Was it the Chicken?

by Barbara Ellin Fox

I’m frequently asked about the differences between seats and systems of riding.  One question is sort of like the “chicken or the egg’.  Is Balanced Seat the result of a dressage seat with forward seat added to it? Or is it the result of forward seat with dressage added to it? My personal experience is the latter.

Captin Federico Caprilli

Capt. Federico Caprilli

I wish I could ask Harry Chamberlin himself, but in his absence he’s left us with the following description in “Riding and Schooling Horses”: “For the Seat advocated, the writer is principally indebted to the Italian Cavalry School at Tor di Quinto. The Italians were the pioneers in riding the forward seat during cross-country work and jumping. However, the teachings of the French and American Cavalry Schools, modified to some extent by observation of the best horsemen among the Germans, Swedes, and Poles, have entered into the conception of the Seat described. Much personal experience has convinced the writer of its practical superiority.”

When writing about La Gueriniere, Baucher and D’Aure, Chamberlin adds,
“These teachings, but little altered, and used for generations at the French Cavalry School at Saumur, have been adopted” almost in toto by the American Cavalry School at Fort Riley, Kansas. There is nothing better in the world concerning the training and schooling of the horse. The instruction received at Saumur and Fort Riley, and found in the works of the great masters, provides the basis for all that pertains to the Aids and Training in this book.”

So there you have it: The Chicken or the Egg.

Now for my simplest  answer. The freedom of the horse’s head and neck, free forward movement, forward balance, shorter stirrups, and forward position over the jumps are from Caprilli. These are the things that took jumping from the backward seat to the forward seat.  The use of seat, use of leg aids, flexion, bending, lateral movements, balancing of the horse and flexions of the pole and jaw are from classical training or dressage.

Col. Paul Rodzianko jumping without reins

There have been many changes to the forward seat as Caprilli offered it.  The  addition and adaptations from other countries , such as those mentioned by Chamberlin are one example. Even Russian Capt. Paul Rodzianko combined the teachings of Caprilli and Fillis.  Rodzianko was a student of both masters. After leaving Russia Rodzianko was instructor for the Irish Free State Cavalry. Vladmir Littauer, also from Russia, immigrated to America and had his own version of the forward seat. Littauer was not a direct student of Caprilli. Italian, Captain Piero Santini was the closest “follower” of Caprilli.  As a student of Caprilli, he authored several books that expound and expand on Caprilli’s notes. In “Riding Reflections” Santini writes, “Fort Riley is very near Italy in spite of the 4000 miles that divide them….”

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