Question: I am just learning to ride western. I have been riding english for 5 years. Will I need to learn how to post all over again? Is there a difference? I don’t want to look stupid. And how do I get diagonals?
Answer from April Reeves: Posting the trot in Western is the same as English. Remember, horses cannot distinguish the difference in disciplines, only humans do. The movements of a single horse are the same regardless of a Western or English saddle (unless the saddle doesn’t fit!).
Posting and Diagonals are Different
Posting was invented to give rider and horse relief from constantly jarring in the saddle.
Diagonals were created to enhance and improve the movement of the horse as you post. Diagonals allow the outside front leg (in a bend) to extend farther (it has more distance to travel) AND to allow weight OFF the inside leg during the rise of that leg, since it carries the majority of the weight when circling or bending. “Rise and fall with the front leg on the wall” is often used to describe ‘when’ to rise the post, but when no wall is present, you rise with the outside front leg to the bend you are riding.
That being said, it’s obviously the same whether you ride English or Western. Diagonals is about the horse, not the discipline. (Just a side note, there are riders who use opposite diagonals to obtain specific movements, but it’s usually the top ‘masters’ who understand the principles and timing of what they are doing).
If you’ve never posted before, try to ‘feel’ the two beats to the trot. Posting is the rising and falling of each beat, and it is a natural movement for a rider.
To begin learning to post, first learn to do a ‘half seat’, where you rise out of the saddle, drop weight in your heels (shock absorber) with the ball of your foot in the stirrup. Start at the walk and continue until you are comfortable with standing for 20 strides. Also, please do not try this on a spooky horse. Find one that’s quiet and sensible. When performing this exercise, do not use the reins for support: a horse’s mouth is sacred and should be treated with care and respect. If you need to, hold on to the horn, then graduate to holding the mane until you can balance without any need to hold on.
The balance you will learn from this exercise will help with the balance you will need to rise and fall at the trot, so it is important that you learn this and work at it. it will also help you to learn the post faster and help with balance for staying on during sudden unexpected moves from the horse. Learning to keep weight down in your heels and not ‘stand’ in your stirrup will serve you in any discipline.
Next, try the ‘half seat’ at the trot for short strides until you are comfortable with 20 strides again. Once you have the feel of balance without the need to hold on to anything, (average 5 to 10 tries for about 5-8 minutes per time) it’s time to post.
Rise and fall with each diagonal movement. An important tip to remember: don’t try to stand in your stirrups. Standing in the stirrups is not my recommendation as it teaches new riders to stand on the balls of their feet and sit upright. Proper posting is the forward ‘roll’ off the thighs with a soft rise, keeping weight down through your heels. Many riders get into the habit of an up/down movement and have difficulty later relearning this. Too much up movement is wasted motion that can add stress to the horse’s kidneys and spleen, and back muscles. A good post uses thigh muscles to lightly ‘touch down’ on the saddle, then back up again. It is not about sitting or dropping weight in the saddle on each post. And it’s a great way to tone the (human) legs!
There really is no secret to any horse riding in the beginning; it’s just getting out there and practice, practice, practice; ride, ride, ride, perfect, perfect, perfect. In time you will pick up the ‘feel’ and rhythm of posting, and apply the principles of diagonals to refine and help your horse. To get better at anything you need to put the time in.