift them:

posting trot
These frames are also from an instructional video on rising/posting trot. This rider looked quite neat and polished albeit tense in all three paces and I am guessing she is a hunter-jumper rider where you are required to hollow your back and push your seat back. In my view it makes the rider very much dependent on the horse’s balance here as she has few tools through her seat to correct crookedness, impulsion or connection. Horse’s under this sort of seat generally move quite heavy on the forehand. Quite a strain on rider’s spine in this posture too…On a good note, she is using her thigh to lift her body off the saddle. Hunter enthusiasts: please correct me if I am wrong!ย 
rising trot jump saddle
Jumping saddle. Notice rider’s head barely going up and down…it’s the hips that travel on an arch. A good mark of very good rising trot mechanics. Upper body always centred on top of seat bones. Weight always in front of rider’s thigh and into the knee in all phases.
Thigh as a leaver very good
Dressage saddle. Very tall rider in great balance. Again very little actual up motion (notice shoulders level), weight dropped down through thigh to the knee in both phases, upper body always centred on top of seat bones and above lower leg)
My own rising trot
General Purpose Saddle. My own rising trot. Good use of thighs and upper body again. Some instability through right hip and tension in left side of the body. Slight hold through the right knee in the beginning of the sit down phase but mechanics as such good nevertheless.

The biggest advantage of good mechanics of the rising/posting trot

The cherry on the cake of good body use is that your posture will create a back to front riding…Your own back position and its positive isotonic muscle tension (rather than movement) becomes a driving aid. As the horse loses energy and tries to fall behind your leg (think of a mini feel of sitting in a breaking car that pushes you back into your seat), he/she will feel your own energy counteracting his own and coming from your back forwards. This motivates the horse naturally in the same way as a foal knows to run if nudged by the mare from the back. Rider no longer has to kick holes in horse’s sides if they use their seat/upper body well.

What are your thoughts? Do you agree with me? If you ride well, can you tell how you use your thighs in trot? If you teach, how do you teach rising/posting trot to beginner riders?

Have you had a go at the exercise at the start of the post? Here it is again, this time on video which forms part of Aspire’s Start Programme video material. There is nothing like waking up that muscle awareness before beginner riders try it in the saddle ๐Ÿ™‚

Pure Essence Photography

25 thoughts on “What lifts You and Keeps You Balanced in Rising (Posting) Trot? (plus Video Exercise)”

  1. I believe I was taught at a young age to rise with my stirrups, but I think it’s just because it’s the easiest way to tell a young kid who doesn’t have the muscle strength to really use their thighs. I quickly started doing a lot of bareback riding/no stirrups, and there is absolutely no way to push off your stirrups if you don’t have them! ๐Ÿ™‚

    I later had a trainer tell me that I should be posting so that when I sit, I’m using my thigh to gently lower myself onto the horse’s back (instead of banging back down, as what happens when you don’t use your thigh). And someone else later told me it should be like there’s a string attached to my front pelvis pulling me up and out. I like the exercise you described! I’ll have to try it.

    1. I sadly can’t remember how I was taught this at all, my earliest memories are just of doing it :-/ Odd as I had my first lessons at 8 years old, then had a break until I was about 10. Would think one remembers things from that time in life but nope.

      I like the string analogy ๐Ÿ™‚ and it is definitely true about the no-control descent if thighs don’t take part.

      With little children (4-6 years old when technique is hard to explain) I have a very secret trick…I only discovered it for myself about 5-6 years ago and I am sure others use it too but it works every time (albeit can take a few lessons) and is ingenious ๐Ÿ˜‰ I will write about it one day!

  2. Out of curiosity, would you say that when you rise you utilise the muscles more to the outside or the inside of your thigh? I was taught by a Ride With Your Mind instructor for several years and instruction in the rising trot mechanism was in having the weight down through the thigh into the knee (as if one were kneeling whilst on the horse), and to have the inner thigh ‘on’ the horse. Moving on, in portugal it was identified that I had become rather too tight through the hips and inner thigh, and I wonder if perhaps my former education had too much emphasis on the muscles to the inside of the thigh, rather than using those to the outside?
    Thanks ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. I tried out the exercise. Ouch! Holy arthritis Batman! But it was pretty eye opening. Having started riding western and then converting to dressage, I only learned to post fairly recently. I had the benefit of being started with the “string analogy” that Alchemy mentioned and we use that “pull your belt buckle forward” idea while teaching the kids at the therapy barn. Despite being taught the correct way from the start (so I have no excuse), I have the terrible habit of over-posting if my horse drops behind my leg. If I “miss” the moment and don’t address the trot getting heavy, my natural inclination is still to throw more of my own energy into the action which definitely produces more of an up-down, upper body driven post motion. So even if you’ve been taught the correct way from the start, it is not hard for a little “up-down” to sneak its way in!
    It seems a very basic skill that riders learn early in their education but maybe it gets mistakenly pushed aside as not that important a thing to focus on because after being initially taught how to post, I really haven’t had many lessons focus on it. It only takes a few steps of posting trot without stirrups (a few are all I can manage) to remind me that the lack of attention certainly isn’t due to mastery! ๐Ÿ˜‰

    1. Hello EquiNovice and thank you for stopping by ๐Ÿ™‚
      I must say I am amazed at the amount of views and feedback this post has gotten (it is now officially my most read post nearing some 750 views as per today) and if we are to judge by this alone, I guess riders seek improvement of their rising trot for sure.
      I hope you didn’t hurt yourself doing the exercise!

  4. Really thought about this when I’ve ridden this week, a and taught. I use my thighs and I think it’s because we used to do rising trot without stirrups as kids. You have to use your thighs then, but when I was training it was out of fashion with the BHS …

    1. That’s good!
      I think that there seem to be a misconception about using muscles isometrically to sustain balance and actively gripping with the knees…
      I was taught rising trot without stirrups too and ridden with pieces of paper in between my knees and the saddle with instructions not to lose them…I don’t think that is a good way and had to re-learn the inward squeeze myself (still have to consciously think about it at times).
      Watching many instructors teach I do think some confuse gripping with isometric use when it comes to teaching rising trot. Perhaps the BHS education was based on gripping and therefore were/is moving away from it?

      1. perhaps? I hated the paper under knees – I could never do it for long! But then I found rising without stirrups easy. So it must have been a different technique.
        I sometimes find that a bit of rising without stirrups, for short periods, engages the thighs and tummy muscles – I`ve used it a couple of times since reading this blog. One was a woman with very wobbly lower leg and weak core. It really seemed to help her switch on the right muscles.

  5. What an eye opener. I’m a 56 year old male with tight hips. From the vedio I definately post off my stirrups using my back. I need to coorect that and roll my hips forward. Thank you for making this abundantly clear.

  6. I’m sixty and taking dressage after a 45 year break from riding western tack. The one lesson was get on and keep up. Now I’m struggling to get it right. Your video helped a great deal. One more tool in the kit to help me start out right. Thanks.

  7. As a novice rider, this article confused me. With so much emphasis on the wrong way, what is the right way? The article details the wrong way as much as the right way without a demarcation between the two methods. I am left without an understanding of the point you wanted to make.

    1. Hi Bob, I will try my best to put together a new version of this article at some point and see if I can explain everything better ๐Ÿ™‚ If you let me know what exactly you found confusing I’ll do my best to comment with an explanation. Wiola

  8. I love this! But, would like to add the importance of releasing the psoas while engaging the quad muscles. I Found in doing the exercise if I didn’t focus on both I would get tight in the hip.

    1. Thank you for your comment Jennifer! Do you have any links to articles/the-how-to of releasing the psoas while engaging quads? I think tight hips are so common in riders that it would be great to explore it more ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Oh my, thank god I found your blog. Thanks for posting such an educational posts. Greetings from Estonia ๐Ÿ™‚ !

  10. One of the first exercise I ask from my beginners is to post without stir up, the focus will be on what muscles need to be activated to rise a small alount from the saddle. It is very educational for the rider. Another one is to visualize in your mind your legs getting longer and longer and touching the ground to lightly push up and finally I tell them to let the horse push them up, to use the momentum of the horse movement to get up. Posting is better when the brain does not interfere and the rider get more relaxed and passive, less is more.

  11. Hey, hunter/jumper type rider of 11 years here, I was taught to post the trot by just initially being able to stand in my stirrups at a halt. Heels to far forward would equal slipping backwards, heels to far back would result in slipping forwards. Not using the inside of the whole leg would result in the pinching of the knee (my goodness there was a lot of work done on that point in later lessons till it was dealt with), using the thigh too much and no contact with the lower leg resulting in slipping position once again. All of that would be figured out at the stop, so the movement of the horse was static and I (or any student of my coach) could get an idea of how to “post”. Once that was conquered, my coach adjusted my position to being a two-point (shoulders over knees and no farther back or forwards, hips over heels and no farther forwards or back). She mentioned many times that we don’t post with our own strength, we use the movement and momentum of our mounts to “throw” ourselves out of the saddle. That at the peak of the post, we should be in a two-point. We’d then drill “posting” a halt for a time before moving to doing at a walk. Once “posting” at the walk was somewhat conquered, let’s face it, posting at the walk is not easy, my coach had started to get me and the horse trotting. A rhythm would be established, she’d get me to start two-pointing for a few strides and then dropping down to a sitting trot, gradually increasing the speed of which the 1 (up/rise) and 2(sit/down) would occur in time with the horse’s trot.
    Later, sometimes, she would have us students trot around with pieces of paper between our thighs and the saddle. . .or bark at us for seeing daylight, for not having enough lower leg on, for using our thighs and lower legs but not the “whole” leg. . . .yeah. . .That one image set of the girl with the yellow shirt would’ve been yelled at for her leg not being secure and coming off the saddle, but also for her back being too arced and not straight and for being too rigid.
    That same coach had two different terms for actions in the saddle in regards to being in a forward seat. There is “sitting back” that is the dressage, general purpose and the black topped jumper saddle image set, where you open your hip angle and raise the shoulders, shifting your balance to place that is behind the “forward” seat. And then there is “sitting down” where in you don’t change the angle of the upper body or the hip angle, but lower yourself in altitude. So, physically lowering yourself to the saddle, but still maintaining the angles necessary for jumping.

    Hope this helps!

    1. Thank you ๐Ÿ™‚ That’s really nicely put ๐Ÿ™‚ I think for a jumper rider, the above might sufice but I am not convinced this would lead to the rider being able to improve horse’s biomechanics/length of stride/engagement/reach/stepping under. I think there’s definitely more to it and those coaches who focus on deeper understanding of what the “talented riders” do without knowing they do, are onto something – like Mary Wanless and Ride with Your Mind.

      Thank you taking the time to share your experiences though, I believe it’s all valid at different stages of riders’ education!

      1. ^_^ Welcome!
        Of course there is more to it! I agree, just wasn’t sure if you wanted a veritable essay on what my crazy coach taught.
        I’ve watched a little of what Mary Wanless has to say about biomechanics and riding a little bit. What the “Ride with Your Mind” thing seems to be good for is flat work only. So, dressage, some western, the various pleasure disciplines and what not. Also, hunter/jumper (and cross country) is a completely different way of riding. . .mostly because we aren’t on the flat, there are obstacles, the pace/momentum is far greater and centers of balance are shifted from riding on the flat and the riders need to compensate for that. Don’t get me wrong, the Ride with Your Mind is good stuff, there is just not any focus on anything but dressage.
        The main point, of indeed the purpose of saddles themselves as well, is that the rider is to a) not be a shifting load on the horse’s back and b) to not impede movement. Horses, when moving, are well, moving. As riders, we are to allow for that movement in our own bodies and to move with the horse. My coach often said that we were to have good posture and seat, but to not be rigid, but rather like a rubber skeleton. Have form but allow flexion. In other words, let your joints be joints and flex/move.
        Many of the top show jumpers exemplify this rather well. Their horses are engaged- both haunch and back- (the horses kind of have to be to power off the ground for 1.45 and 1.5 metre jumps), have an easy, loping, 13 foot or longer strides and. . . . .their riders are often in hunt seats, two-points or sitting with a closed hip angle. . .not open angled pelvises, not rocking back on the seat bones, they don’t have average to long stirrups and they are certainly not sitting a few degrees above 90 if the ground was the flat zone (O degrees). How do they accomplish that? By letting their joints move. The heels absorb weight, the knees absorb the shock and aid in balance, the hips move in time with the horse, the back is straight but not ram-rod and stiff, the shoulders are relaxed, the elbows soft. All of this plays into having a properly moving horse
        This is a good bit of what my coach taught. We students would get harped on if, during a two-point drill, our horses changed their way of travel when going from sitting to two-point. If your horse did that, you weren’t riding properly. They should stay the same, two-pointing, rising trot, sitting trot, sitting canter, two-pointed canter, light-seat canter, whatever the gait was, your position shouldn’t change their method of travel. If it does. . .you aren’t moving with them. Sometimes, to drive that home, she’d have no stirrup lessons. We were also encouraged, if the horse was trustworthy, to cool out bareback after the lesson. And yes, we got to two-point, post the trot, canter and jump with no stirrups every now and again.

        Hope this helps as well!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s