Sweet Briar and Lynchburg College coaches emphasize the importance the American hunter/jumper forward riding system, brought about by George Morris. On February 6-7, student equestrians, school horses, and privately owned horses participated in a clinic taught by accomplished horseman Bernie Traurig, who also believes that the system leads to success. Bernie’s accomplished riding skills have appeared many different disciplines of the equestrian sport including but not limited to winning the ASPCA Maclay Medal Finals in 1961, as well as placing second in three-day eventing trials for the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan.
On the first day of the clinic Bernie set up small but technical cavalettis and jumps that tested the riders and horses adjustability with related distances. There were straight lines with long and short striding, as well as bending lines where riders had to bow out or take the direct track to complete the exercise.
Although, questions lay throughout the course, it was suited for both the school horses and the privately-owned horses. Bernie Traurig complimented the Sweet Briar’s riding coaches, admitting that he usually spent more time working on a riders jumping position instead of jumping technical courses. However, at Sweet Briar this was not the case. At Sweet Briar, students work on their equitation with coaches in every lesson and the basics had already been instilled in them to Bernie’s satisfaction. He had faith that we could execute the challenge that he put in front of us.
The second day was what Bernie considered a horse show. As we walked our horses into the ring he told us about his experience in the 1990 World Cup Finals in Dortmund, Germany. Bernie had misunderstood the German language and where he went in the order. George Morris had walked up to him stating that he was supposed to be in the ring in two trips. Bernie’s only warm up was the amount of time he had to get his young horse, Maybe Forever, from the tent where he was stabled to the arena. Well, he would end up jumping the challenging course and winning the class with the only double clear.
The story took about three to five minutes to tell and after he was finished, we were told that we would be put in the same scenario, but a bit more relaxed. Immediately each horse and rider combination stepped into a trot to test for soundness and then went right into a canter. Bernie emphasized the use of small circles and lengthening and shortening transitions within the canter. When we were done flatting, all of about five minutes later, Bernie Traurig, instructed us as we jumped parts of the course.
Next, it was time for the “horse show” where one rider would jump the course and then be critiqued by Bernie. Just as the day before, there were lines that were tight and bending as well as forward galloping straight lines. The last fence was a hand gallop into the in of a diagonal line off of a short turn with a halt before the out, which was the hardest part of the course.
At the end of the weekend, it was clear that each rider had learned more about their mount and themselves as a rider, as everyone had improved throughout the clinic.