Learning From a Master: Bernie Traurig Brings His Expertise to the Colorado Horse Park

By Hacked Horse Contributor Kristina McCombie

Parker, Colo. – Riders from California, Colorado and Arizona were treated to a clinic with one of the nation’s best riders/trainers/clinicians Bernie Traurig on July 3rd and 4th. Traurig, founder of EquestrianCoach.com, has a storied career spanning decades in hunters, jumpers and equitation, as well as in Dressage and 3-Day Eventing. Traurig’s quick trip to Colorado was not for vacation; 20+ riders and even more auditors were treated to Traurig’s teaching during the two-day clinic held at the Colorado Horse Park.

Jill Pelzel looks on as Traurig selects a bit from his bit bag.

Katie Pelzel and her horse Caspian jumping in great form.

The groups were split into homogeneous sections – first was the 1.10m and up jumpers, then the Big Eq (3’6”) group, a 3’-3’3” equitation group, and a 3’ hunter/equitation group. Many riders from Colorado took advantage of this clinic, but many other riders here to show at Summer in the Rockies found themselves in ring 7 learning from the master. Traurig went on to say that the second group (Jaden Olsen-CO, Katie Pelzel-CO, Abi Kelly-CO, Tali De Jong-CO, Caitlyn Lovingfoss-CA, Emery Volkert-CO) was the best group he’s ever taught.

Abi Kelly takes a jump as Bernie Traurig watches on

Traurig met with each rider before beginning the groups and inspected tack – especially bits. He brought a bit bag with him, and switched many horses from their current bits to one he thought might bring more success for horse and rider – and in many cases he was correct! Traurig discussed the differences in bit use from schooling to showing, and happily explained his choices for each bit change to riders, trainers, and auditors. Some horses were changed two to three times, others not at all. Trainer Jen Duffy found her 1.25m jumper happily jumped around the second day in a fat snaffle after working with the bit a day before – a suggestion from Traurig. He also checked riders’ stirrups and made a few adjustments, mostly longer. Traurig discussed the recent trend of “posting” the canter, instead of creating a soft seat, and said that stirrup length has a lot to do with a rider’s ability to control their seat.

Arizona-based rider Fallon O’Connell gets her stirrup checked by Traurig before her session begins.

During the two days, Traurig also talked about numerous things he sees in the show rings today, told stories about horses and riders from his past, and even asked the audience to get in on the fun. The second day was all about courses, and the first group competed in a jump-off, with the fastest time being the “winner.” Everyone watched the rounds, and guessed the time based on the track, with Traurig explaining to the riders and auditors why certain horses had certain times. He was also happy when a Thoroughbred won, as that is one of his favorite breeds. During the second group, riders competed over the same course as the jumpers, only this time as a “mock medal” round. Judges were in the audience, and riders came back to test over a crowd-designed work off.

Jen Duffy and Eloun

The top things learned over the clinic:

  • Walking: According to Traurig, there are two ways to walk a horse: with a long rein so they can stretch, or with contact and a following arm.
  • Flatwork: Two things should always be part of your flatwork regimen – leg yield and haunches in. And flatwork should always be a part of a horse’s training plan.
  • Flying Changes: Why should we sit for changes? Since we should ride our courses with a light half seat, we should teach our horses to get changes in this seat. We shouldn’t have to change our seats just to get a change.
  • Making a turn to a big jump: When the jumps get bigger, we need to be smarter about the track. It becomes difficult for a horse to turn from less than three strides. Practice at home over a pole making a parallel turn and finding it three strides exactly.
  • Practice makes perfect: Horses don’t need to jump everyday, but riders need to practice their eye. Use poles on the ground during your flatwork and practice finding a distance out of the step. Strengthen your eye over poles – your horse will thank you during your next time jumping.
  • Use your resources: The Internet has provided us with a plethora of resources including videos of the medal finals, and almost every grand prix from all over the world. Watch the best of the best – watch their hands, their seats, and their legs. Watch and learn. Then watch again.
  • Visualize: The top riders in the sport visualize themselves doing their course. Why can’t we? Traurig gave each rider time to visualize their course before beginning – a practice he thinks should be more commonplace.
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