The Forward Seat position for jumping adds several features to insure rider stability during the horse's vigorous movements while jumping. All the features of this seat work together, and if one is wrong then the whole position is weakened and the rider can interfere with the horse. While there are a few very talented riders who do not have to have a proper position over jumps, the normal rider will be much more secure and will interfere with the horse's efforts less when riding in the proper Forward Seat position for jumping.

This week all the quotes are from "The Forward Seat" by Vladimir S. Littauer (1935) pages 93-100, with some additions from "Common Sense Horsemanship" by Vladimir S. Littauer (1951, 1974), page 68. Now we go back to Littauer.

"The success of a jump depends on two factors: on the approach to the fence and on the negotiation of the fence proper.

A good approach means that the horse nears the obstacle boldly and quietly and takes off at the best distance from the fence. The distance at which the take-off is made depends on the type of obstacle to by jumped. The smaller and narrower the obstacle, the closer to it the take-off may be. A high and broad jump must have a comparatively early take-off. A good jumper (the horse) will vary his take-off depending on the fences....A poor jumper (the horse) does not figure out the take-off and starts the leap wherever his last stride had ended. With him it is a matter of chance, and not figuring."

"When approaching the fence, always keep an even pace. Do not let the horse rush or slow down when nearing the obstacle. The last two or three strides must be more ambitious."

"Once the leap has started the rider is always a burden and never a help. And this is true in every case, no matter how good the rider may be....Therefore the logical thing to do during the leap is to acquire a position in the saddle which will interfere as little as possible with the natural movements of the horse. During the leap every part of the horse's body is active, more or less. The best we can do is keep our weight over the least active part of the horse's body and keep it there firmly throughout the jump."

"An analysis of the horse's movements while leaping shows us that the withers are the most passive part of the horse's body. Consequently, the rider should keep his weight over the withers."

"At the moment of take-off the speed of the horse's body is suddenly and greatly increased. At this moment the rider must increase the speed of his own body, or he will be left behind, and he does so by moving his body forward. This movement must be perfectly synchronized with the movements of the horse's body. It should not start too late or too early and should not be too big or too small. A good execution of it depends on the feelings of the rider. These cannot be explained in a book.

During the jump the horse makes gestures with the neck and head. There are moments when the neck and head extend forward and down. The rider, moving his arms forward, must give to the neck and head the necessary liberty to execute these gestures.

A slight movement forward of the body and the extension of the arms are the only two movements which the rider will have to do on the jump, if he has approached it with the Forward Seat for Fast Equitation. On the other hand, if the rider comes to the jump sitting firmly in the saddle,... and then tries suddenly to change his position to a forward one, he will suddenly change the distribution of his weight and will disturb the horse.

When approaching the jump, when taking it, and when galloping away from it, the rider must be in the same position (Forward Seat). This position is the most secure for the rider and the easiest for the horse.

Of course, it is better for the movement forward with the arms to be done through the air, without touching the horse's body. Only then is the contact with the horse's mouth soft and permament. But that is very hard to do at first, and consequently I would advise you to move your arms forward, pressing your hands against the neck of the horse. This you will have to do until your grip becomes very strong and your balance and spring good so that they will hold you in the forward position firmly, without the need of leaning on your hands.


1) Heels pulled down to the extreme so it feels like all the weight going into the stirrups goes down into the heels, to harden the muscles of the legs, for better gripping.

2) Soles of the feet turned out to help press the knees into the saddle. (My note--you do this by keeping your foot's weight on the inside of the stirrup with the side of your foot pressing against the inside branch of the stirrup iron.)

3) Toes turned outward about thirty degrees, to turn the muscular part of the calves toward the horse's sides for better gripping.

4) Legs kept back so that they will be parallel to the thrust of the hind legs of the horse at the take-of, so that the toes and knees are approximately on the same vertical line and so that the stirrup leathers hang vertically or slightly behind vertical.

5) Calves grip throughout the jump.

6) Knees remain close to the saddle because of the adjustment of the stirrups, as well as by the effort of the rider, assisted by the soles (of the feet) being turned outward.

7) The knee joints held in position by both flexor and extensor muscles, for a better spring.

8) The knees placed on the saddle as low and forward as possible, wedging-in the saddle between the rider's legs, in the general direction of the thighs.

9) The thighs placed parallel to the line of the horse's shoulders, which is important in order to receive correctly the thrust of the forehand at the take-off and absord the shock in landing.

10) The lower part of the thighs pressed to the saddle for gripping.

11) The body bent forward at the hip joints, the half closed angles of the ankles, knees and hips forming a system of springs; to use these springs the rider must put weight on the stirrups.

12) The spinal column slightly caved in, chest and shoulders open.

13) The neck caved in. This will raise the head and assist in keeping the correct position of the torso. The head besides being kept high must also be kept straight, the rider looking between the horse's ears.

14) The arms and hands must follow freely the gestures of the horse's neck and head.

15) Fingers may open and let the reins slide through in case the extension of the horse's neck and head proves bigger than the total length of the rider's arms and the original length of reins.

16) The rhythm of the rider unites his position and efforts with the movements of the horse. This is the only element which does not lend itself to explanation."

"The forward seat is the most secure, but not the easiest."

And from "Common Sense Horsemanship" page 68

"...all the rider can do is to find the position which will be the least disturbing; this position must have the following elements:

1) The rider's buttocks during the entire jump should not be in contact with the horse's back. The horse's back must be free to extend, contract, curve upward and cave in, following and uniting the actions of his hindquarters and forehand. A horse's back, abused by the constant banging of the rider's seat, loses its activity and this diminishes the activity of the rest of the body, especially of the hindquarters.

2) The rider should not abuse the horse's forehand with his weight. The forehand must be free to produce thrusts and to rise when it is necessary.

3) The rider should not keep the horse's neck and head held tightly. The 'balancer' must be free to take part in inner-motions in accordance with the rest of the movements of the body.

...the rider, from the horse;s viewpoint, must give complete freedom to the neck and head and keep his body away from the horse's back as well as the forehand. Then only one point of the horse's body is left for the rider to use for the application of his weight. This is the area immediately behind the withers. This particular part of the horse, during the jump, is a kind of pivot. Everything ahead of it is active, as well as everything behind. This center of oscillation is the most passive part of the horse during the entire jump."

Enjoy your ride.

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Comment by Over Fences on October 25, 2009 at 6:37pm
I read Common Sense Horsemanship (parts anyway) years ago when I used to babysit for this lady who had every book imaginable on horses.

Thanks, as usual very thoughtful & well written
will share on my FB!

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