Posting The Canter

  • User AvatarKaren Healey
  • 31 Jul, 2018
  • 11 Mins Read

Posting The Canter

Submitted by member: Alison

I am a professional that has been living and training in California for several decades. I was educated in the classical riding system of Hunt Seat Equitation and have, and always will, embrace that system of classical riding.

I am so appalled over the last few years to see so many riders posting in the canter on their circles and ends of the ring, rather than a quiet half seat. This has apparently infiltrated into the equitation division as well and I personally have heard trainers in the schooling area teaching their equitation students to post the canter!

Is this posting in the canter being endorsed, ignored, and/or not penalized by the judges in the equitation division today? I have seen it even in the Medal and Maclay finals!

Answer by Bernie Traurig

Conducting as many clinics as I do gives me a wide view of riding styles and copycat techniques all around the country. I have to agree with you that posting in the canter is happening all over America, both in and out of the show ring! I even saw it with some riders when I judged the Maclay finals in 2017! Very soon, I fear that another piece of classical riding, a quiet proper half-seat, will go by the wayside and posting will become the norm. As an example, look at what happened in the hunter under saddle class. There was a time, about three plus decades ago, that the proper full-seat in the canter was normal and one rose up into the half-seat when asked to hand gallop. What about the philosophy that a horse should accept the riders seat in the ordinary canter?

With no language written in the rules about that, this ridiculous position in the canter took off like a wildfire. The judges say their job is only to judge the horse, not the rider. And so it goes in the equitation division with the judges. The more they see it, the more it becomes acceptable. Riders see others do it, win, and they copy that. My hope is that the Equitation committee will suggest some language that the US Equestrian Federation will include in their equitation rules that reflect posting in the canter to get the horse in front of your leg or out of habit, is to be discouraged, and not a desirable trait. Further, this should seriously be taken into consideration by the judges and stamped by folks who conduct judge’s clinics.

Answer by Geoff Teall

Let’s start at the beginning. Posting the canter is incorrect. Period. I think it is critical that this conversation starts with what it is exactly that we are trying to do on our horses, and what the art (yes, I meant art) of good riding is about. Our sport is about the horse. It is not about the rider. One of the most important goals of our riding should be to develop invisible aids. We are to train the horse well enough that he carries us willingly forward, and forward enough that we can become invisible on their back. Our job is to get the horse to do his job, not to do it for him. The “artistic” part of our job is to get this done invisibly and to “dress up” our horses, not become a distraction. We do this by “disappearing” on the horse, or fading into the background, while at the same time we are getting our horses to excel at their job and to make it all appear effortless. Again, this is the art of good riding and should be every rider’s goal.

It should also be clear that posting the canter goes against these principles on every level. It happens because the horse is not in front of the rider’s legs, or not “carrying” the rider. This means neither the rider or the horse is doing their job well enough. Remember, our job as a rider is to get the horse to do his job, and to do it easily enough that it looks effortless or invisible. Posting the canter in of itself is demonstrating that the rider is working harder than the horse, and by definition it is at best a distraction and at worst an insult to good riding. It is just plain not good enough.

Why is it happening? In my opinion it is happening because some successful riders are doing it, and as a result, other riders are copying this. Our top professionals need to be careful that they are not using posting to the canter to put their horses in front of their legs so that it does not go viral. People, I think in their ignorance, are actually teaching this. We need to try to correct this by our teaching and in our conversations. Mostly it happens because it works. I don’t think any of us can say it won’t help get the horse to carry you, or get him in front of the legs, but to me the issue is that it isn’t asking enough of ourselves. The fact that it works is not a good enough reason to do it. We have to stretch ourselves instead and find a way to train the horse to carry us effortlessly and without doing the work for them by posting to the canter. Again, this is the art of riding and one of the points of what we do—to achieve invisible aids on the horse.

As a judge, I don’t feel I have much control over this or any other exaggeration. My job when I am judging is to put the horses and riders in the order of finish from top to bottom that I think is correct. Often the best round of the day might very well be the rider that does post the canter. I still have to reward that rider on that day with the blue ribbon. Posting the canter, or other exaggerations on the horse, are more than likely tie breakers. If I have two similar rounds and one of those riders produces that round without posting the canter, he would go ahead of the rider with the similar round that relies on posting the canter to put the horse in front of the legs. Beyond this, it is not my job in the role of judge to do any more or any less.

Answer by Julie Winkel

Posting to the canter is no part of classical riding. In fact, it is a red flag to me (as a judge, instructor, and horseman), that there is a flaw in the rider’s basics.

In my opinion, a rider that needs to post to the canter has a weak leg. In order to get the horse in front of leg, they need to hit the horse with their seat on each downward stride of the canter, because their leg is ineffective. To accept this technique, or worse, to teach it, essentially is diminishing the effectiveness and development of the lower leg.

Additionally, it is hard on a horse’s back and will make a sensitive horse sore and a duller horse defensive.

So please don’t think this is an acceptable aid in the equitation division. Judges frown upon it and rightfully so!

Answer by Karen Healey

I’m frequently asked, when giving a judges’ clinic, what do I think about an equitation rider posting the canter. My stock answer is that I hate it.  But when judging, your only job is to decide whether something is better or worse, and there are many times when the rider who posts the canter has the best round, and they end up being the winner, in spite of the posting, not because of it.

That being said, the reason I’m offended by it is directly related to the reasons that cause it. When a horse canters, there is a natural descent of the head and neck which occurs each stride. Inevitably, my first impression of the rider is stiffness. Instead of following the rhythm of the canter with the arms, they follow with their body. Those riders are also usually ahead of the motion and jump ahead of the horse off the ground.

In order to be completely independent in your arms, the rider MUST have a solid base of support through the heels, with the weight on the stirrup, not on the horse’s back. As the two most sensitive parts of the horse are the bars of the mouth and the horse’s back, the posting rider is irritating both. The set hand creates a stiff horse as it doesn’t allow for the descent of the head and neck. At best, posting is distracting and at worst, it’s very hard on the horse’s back.

I have found that the best way to help a rider learn to be independent in their arms is working on a longe line with and without stirrups but without reins. In jumping small jumps on a line, the rider learns to keep their center of balance over their heels.

Given equal rounds, the rider with the supple, following arm always beats the others on any card.  As I said, the rider that posts the canter may end up the winner, but they would never score in the high 80’s or 90’s on my card.

Answer by Stacia Madden

I believe that “posting the canter” is mostly a trendy position that some riders may copy. I do have my “R,” but I only judge a handful of shows a year. I have not noticed it to be an epidemic, although I am sure there are riders that have copied this posture. A rider with this trend would not win any ties with me judging.

As a trainer that trains many different riders each year, I do not teach or allow this trend to be copied. I teach my riders to become part of the horse and to be compassionate to their animal. I teach the riders to be aware of the horse’s balance, and posting the canter would not allow this to happen. A rider is very busy if they are posting the canter, not being subtle and invisible. Every time a rider stands and sits, they are interrupting the gait and interfering with the balance. I find this very disruptive.

In short, posting the canter is not classical riding and I am hopeful it not being taught on a grand scale.

Answer by Jim Wofford

I am vehemently opposed to the practice of “posting at the canter.” I am not alone in my distaste for this inefficient and inelegant idiosyncrasy. I had a correspondence with the late Bill Steinkraus regarding posting at the canter. I quote from his reply:

“I’d like to see all our riders learn to alternate comfortably between a full seat at the canter/gallop (with no rolling or posting) and the half-seat, the so-called “two-point position.”

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  1. Laura Kelland-May

    I am so happy to see that trainers and judges are on board with opposing the “posting canter”.
    I like where Geoff Teall says, “Posting the canter is incorrect.”
    And that all of the commenting professionals are on the same side of the fence when commenting on their opinions about the posting canter. One professional, Jim Wofford, is …”vehemently opposed to the practice of “posting at the canter.””.
    So what gives?
    Why is it still being done?
    To what end?

  2. I was an equitation rider and hunter rider, back in the 1970’s. I even qualified for the Maclay finals in 1974, when they were still being held at Madison Square (although I worked hard, and got there…I was not amongst the greats!) There were so many phenomenal riders, and equitation was virtually under the standards of George Morris, as to what was considered most correct.
    I recall seeing many ‘1sts’, back then–such as the 1st time I saw a warmblood, in a stall at Stoneleigh-Burnham… “how can that horse jump a 5’5” fence?!’ That was the beginning for that era!!
    But I also recall the 1st time I saw a rider posting to the canter (a known trainer back in those times; I won’t name anyone), and I wondered why, and why… Back then, most all of us rode Thoroughbreds, still my favorite breed. And we get off of the horse’s back when galloping through a foxhunt field– which is what the definition of huntseat riding is based upon. However, there was never a posting to the canter EVER included, in consideration of proper Huntseat equitation. It was just a silly fad, and I’m sorry to see that it’s coming up again…. Boo-hiss.

  3. I’ve been looking for something on this for quite sometime. I was trying to understand the fad and purpose. Who decided it was good and OK? It looks horrible but more important uncomfortable for the horse.

    One of the worst clinics I had, this instructor had me ride my pony by holding on to my bit. Thank God she was a saint. I was old enough (hour lessons age 3 cantering age 4. I was at least 10 for this guy) to understand to ride in 2 point/half seat that’s what I think his point was he was clear. (Not what my aunt taught me) but the bit put me in on or in front of the pommel. Well I front of the vertical.

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