Project provides chance to learn from mid-20th-century riding master

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Want to learn from one of the riding masters of the mid 20th century?

Sweet Briar College in Virginia is providing the opportunity, through a digital archiving project that includes the instructional videos of Captain Vladimir Stanislavovitch Littauer, a former Russian army cavalry officer.

Vladimir Littauer demonstrates his craft in this undated photo. Photo: Sweet Briar College
Vladimir Littauer demonstrates his craft in this undated photo. Photo: Sweet Briar College

Littauer was an influential horseback riding master on educated riding and the training of horses.

Littauer’s skills as a riding instructor were in great demand during his lifetime. He was an early, important and, at the time, controversial advocate of the forward seat riding system.

He wrote more than a dozen books between 1930 and 1973, which sparked lively debates among experienced riders of various backgrounds. He also wrote many articles on forward riding, nowadays referred to as the “hunt seat”, for notable equestrian magazines of his day.

Littauer, whose methods continue to be taught around the world, was born in 1892 and moved to the US in 1921.

Some of his books came with companion films, advocating the forward seat riding system.

His instructional films were given to the library of Sweet Briar College when Littauer died in 1989.

They have now been digitized and will be made available on the library’s film archive YouTube channel, according to librarian Liz Kent León.

Littauer shot, spliced and inter-titled the films to create a library that he loaned to riding programs across the US by mail.

Vladimir Littauer at a riding clinic he conducted at Sweet Briar College in February 1953. The photo was probably taken by the public relations office of the college. Photo: via Wikipedia CC BY SA 3.0 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creative_Commons
Vladimir Littauer at a riding clinic he conducted at Sweet Briar College in February 1953. The photo was probably taken by the public relations office of the college. Photo: via Wikipedia CC BY SA 3.0

One of the unusual films in his collection shows the US equestrian team training for the 1948 Olympics. Others depict various horse shows and dressage.

The digitization work is now complete. Videos posted on the channel to date comprise mostly slice-of-life material from around Hillside Farm, but the gem to date is his instructional video, “How to Teach Position”, which he shot entirely at Sweet Briar College with student riders in 1948 and 1949.

Sweet Briar riding program founder Harriet Howell Rogers studied riding with Littauer, and he was a frequent guest lecturer at the college. His methods are still taught at Sweet Briar and throughout the world.

Keep an eye on the library archive YouTube channel here.

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