A sought-after trainer and clinician, American Olympic dressage rider Christine Traurig was born and raised on her parents’ breeding farm near Verden, Germany. She rode and trained for the Hanoverian Elite Sales in Verden before moving to the United States in 1982, where she assisted Bernie Traurig in operating an import and sales business of dressage horses and jumpers. Christine and Bernie were instrumental in establishing the Saudi Arabian Equestrian Team and Federation. With her equine partner Etienne, Christine was a member of the 2000 Sydney Olympic bronze medal team. She now operates Christine Traurig Dressage Stables, Inc. in Rancho Santa Fe, California. She conducts clinics and symposiums all over the U.S. and in 2015, was appointed to the position of USEF National Coach for Young Dressage Horses. Do you have a question you want Christine to answer? Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
What are some ways riders can plan practice time outside of lessons?
Time outside of lessons can be planned and structured in several ways, all of which should be discussed with the trainer. Here are a few ideas:
- Study videos taken of previous lessons and/or tests at shows.
- Study videos of riders in the top of the sport.
- Read books written by classical masters from the past and present.
- Keep a journal and write down key things one has gotten from a lesson that day, and memorize key terminologies.
- Watch other students in your barn take a lesson.
- Exercise: Go to the gym to build strength, flexibility and fitness.
What’s your advice on finding the right bit for a horse?
Some important criteria in finding the right bit for your horse are:
- What discipline you’re competing in, and what bits are allowed according to those rules
- The size or width of the horse’s mouth, not only relating to the width between the corners of the mouth but also the width of the lower jaw/bars of the horse’s mouth. The bit must not be too wide otherwise it pinches the bars of the lower jaw when ridden in contact on the bit and in flexing, yet not too narrow so it doesn’t pinch the corners of the horse’s mouth.
- The height of the palate. Horses with a low palate often resent a single jointed bit or a bit with a high port because it presses against the palate.
- The sensitivity of the horse’s mouth and/or the rideability issues that need to be considered when choosing the thickness of the bit.
- The metal or material. Some horses prefer a “sweeter” metal, others don’t care. Some horses prefer a plastic or rubber bit over a metal bit.
Do you use cavaletti?
I find cavaletti to be an excellent addition to training. Aside from their training effects, they are useful to add variety to the horse’s program. At the walk as well as the trot, they help the horse to lower its neck, stretch and use its back. The mechanical range of motion in the shoulders and all four legs can be improved. Suspension in the trot can be improved as well. I have used them on a straight line as well as on a 20-meter circle.
What’s most important to consider in buying show attire?
I find it most important that the show attire is up-to-date as far as fashion is concerned. Today we have a wide variety of designs in boots, breeches, coats and tails as well as helmets. I personally prefer subtle classical base colors. A little bling and accents are beautiful. Too much color and bling take away from the harmonious look between horse and rider. The color of the horse is also very important when choosing the show attire: navy blue and black go with any horse’s color. The accent colors should also go well with the horse’s. I think the rider also needs to choose what suits and fits his or her body type the best.
Have you ever disagreed with a judge’s score? What did you do?
Yes, I have disagreed with a judge’s score at times. Sometimes we have the opportunity to talk to the judge about it outside of the competition if the judge initiates and offers the conversation. It is not correct to confront the judge about it. We have to remember that the judge scores in the very moment and from his or her perspective depending on where he or she sits. It is always helpful to ride in front of a panel of at least two judges (front/side) to get input from different views. Discrepancies in the judging are part of our sport, but I have always taken every comment seriously even if I don’t agree. I try to improve by comparing and measuring up to the riders that beat me and trying to figure out how to improve myself and my horse.
Are there specific current riders you recommend watching to study good form?
All riders at the top of the sport are worth watching not only because of their form but also because of how their form affects their performance in the arena throughout the test or in certain exercises. All riders at the top have good form, but all have a certain typical look to their form and that is so inspiring to watch.
What are the advantages of spending time training in Europe?
Spending time in Europe is a must for all riders, whether that is competing or in a training or apprentice opportunity. There is no place else where you find such accumulation of quality in horses, breeding, horse shows and training stables, where horses from the ages of 4 to grand prix are being trained under the same roof. Many of our top horse and rider combinations have spent time in Europe training and showing. The efforts made by our federation to send as many combinations as possible to Europe to compete has most certainly helped the U.S. to establish itself as one of the strongest nations in the sport.