Vladimir Littauer and the Art of Forward Riding

Vladimir Littauer demonstrates riding in an instructional video

William Steinkraus, Joe Fargis, Lendon Gray, Scot Evans, Bernie Traurig. What do these respected horsemen have in common? All were influenced by the forward riding system established by Captain Vladimir Littauer.

Much of today’s American system has stemmed by Littauer’s contributions, as the forward seat is also referred to as “hunt seat.” The Russian calvary officer, alongside two colleagues, founded the Boots and Saddles Riding School in New York in 1927. The founding of the school brought the principles Littauer had been taught in the cavalry to a civilian public—a groundbreaking development in the modernization and accessibility of our sport.

Littauer wrote numerous books over the course of more than four decades, from 1930 to the early 1970s. He also gave lectures on “the forward riding system.” Littauer’s teachings have evolved and are still widely celebrated, most notably through the American National Riding Commission (ANRC).

Sweet Briar College, where Littauer taught for more than 30 years, also established the forward riding system as the foundation of its program. On April 17, the Vixens won the first ever NCEA Single Discipline National Championship.

We’ve gathered a compilation of must-watch and must-read riding lessons (for riders and instructors) from Littauer that still apply:


How to Teach Position by Captain Vladimir Littauer — Released on November 1, 1948, this instructional riding film was shot by Littauer at Sweet Briar College in 1948-1949. The women in the film were students at Sweet Briar College.

What You and Your Horse Should Know — The Captain demonstrates riding in this instructional film, identified by Sweet Briar College as probably being made “in the mid to late 1940s.”

Forward Seat in B/W — This two-part video was made by Littauer for instructional purposes in 1947.


Common Sense HorsemanshipIn Common Sense Horsemanship, Littauer outlines his philosophies on a variety of topics, including balance, control, riding instruction and of course, the forward seat.
Buy Common Sense Horsemanship on Amazon.

Jumping the Horse“A practical book for horseman,” Jumping the Horse includes 60 illustrations. It was originally published in 1931.
Buy Jumping the Horse on Amazon

Schooling Your Horse Written for the civilian rider, Schooling Your Horse outlines Littauer’s simplified system of schooling.
Buy Schooling Your Horse on Amazon.

Horseman’s Progress: The Development of Modern Riding — In Horseman’s Progress: The Development of Modern Riding, Littauer reflects on the many factors that contributed to the evolution of riding, including court, cavalry and sport in Italy, Germany, England and the United States. Writing with “humor and common sense,” this book “is essential reading for anyone who is interested in the history of horsemanship and who wants to obtain a better relationship with [his or her] horse.”
Buy Horseman’s Progress: the Development of Modern Riding on Amazon.