This past weekend, two riders from my barn rode in the Bernie Traurig Clinic. I tagged along with my trainer and fellow barn-mates to audit, and had a great Saturday watching the 2’6″-2’9″ group, the 3′-3’3″ group, and the 3’6″+ group. Bernie is a great clinician, and the creator of Equestriancoach.com.
The 2’6″-2’9″ group spent a lot of time on some flat exercises that a few riders were having trouble with, so for the purposes of this write-up I’m going to focus on the 3′ and the 3’6″ groups. Also I should note that a) if you’re not into hunter/jumper riding just look at the pictures and move along, and b) I was only able to audit day one which was more on flat work and smaller fences. Day 2 was what he called “horse show courses” which I’m sure was very educational to watch!
Also just a caveat, this is obviously my little amateur mind interpreting Bernie’s clinic. I don’t want to say these are his absolutes because who knows, maybe I spent too much time texting and missed the entire point of his clinic 😉
Some overall things I made a mental note of:
- Gentle bits. Simple tack. No gadgets. He switched more than one horse from what he considered a harsher bit to a rubber snaffle.
- Since hunter/jumper riders are a forward seat equitation, with direction you want a response with the rein first then the leg if necessary (for directions and shaping)
- Don’t use much leg if any when asking for downward transitions and backing – again because it’s forward riding and not dressage
- Hunter riders should hold the reins at least as far apart as the bit
- Jumper riders should hold their hands a bit farther apart than hunter riders
- Pay attention to the line between your horse’s bit and your hands. If your horse raises his head, raise your hands – don’t lower them
- Start slow with jumping exercises. If you have a problem, go slower. You can always add speed later
All three groups did a ton of flatwork before they were allowed to move onto jumping. Some exercises that they did (ranked from the lower groups to more advanced) were:
- Canter roughly 10 strides, walk about 10 strides, canter again
- Use the leading rein to zig zag at the trot between three poles that were 3 strides apart each
- Counter canter for about 1/4 – 1/2 of the ring, down transition to a walk, pick up the correct lead canter for 1/4-1/2 of the ring, down transition to a walk, repeat
- Trot down the long side of the ring asking for lateral movement towards the middle of the ring and then back out again
- Trot down the long side of the arena doing a shoulder in (said not a staple exercise of his)
- Trot down the long side of the arena doing a haunches in (said this is a staple exercise he does)
- Canter 10 strides, Gallop 10 strides, Canter 10 Strides, Gallop 10 etc
Since they weren’t doing full courses, there were only three main jumping exercises the two later groups focused on.
So the idea of the very amazing exercise drawing above is to work on using the leading rein to bring your horse over. Starting cantering on the left lead, they jumped the small liverpool (2’6″ ish maybe 3′) straight and then as soon as the horse landed he wanted riders to open their outside rein to lead the horse to the outside and then turn right to back to the jump. It made kind of a squished figure eight.
A big part of this exercise in addition to the leading rein was working on your automatic release. He called it a “following hand” since he said the term automatic release is more modern than the actual move is itself. Bernie wanted an auto release over this fence because you could then slide your hand out for the leading rein very effectively.
Most horses figured this out pretty quickly and landed on their leads, but if they didn’t you would do a simple or flying change before you start turning back towards the fence. All the horses got quiet and soft after doing this a few times. It was also very slow and methodical.
This twisty turny little course is basically an expansion on the first exercise. Riders were to use their leading rein to make the turns to each fence. Also focus was slow and methodical but maintaining very tight turns. I’d say each turn was 3-4 strides on average? He got after any rider that went too wide or too fast.
The final jumping exercise of day one started off on right lead. Riders were to cut through an oxer (aka jump diagonally across it), turn left and then hand gallop to a final oxer. He said the ideal hand gallop fence was to see your spot as far out as possible, over ride to get the gallop, and then sink back three strides out. He emphasized “melting” and “sinking” into your horse instead of sitting… even though it’s pretty much the same thing. He said he liked the term sinking because it kept the motion flowing down your legs instead of just thumping and turning into a driving seat.
My favorite takeaway from auditing the clinic is of course… Bernie loves Thoroughbreds! What right minded equestrian doesn’t? 🙂
Please do not critique any horses or riders shown in this post. Some had very difficult horses or were trying new ideas!