National Show Hunter Hall of Famer Bernie Traurig taught a two-day riding clinic at Sweet Briar in October, in which 17 students participated.
Traurig has represented the United States eight times in World Cup Finals and in three Olympic disciplines, show jumping, dressage and eventing. He has competed in more than 60 show jumping grand prix events. As a junior rider at the beginning of his career, he won the then-American Horse Shows Association Medal Finals and the ASPCA Maclay. Today he is the West Coast associate chef d’équipe to George H. Morris.
“The purpose of the clinic was to allow our students the opportunity to have an internationally acclaimed rider, coach and teacher give them instruction regarding the use of their position and aids in order to improve their efficiency and effectiveness while riding hunter, jumper and equitation courses,” says Mimi Wroten, director of the riding program.
Sophomore rider Brieanah Schwartz said he focused on perfecting the “team,” so his instruction for each horse and rider pair was different. “I would have killed for one more lesson!” Schwartz joked.
“It was also really interesting to watch the other sections and see how he solved all sorts of problems. It gave me a fresh perspective on problem solving that I look forward to incorporating in future riding,” she said.
The riders soaked up the wisdom he offered from many years of competitive riding, including those intangibles that Traurig stressed beyond straightforward technique.
“Bernie really motivated me to want to become a smart rider, thinking of all the different approaches you can take on a course, and really being an ‘artist’ as he would describe it,” said junior Ali Davidson.
Elizabeth Hansbrough ’13 liked his notion that it is “perfect practice that makes perfect.”
“What made a big impression on me was when he mentioned that part of becoming a good rider is watching intently and then experimenting on your own with new techniques to see what works and what doesn’t. I know I have a tendency to get in a rut of practicing the same things over and over but don’t always take the time to incorporate new things through trial and error,” she said.
“Also, his demonstration ride about the rein aids reminded me how important it is for the horse and rider to be precise and methodical about using them and not ‘clashing the aids,’ like he said. I hadn’t heard that specific phrase before, but it makes total sense.”
Traurig was similarly impressed with the students.
“The excellent riding of the students of Sweet Briar exhibited during my two-day clinic can only be a reflection of the great teaching they receive at Sweet Briar by the instructors, and a great reflection of the importance of teaching the American Forward Riding System ‘correctly.’ They made my job easy,” he said.