Study Guide

ANRC Study Guide for Certification Centers and Collegiate Championships

Forward Riding is a modern system of training for hunters, jumpers and cross-country horses consisting of three major parts:

• Position
• Control
• Schooling

The Rider’s Position

Four Fundamentals of a Good Working Position

• Unity – of the horse and rider while standing or in motion
• Non-abuse to the horse by the rider’s weight and the aids
• Security of the rider in the saddle
• Use of the aids efficiently and effectively to control the horse quickly and softly

Physical Qualities Needed to Achieve the Fundamentals of a Good Position

1. Correct Design of Position

Profile – Rider close to the pommel, legs bent at knee, heels pulled down, stirrup leathers straight to the ground, rider upright or inclined slightly forward (depending on the gait), rider’s back straight, shoulders open, head up, rider’s arms bent at elbow and close to the sides so that the forearm and the rein form a straight line from elbow to bit.

Front – Weight evenly distributed in each stirrup, ball of the foot resting near the inside branch of the stirrup, ankles flexed and rotated toward the horse sufficiently to allow the upper calves to be in contact, rider looking between the horse’s ears, hands about 6 inches apart, slightly above and in front of the withers.

2.   Correct Distribution of Weight

Rider’s center of gravity should coincide with that of the horse, influenced by the gait and speed.

3. Balance in Motion

The stability of the rider in the saddle without gripping and regardless of the horse’s motion.  Balance depends on relaxation and is achieved by unconscious compensating movements of the body, especially the torso.

4. Spring

The ability of the rider to absorb a part of the effects of the shocks of locomotion by  maintaining three important angles: the hip, knee and ankle and by the instinctive, timely opening and closing of these angles—for instance, posting from the stirrups, rather than the knees.

5. Rhythm

Rhythm consists of instinctive movements of the rider’s torso and arms which adjust his self-     balancing efforts with those of the horse.

6. Physical and Mental Relaxation

These are interdependent.  By developing confidence and physical skill, the body can become alert and ready to follow the movements of the horse without being sloppy or stiff.

7. Grip

Frictional and muscular grip are dependent on a correct design of position that allows the lower inner thigh, the inner knee and the upper inner calf to be in contact with the saddle and the horse’s sides.  Muscular grip should be used only when necessary to maintain unity with the horse’s efforts and reactions.  Frictional grip is always present.

Levels of Schooling and Control

Schooling is the physical and mental education of the horse.  The basic aim of schooling is to maintain and restore the natural balance of the “free” horse under the weight and influence of the rider. Schooling develops the horse physically and mentally to the point where the horse performs efficiently and is pleasant to ride.  In short, schooling improves the horse’s athletic development, and teaches the horse signals, obedience and cooperation, thereby enhancing performance.

Stabilization is a key concept in schooling.  The goal of stabilization is to teach the horse to maintain even speeds in each gait using elementary control techniques, whether being ridden in the ring or over uneven terrain, on the flat or jumping.  The horse remains mentally and physically calm while being ridden alone or in the company of other horses. Stabilization provides the foundation for both horse and rider to facilitate further training.

Littauer set up three classifications of control to describe stages of training for the horse as well as the rider.

1. Elementary Level

The elementary level is used by beginning riders while developing their positions and by intermediate and advanced riders when schooling or re-training horses.

The elementary level means authority over the horse through quick and definite control.  Emphasis is placed on teaching the horse obedience.  The rider’s goal is to ride on loose or semi-loose reins, teaching the horse to respond to the elementary control techniques described below.  This schooling process will promote the elements of “stabilization”, encouraging the horse to be responsive and move forward freely with even speeds of gait, while remaining mentally and physically relaxed.  Elementary control techniques are characterized by:

• Hands – loose or semi-loose reins used in a check-release fashion for control and direction of the horse
• Legs  – tapping or kicking
• Voice – used liberally
• Gaits – in schooling, the horse should be working toward stabilization. For beginning riders, the horse should already be stabilized.

2.     Intermediate (equivalent to Level Three and the National Championships Level)

Having worked through the “stabilization” process, the horse is mentally and physically ready to advance in its training. The horse’s performance is enhanced by the rider’s ability to create impulse and connect the horse’s movement through the use of contact.  Emphasis is placed on a cooperative effort between horse and rider.  At this level, the horse should move forward freely with impulse, accept contact softly, and respond to the rider’s aids without resistance.  The intermediate level encompasses a large part of the rider and horse’s education.  Both horse and rider at this level learn to establish contact and then move from passive contact to a sophisticated level of contact that allows for soft and precise controls.  The horse develops longitudinal and lateral flexibility and the rider refines his or her use of the aids so that he or she can effectively influence the horse by “riding the horse’s feet”.  Intermediate control implies the horse and the rider are equally educated to the use of the five rein aids and three leg aids. Intermediate control techniques are characterized by:

• Hands – use of rein contact with following hands, give and take; use of reins in cooperation with the horse’s movement.
• Legs  – squeezing leg aids in timing with the horse’s efforts
• Voice – used as a schooling aid
• Gaits – the horse should be stabilized on contact, move forward with impulse and connection, work with cooperation and efficiency.

3.     Advanced Level

The primary emphasis of riding at this level is to achieve the highest quality performance on the flat and over fences.  The advanced rider’s goal is to assess the horse’s mental and physical capabilities and to develop appropriate schooling techniques that will strengthen performance.  At this stage of schooling, the rider allows the horse to become confident in his work, athletic, and willing to perform to the best of its ability. Advanced level control techniques are characterized by:

• Hands – use of the five rein aids with excellent timing and feel; knowledge and use of aids at all schooling levels.
• Legs  – use of the three leg aids with excellent timing; knowledge and use of aids at all schooling levels.
• Voice – used as a schooling aid
• Gaits – the horse should demonstrate quality of movement, connection, athletic jumping with occasional flexion and semi • collection.

Five Rein Aids

1. Two reins of direct opposition – two hands straight back to slow down, stop, turn or back the horse. There should be a direct line from the bit to the rider’s elbow.
2. One rein of direct opposition – one hand straight back to turn the horse and position the head slightly in the direction of the turn.
3. Leading rein – one hand to the side and slightly forward to lead the horse’s head in the direction of the turn.
4. Indirect rein of opposition in front of withers – a corrective rein that acts toward the opposite shoulder to shift the horse’s weight to the opposite shoulder.
5. Indirect rein of opposition behind the withers – a corrective rein that acts toward the opposite haunch to shift the horses weight to the opposite haunch.

Three Leg Aids

1. Urging leg – the rider’s legs act at or just behind the girth to move horse forward, increase speed or create reserve energy.
2. Holding leg – the rider’s leg acts just behind the girth to hold the horse’s body on the line particularly when turning.
3. Displacing leg – the rider’s leg acts 4-6 inches behind the girth to displace the haunches, hold the haunches in place, or move the horse’s body laterally.



All disciplines have a specialized language, which allows for more efficient communication of important ideas and concepts.  Knowledge of the following terms should enable one to better grasp the theory of the forward riding system.

Advanced Control – aims at achieving the highest quality of a horse’s performance in schooling, hunting, or showing that the horse is able to produce.  This would require a horse that is mentally and physically relaxed yet alert and responsive to the rider’s aids with an acceptable degree of athletic ability.

Aids – what the rider uses to communicate with the horse.

• Natural Aids : hands, weight/seat, voice, legs
• Artificial Aids: crop, spurs, martingales, etc.

Abuse – is the unintentional mistreatment of the horse due to uneducated riding, such as the rider inadvertently pulling on the reins due to loss of the rider’s balance or unsteady hands while posting.

Balancing Gesture – The horse uses his head and neck to help him keep his balance when in motion.  At the trot there is almost no gesture because a diagonal pair of legs is always on the ground lending the gait stability. At the walk, canter, gallop and jump the balancing gesture is significantly more pronounced.

Behind the Motion – Riders who sit too upright are behind the horse’s forward balance. Their upper body may be behind the vertical at the canter and could cause the rider to get left at the jumps.  The rider may pump with the upper body or shove with the seat which can agitate the horse or cause it to invert.

Contact – The feeling of the horse’s reserve energy in the rider’s hands through the reins thus establishing connection. The urging leg creates this energy or impulse and the rider captures the energy with an elastic feel of the horse’s mouth.  The horse’s head and neck should be extended. Through the use of contact, the rider can achieve softer and more precise transitions than is possible on the elementary level.  A rider is ready to learn contact when he/she has mastered the elementary level of control and has a strong enough working position that his/her hands can function independently of his/her body.

Cavaletti – a series of poles that the horse crosses at a walk, trot or canter to help in his physical development.  They may be on the ground or slightly raised.

Connection – Unity between the horse’s front end and hind end resulting from the horse’s energetic movement captured by the rider’s elastic feel of the horse’s mouth.

Crest Release – The intermediate (level three) jumping release. The rider presses his hands on either side of the horse’s crest.  This release may be short, medium or long, depending on the rider and/or the horse’s level.

Disengagement – The thrusting of the horse’s hind foot off the ground and the swinging of the leg back preparing to re-engage.  Optimally, the degree of engagement and disengagement should be equal.

Driving Rein – The rein is held as if driving horses in a cart.  The rein goes from the bit down through the hand from the thumb to the little finger rather than up through from the little finger to the thumb.

Dynamic Balance -The horse’s balance in motion. It is the constant losing and regaining of his equilibrium.

Elementary Level Control – aims at establishing authority over the horse with the rider’s use of quick and definite control. This level is initially used for a beginning rider but is also useful for the advanced, educated rider when starting a young horse in the early stages of training.

Engagement – The swing of the hind leg under the horse’s body and the placing of the foot on the ground.

Equitation – In the show ring, an equitation class is judged on the rider’s position and his/her ability to produce a good performance of the horse against whatever standard is being used.

Following Arms – The advanced level jumping release, that is also used at the walk, canter, and gallop. The rider follows the horse’s head and neck gesture in the air over the jump or in the gaits, maintaining a constant soft contact with the horse’s mouth, and keeping a direct line from the horse’s mouth to the rider’s elbow.

Four Phases of the Jump – approach, take-off, flight, and landing.

Good Hunter Movement – The horse moves with long, low, efficient, ground-covering strides, traveling on the line.

Impulsion – The horse’s reserve energy, energy that is there when asked for, so that the horse moves freely and energetically forward.  Sometimes impulse will be natural and at other times it will have to be created by the use of the rider’s urging legs.

Intermediate Control – aims at soft and precise control with a soft but definite cooperation of the rider’s hands and legs with the horse’s efforts and reactions. Contact helps to achieve better control with connected movement.

Jumping Release

• Elementary level rider uses an early release and holds the mane.
• Intermediate level rider uses the crest release (short, medium or long).
• Advanced level rider uses following arms in the air.

Lateral Agility – The horse’s ability to bend and turn with suppleness.  This may be improved by practicing circles, half circles, serpentines, etc.

Longitudinal Agility – The horse’s ability to lengthen and shorten his stride within a gait.  Exercises to develop this ability include: 1) ordinary trot, slow trot, ordinary trot, 2) lengthening and shortening the stride up and down hills, and 3) jumping gymnastics.

On the Line –The horse’s hind feet track in the path of the fore feet whether the horse is traveling on a straight or curved line. The horse’s head and neck are bent slightly in the direction of travel.

Passive Contact – is the beginning level of contact.  The rider shortens the reins sufficiently so that he or she has a soft, consistent connection or feel of the horse’s mouth.  There should be a straight line from the rider’s elbow to the horse’s bit. The horse accepts this feeling without resistance keeping his mouth closed and head and neck extended.

Perched – Riders who are consistently ahead of the horse’s motion because their upper body is too far forward.  It may result from over-practicing two-point position.

Pinches at the Knee – Describes a rider that tightens through the thigh and knee and does not allow his or her weight to fall into the heel.  This rider is often insecure and perched.  The lower leg may pivot or swing from the knee down.

Potential Rider Qualities – suitable physique, boldness and willingness, quick mind, sympathy for the horse and the ability to work hard, logically and patiently.

Punishment – The intentional use of a strong aid to correct or discourage inappropriate behaviors. Example: using the crop behind the rider’s leg to move the horse forward if he balks.

Stabilization – The horse’s ability and willingness to maintain by himself a steady, even pace set by the rider on loose reins, in all gaits and transitions, alone or in company, on the flat or over fences, in a ring or outside.

Static Balance – The horse when standing still carries approximately 60% of his weight on his forelegs and about 40% on his hind legs; he is exhibiting static balance.

Two Point, Galloping or Jump Position – The rider rises slightly out of the saddle, closing the hip angle and balancing over his or her lower leg. At the elementary level, the rider should hold the mane to help maintain balance.

 Transitions – A change from gait to gait or within a gait.

• Sequence for a downward transition: rider’s weight, voice, hand, supporting leg
• Sequence for upward transition: weight, voice, urging leg, follow-up with stick or spur if the response is not achieved.

Jumping Information

When riding a course of jumps, riders should be aware of their major responsibilities.   They are responsible for choosing the pace relative to the height of the fences and the terrain.  They are responsible for keeping the horse on the line, to facilitate good turns and approaches.  As the rider’s skill develops, he or she learns to regulate the length of the horse’s stride in relation to the jump.

The rider should be familiar with cavaletti and simple gymnastics and the most common distances for setting these.


Walk – 3′ apart

Trot – 4’6″ apart

Canter – 12′ apart

One Stride Combinations

Trot in – 18′ to 2nd element

21′ to 22′ to 3rd  element

Canter in – 24′ to 2nd element


Trot in – 9′-10′

Canter in – 12′

The average length of the horse’s stride at the canter is 12′.  When setting a course of jumps at 3′ or higher, there should normally be 60′ between two fences to have four cantering strides between them.  This distance allows 6′ for the horse to land inside the line from the first fence, then four 12′ cantering strides, and then 6′ for take-off before the next obstacle.

The Horse’s Gaits


2 4
1 3

4 beats


1 2
2 1

2 beats


3 2
2 1

3 beats
left lead


2 1
1 2

2 beats


4 3
2 1

4 beats

The Speeds of the Gaits (All speeds given are approximate)

The ordinary walk – 4 miles per hour

The ordinary trot  – 8 miles per hour

The ordinary canter – 10 miles per hour

The slow or semi-collected walk – 2 1/2 miles per hour

The slow or semi-collected trot  – 5 miles per hour

The slow or semi-collected canter  – 6 miles per hour

The hunting pace – 18 miles per hour

Lungeing Techniques

Reasons for lungeing:

• Training – to teach the horse voice commands, cooperation and stabilization
• Retraining – to stabilize an upset or nervous horse
• Allow a horse to expend excess energy before the rider mounts
• Exercise
• Work with a mounted rider on position

How to lunge:

(1) Use a lunge line, whip and lungeing caveson or leather halter.  If a horse is ridden in boots, it should also be lunged in the boots.  If lungeing in a bridle, put the halter over the bridle or put the lunge line through side of the bit on the inside, over the horse’s poll and attach it to the other side of the bit.  This prevents the bit from being pulled through the horse’s mouth.  It is safest to wear gloves when lungeing to prevent rope burns on your hands should the horse pull.

(2) Lunge in an enclosed area if possible.  If one is not available, use a corner of the ring and set up standards or some kind of portable barricade to define your lungeing area.

(3) In the “lungeing triangle” the lunger is the top point of the triangle, the whip and the lunge line are two sides and the horse is the bottom.  The lunge line should be neatly organized with the excess in the whip hand.  It should be folded rather than wrapped to prevent it from getting wrapped around the lunger’s hand.  The person lungeing should stand opposite the horse’s shoulder or slightly behind the shoulder with the whip pointing toward the horse’s hip.  If the horse is afraid of the whip it can be held behind the lunger’s body by turning it around in the hand.

(4) When starting to lunge, the lunger may be close to the horse walking a large circle with the horse.  The tone of the voice is extremely important, as this is what will carry over to the riding.  As the horse begins to walk well on the circle the line may be let out. To increase the pace, step slightly behind the horse’s shoulder and increase the tone of the voice. To decrease the pace, step in front of the shoulder and use a softer slower voice. Use short checks on the line to reinforce the voice command if necessary. These short checks are carried over to the riding. To keep he horse from coming to the center when stopping, step toward the horse rather than pulling the horse’s head in to the middle.  Be alert that a frisky horse can sometimes kick out.  Keep the horse’s head on the line of the circle so that the hind legs stay away from the lunger, being careful not to reel the horse in to the middle. Be sure to lunge in both directions.



Anne Kursinski’s Riding and Jumping Clinic by Anne Kursinski, Doubleday Publishing Co., New York, 1995

Basic Training of the Young Horse by Reiner Klimke, The Lyons Press, Guilford, CT, 2000

Centered Riding by Sally Swift, St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1985

Centered Riding 2, Further Explanation, by Sally Swift, Trafalgar Square Publishing, North Pomfret, VT, 2002

Commonsense Horsemanship by Vladimir Littauer, Arco Publishing Co, New York, NY, 1974

Fit to Show: The Guide to Grooming Your Horse by William Cooney and Frank Madden, ARCO Publishing Co., New York, 1985

Horse and Rider by Judy Richter, Sovereign Books, New York,

Horse Gaits, Balance and Movement, The Natural Mechanics of Movement Common to All Breeds, by Susan E. Harris, Howell Book House, New York, 1993

Horses are Made to be Horses by Franz Maringer, Howell Book House, Inc., New York, N.Y., 1983

Hunter Seat Equitation by George Morris, Doubleday, Garden City NY, 1971

Learning to Ride, Hunt, and Show by Gordon Wright, Doubleday, Garden City NY, 1966

Lessons with Lendon by Lendon Gray, Primedia Enthusiast Publications, Gaithersburg, MD, 2003

Natural Horse-Man-Ship by Pat Parelli with Kathy Kadash, A Western Horseman, Inc. Colorado Springs, CO 1993

101 Jumping Exercises for Horse and Rider by Linda L. Allen with Dianna R. Dennis, Storey Publishing, North Adams, MA, 2002

Reflections on Riding and Jumping by William Steinkraus, Doubleday, New York, N.Y., 1991

Ride with Your Mind Essentials by Mary Wanless, Trafalgar Square Publishing, North Pomfret, VT, 2002

Riding Logic, by Wilhelm Museler, translated by F. W. Schiller, ARC Publishing Co., New York, 1973

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Schooling and Riding the Sport Horse: A Modern American Hunter/Jumper System by Paul Cronin, University of Virginia Press, Charlottesville VA, 2004

Schooling Your Horse by Vladimir Littauer, D. Van Nostrand Company, Inc. Princeton, NJ, 1956

Showing Your Horse edited by Harlan Abby, A. S. Barnes, New York, 1970

The Natural Rider by Mary Wanless, Summit Books, New York, 1987

The Nature of Horses by Stephen Budiansky, The Free Press, New York, 1997

The New Toughness Training for Sports by James LOehr, EdD, Penguin Group, New York, 1995

The Way to Perfect Horsemanship by Udo Burger, translated by Nicole Bartle, J.A. Allen & Co. Ltd, London, 1986

Training Hunters, Jumpers and Hacks by Harry Chamberlin, Derrydale Press, New York, 1937

Yoga for Equestrians by Linda Benedik & Veronica Wirth, Trafalgar Square Publishing, North Pomfret, VT, 2001