Meaningful experiences equipt UF student for the future
By: Larissa Holmes
Clinics provide additional learning opportunities for equestrians of all levels—amateur to professional— who are looking to improve certain aspects of their riding. These clinics can either be very focused on a certain skill, or cover a wide range of training techniques. The clinician who runs it is usually an expert in some area of the field, such as riding, training or horsemanship. Spectators can audit and watch the clinic, learning while a group of riders participate. Most clinics are centered around a particular discipline, such as dressage, jumping and reining.
University of Findlay hosted a three-day clinic on Feb. 17-19 by world-renowned clinician, Bernie Traurig. He is highly regarded as a rider, teacher and horseman, and founded a video learning website called EquestrianCoach.com in 2010. According to his bio page on that sight, he represented the U.S Equestrian Team here in the United States and abroad, and placed top in the sport in all three equestrian disciplines: show jumping, dressage, and eventing. The site claims that he is one of the most sought after clinicians in the country as a teacher and trainer.
This was my first time participating in a clinic and it has been something that I have wanted to do for a long time. It’s just one of the many opportunities that is provided by the University, and one that I am truly grateful for. While the clinic lasted for three days, I only participated in two days of the clinic because I knew the work was going to be demanding on my horse and I didn’t want to overdo it. The sessions were each roughly two hours long, which gave Traurig plenty of time to devote one on one attention to each of the riders.
Since this was my first clinic, I didn’t really know what to expect when I entered the ring Friday morning. Those who were riding in the clinic were outfitted with headphones so we could hear Traurig, who was had a microphone hooked to his clothes. This meant Traurig didn’t have to repeat himself, or scream across the ring to make sure everyone could hear him. There were a few vertical jumps already set up, as well as a few wooden cavaletti. Cavaletti are adjustable jumps that are used in training exercises. Cavaletti can either be used as a ground pole, four inches off the ground, or 8 inches. After warming our horses up under Traurig’s guidance, we started incorporating three cavaletti jumps set with three horse canter strides in between.
Since our sessions were jumping lessons, Traurig required that we all rode in half-seats, instead of full seat while cantering. It means exactly how it sounds: You’re not sitting completely in the saddle, but you’re not holding yourself out of the saddle the whole time either. Since I also ride Dressage, a discipline that operates using a full seat-where the rider is completely in the saddle and is one with the motion of the horse, this proved to be a challenge. But being challenged is good when taking part in a clinic.
Some of the techniques that Traurig had me use while riding my horse Lenny, required spreading my hands wider apart from about four inches to eight inches. This technique made Lenny more responsive to my asking aids and he dropped his head into a collected frame. Traurig also had me holding the reins differently, more like how cart drivers hold reins over the top of the index fingers and through the hand, pinching with the thumb. It may not sound like much, but when normally holding the reins, my ring fingers is where the control comes from. In driving reins, I don’t have much strength in my contact. The technique Traurig taught me lets my hands follow the motion of Lenny’s movements, such as at the canter.
The first day was a very successful day for Lenny and me. We had some good moments and when we went through the small vertical jumps, Lenny was a lot more responsive than he normally is and was listening to my aids when going through the lines. His second day was a little bit more of a challenge for him because he had already worked so hard the first day. He was somewhere between fired up and worn out. His energy on the flat—riding around without jumping—was high and he jigged the whole lesson (trying to trot off with me when I was asking him to walk.) When we would ride through lines, he still tore through the line between the jumps and would run when we landed on the other side. However, there were times when I was afraid he wouldn’t be able to get through the jump at all. He came close to the base of the jump, and would hesitate for half a second before he would jump.
When I first started getting serious about English riding, and jumping, I never thought that I would ever get the chance to ride in a clinic with someone as influential as Bernie Traurig. I thank the University of Findlay for providing me with this opportunity to ride with such a huge player in the English riding world. The lessons I learned from Traurig are ones that I hope I can implement in my riding from now on. I feel that clinics are also great places to improve a rider’s confidence and I can say with certainty that my confidence has improved since riding with Traurig. Not every day is going to be successful, or perfect, but just having one good moment is what makes the whole experience worth it.