Posting on the Correct Diagonal: Lesson Plan for Group with Cognitive Disabilities

I am excited to share that the instructors at the Advanced Workshop I attended at Heartland Therapeutic Riding have agreed to let me post their lesson plans! This one is from Courtney Mellor, equine manager at Heartland, who did this as a practice mock advanced level lesson, and received feedback from the instructor/evaluator Sandy Webster, as well as the workshop attendants. I thought this was a great plan and added my own notes to it!

Posting on the Correct Diagonal: Lesson Plan for Group with Cognitive Disabilities
By Courtney Mellor
Given at Advanced Preparatory Workshop July 8, 2014
Added notes in italics

Riders (notes that help make lesson planning decisions)

Rider 1

  • Diagnosis: ADD, anxiety
  • Goals: ride independently, jump, improve focus
  • Riding ability: posting trot, 2 point

Rider 2

  • Diagnosis: Autism, verbal, ambulatory
  • Goals: increase social skills, feel included, engage with peers
  • Riding ability: independent at walk and trot

Rider 3

  • Diagnosis: Aspergers, Verbal
  • Goals: overcome feeling of being different, increase confidence, jump
  • Riding ability: trot off lead

Lesson Plan


  • The riders will execute posting on the correct diagonal, first at the walk, 2x each direction, with assistance as needed.

Teacher Preparation/Equipment Needed (Rider, Horse, Tack, Leader, SW1, SW2)

  • Rider 1, Bay Horse, English, Peacock stirrups, Rainbow reins, Leader for warm up, Spotter to assist with focus, no SW2
  • Rider 2, Chestnut Horse, English, Peacock stirrups, Rainbow reins, Leader for warm up, SW1, no SW2
  • Rider 3, Grey Horse, English, Peacock stirrups, Rainbow reins, Leader for warm up then spotter, SW1, no SW2
  • (Normally include their names above)

Arena Set Up:

  • 4 cones, at each end of arena by dressage letters, to mark trotting the length of the wall

Lesson Content/Procedure

  1. Safety Check
  2. Mount (order and type)
    1. Rider 1 – croup from block
    2. Rider 2 – croup from block
    3. Rider 3 – croup from block
  3. Safety check
  4. Introduction
  5. Warmup
    1. Rider 1 – after mounts, backward arm circles, “wiggle your fingers and stretch up to the sky!”
    2. Rider 1 + 2 – after Rider 2 mounts and joins Rider 1, have both do airplane arms, then right hand to left knee (reins in left hand), left hand to right knee (reins in right hand), using terms “inside” and “outside”
    3. All Riders – 2 point at the walk
  6. Riding Skill Explanation (as reflected in objective)
    1. What
      1. First she asked if the riders knew what posting was. When one did, she asked the rider to explain it for her. Then she supplemented.
      2. Posting on the correct diagonal is when the rider will stand and sit in relationship to the horse’s diagonal pairs of legs at the trot, with the “stand” happening at the same time as the horse’s outside shoulder moves forward.
      3. “Rise and fall with the leg on the wall” Then she asked, “Do you understand? Which leg would the outside one be?”
      4. Note: afterward it was suggested that putting different colored duct tape on the horses’ shoulders would help identify them
    2. Why
      1. When the rider is on the correct diagonal the horse can be in better balance through a turn.
      2. Also, the horse’s impulsion or energy assists the rider with ease of posting.
    3. How
      1. Begin with a balanced sitting seat and even reins.
      2. The rider will push themselves up in the saddle from the stirrups,
      3. then quickly sit gently down again.
      4. Repeat.
    4. Where
      1. Use the long side of the arena 2x each direction
      2. H-K, F-M
      3. switch directions
      4. M-F, K-H
  1. Practice
    1. At the walk
    2. She gave verbal reminders – “Stand and sit with the leg on the wall, with the outside shoulder”
    3. Switch Directions
    4. “We’re going to post this way now, so rise and fall with which leg?”
    5. When one rider needed more help, she worked with him: “See his shoulder move forward and backward in front of the saddle? Forward…backward…forward…backward…”
  2. Progression (if time allows)
    1. Attempt at the trot
    2. She had them go one at a time and after each asked, “[Name] did you notice if you were on the correct diagonal? How did you know?”
    3. One rider said she was on the incorrect diagonal so she changed. Courtney took the opportunity and asked her to explain how she changed diagonals, then pointed out that now every rider should also know how to change if they find themselves on the wrong diagonal. From then on for those who were able, she encouraged them to “sit sit” to change diagonals.
    4. One rider had not yet quite mastered the posting rhythm, so she worked with him on that instead of diagonals.
    5. Continued to verbally prompt them: “Rise and fall…rise and fall…look for that diagonal…tell me what you see, were you on it or not?”
    6. Afterward we noted that instead of having them trot down one side and just walk down the other, she could have given them something to do toward the skill down that other side, such as posting walk, identify when the outside shoulder is forward by saying “now”, or have sidewalkers point out when the shoulder is forward, or duct tape colors on the horse’s shoulders, or do 2 point and identify when the shoulder is forward to feel it in their hands on the horse’s shoulders, etc.
  3. Wrap Up
    1. What is my favorite saying about posting?
    2. Why is posting on the correct diagonal important?
    3. What part of your body did you use most?
  4. Dismount (order an type)
    1. Rider 1 – croup to ground
    2. Rider 2 – croup to ground
    3. Rider 3 – croup to ground

Evaluation Notes:

  • Warmups were quick and unorganized, due to the instructor mounting the riders from the block in the arena instead of the ramp outside the arena as she was used to, because it changed the timing and was different. We all learned the importance of asking the center you certify at about everything, including the details of mounting, so you are prepared for how to mount riders differently than you are used to and adjust to the change in timing.
  • The objective was met for Rider 1 & 3.
  • Did not follow lesson plan exactly. When Rider 2 was not as advanced on others, adapted by working on posting rhythm while others worked on diagonals. Sandy pointed out this is important to include in your self-evaluation and your reasons, because while the lesson plan is good to have, it is based on the information you have been given, and when new information comes up and therefore you deviate purposefully from the lesson plan, it shows you know your stuff.
  • Able to progress! From posting walk to trot, and even discuss how to change diagonals.
  • The lesson ended a bit early but on a good note, with good wrap up questions and answers.

Thank you so much for letting me share, Courtney!


Note: This is not professional advice, this is a blog. I am not liable for what you do with or how you use this information. The activities explained in this blog may not be fit for every rider, riding instructor, or riding center depending on their current condition and resources. Use your best personal judgment!

4 thoughts on “Posting on the Correct Diagonal: Lesson Plan for Group with Cognitive Disabilities

  1. Hi Cindy, I don’t like commenting on blogs but I think its important you hear from us readers every now & then so you know we are listening 🙂 I love your posts & find them helpful & enriching, thank you! (all the way from Israel)

    • Hi Thom, Thank you so much for your comment! It is so good to hear from readers and know the blog is doing what I hoped it would. I save every comment and email and am encouraged by each one! It’s especially neat to hear from readers on the other side of the world and know we are in the same boat and working toward becoming better at what we do. Thank again and best of luck in all your endeavors!

  2. Hi Cindi,

    I am taking my certification test in June and LOVE your lesson plans. I feel like I generally rely on my memory and allow lessons to organically evolve. Knowing the expectations really helps me to organize my thoughts.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *