Editors note: Selena Weinstock wrote this post, a recap of the two-day Bernie Traurig clinic at Alder Lane Farm for Chestnut Hill last weekend. A big thank you to our fellow Chestnut Hill rider!
This past weekend, we had the amazing opportunity to host Bernie Traurig at Alder Lane Farm. Over a two day period, Bernie imparted his wisdom to us through a series of deceptively technical exercises, helpful and encouraging feedback and a great wit.
We were divided into four separate groups. The two morning groups rode in the grand prix arena and consisted of the big jumpers (assistant trainer John Wohr on Madison Bradshaw’s young jumper Ithaca and Aurora Noel’s prospect, Basil and Jen on Kelly Craig’s prospect, Carolina On My Mind), the smaller jumpers (me on my horse King, Judith on Pikadero, Sara on Gold Strike, Brit on Corazon, Kat Taylor on Axel and Maximus and Gillett, who decided to cross over to the “dark side” from the hunter ring and ride the jumper, Le Petite).
Each group rode similar exercises, albeit at different heights. Bernie stressed the automatic release and pace. In both day one and day two, his exercises challenged the riders to know their horses stride like the back of their hand. We were required to lengthen and shorten in many lines, which allowed us to both open and compress our horses strides.
Bernie also checked every rider’s tack and questioned each rider about their horse’s bit. He made several adjustments to many bits, which seemed to make a huge positive difference for everyone. By Bernie simply moving my reins from the lower ring on my two ring, to the top, it completely changed the way my horse King went, and allowed his stride to flow forward more freely, instead of compressed and vertical.
After the first two groups, we had a lovely potluck lunch in the main tackroom. It was a great time for everyone to re-fuel and also to connect and discuss our favorite topic – horses.
After lunch the ponies (Christina on Flash and Hayden and Bugzy) took to the hunter ring for their lesson. I unfortunately missed it, but the girls came away from their lessons with big grins and handfuls of cookies for their ponies.
The hunters riders, (Aurora on AstraZeneca, Bonnie on Calvin, Christina on Holiday, Judith on Patrick and Jamie on Chicago) rode in the afternoon. Many of them expressed their desire for Bernie to help them to fix their turns, where their young horses would sometimes bulge, and making it difficult to get down the lines straight. Bernie took this into consideration and had each of them practice using an opening inside rein, while on a tight circle. It paid off greatly, and all the riders had fantastic flowing rides.
Bernie stressed many things that really stuck with me. “Never do a flying lead change every time you go across the diagonal. Mix it up. Don’t ask for the change sometimes. Counter canter. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a horse that swaps it leads.”
He also encouraged us to really listen to our horses in terms of what kind of bit is most appropriate. “Too many people over-bit, which causes the horses to throw their head or be too strong or suck back.” He was very glad to hear that Beverly and our vets always make sure to have the horses’ teeth floated annually, which he reiterated as being critically important.
My fellow Chestnut Hill rider, Christina said that “the most important thing I learned was how to use my hands and leg to correct Holly’s (Holiday’s) bulging as we approach the jumps. It was amazing how well it worked! He had me move my two hands together in the direction I wanted the horse to move while using leg. Holly was so much straighter. It also helped me improve my corners immensely. He made me really think about getting my heel down. My ankles are sore from it! They’ve never been that far down!”
I’m so happy I got to participate in the clinic, and that I didn’t have to travel far to get there. I thank Beverly for bringing such an amazing trainer here to work with us, and I must thank Marc and Aurora for preparing the footing in the rings both of the days. The footing was fluffy and absolutely divine. Can’t wait for Bernie to return next year!!
~~ Selena Weinstock