Paul Cronin’s New Text on Riding

“Horses Everywhere Will Appreciate This Book”:
Paul Cronin’s New Text on Forward Riding Due Out This August
by Pam Whitfield

“My roots are in forward riding, and it has always made sense to me,” writes Joe Fargis in the foreword to Paul Cronin’s forthcoming book, Schooling and Riding the Sporthorse: A Modern American Hunter Jumper System. Paul’s roots are also in forward riding, and he has translated a lifetime of riding, learning, and teaching into this project, which promises to introduce a whole new generation to the principles of forward riding and the development of the American sporthorse.

“I’ve tried to update Commonsense Horsemanship,” states Paul. “This book is very much based on Captain Littauer’s forward riding system.” Along with Fargis’ endorsement, the text includes a statement by Mary Littauer. Due out August 1, 2004, Schooling and Riding the Sporthorse is also the first horse-related book to be published by the University of Virginia Press.

“This book is very much for riders, instructors, and the ANRC,” says its author. “People want to know more about forward riding, and I hope it will be useful to college programs and will be used as a text for courses.” The book includes fourteen chapters, introduces a progressive schooling system, and even covers selecting a horse and handling the foal.

“The text includes sections covering position, position theory, and controls,” says Paul. “It also goes into conformation and movement, teaching stabilization, then working on the bit and schooling on the flat, over fences, and across uneven terrain.” With 50 photos, 28 illustrations, and an appendix about setting combinations and jumps for different levels of schooling, the book provides ample visual examples and practical applications of the theory.

Paul draws on his own background in riding, both in the field and show ring, to write a historical perspective of the American forward riding system in his book’s first chapter. Paul rode under Captain Littauer during two-week clinics at the Groton Hunt Club, and shorter clinics at the Norfolk Hunt Club and the Millwood Hunt Club (all in Massachusetts) as a junior, as well as under Littauer’s pupil and ANRC National Judge Honora Haynes, and participated in rider rating clinics. He traveled to Long Island to work with Littauer as a teenager, and developed a life-long friendship with his mentor. In fact, after Paul completed a master’s degree in community planning, Littauer recommended him for the director of riding position at Sweet Briar College.

“He was promoting forward riding to a country that didn’t have it,” recalls Paul. “Fort Riley made its contribution, but what Littauer did for riding was extraordinary. He taught amateurs to school horses,” which was vital, according to Paul, since prior to the late 1960’s, horse show professionals—as we know them today—really did not exist. Only amateurs were eligible to show, horses were required to have field hunting experience, and few professionals made their living by coaching at shows. “You didn’t have a coach at the in-gate, so you had to know a lot, and you had to help each other out,” explains Paul. “That’s why Littauer wrote to and taught the amateur.”

In the 1950’s and 1960’s, when most horse shows were still held in fields and the horses jumped in natural terrain, “lessons were about schooling the horse,” adds Paul. Like Littauer’s Commonsense Horsemanship, Cronin’s text is directed at amateurs schooling horses and the people teaching amateurs. “This book is for the amateur rider and the trainer who wants to teach amateurs schooling and riding. I’d like to think I’m giving them tools so they don’t have to depend on a coach or trainer, and I’d like to think they could be a better pupil and get more out of their trainer, with the help of this book.”

And let’s not forget the horse, who benefits from a secure, non-interfering rider and a compassionate relationship. Joe Fargis speaks for the value of a calm, confident horse in the text’s foreword when he writes, “Horses everywhere will appreciate this book…If the horses could talk, they would say, ‘Read this book; this is how to ride me.’”