I found them quite interesting, and thought I would share. (I am also sorry that I took up 4 posts doing this!) Number 1: Part 1: The Sweet Spot ? Get My Fix This month’s Rider in Residence: Bernie Traurig! Part 1: The Sweet Spot
If you were to judge by range of his of work, Bernie Traurig may be the most accomplished horseman in North America. He has achieved in 4 equestrian sports what most people only hope to realize in 1. He’s been short-listed for the Olympic teams in show jumping, eventing and
dressage. He claimed both the AHSA Medal and the ASPCA Maclay Finals as a junior. And he was recently inducted into the National Show Hunter Hall of Fame.
It’s no exaggeration to say that Traurig is one of the most versatile riders to have set foot in a jumping ring. So, when he says that having an accurate eye for distances is a skill not an inborn talent, it’s likely he knows something about it.
“I think an eye is something that can be highly developed through exercises. It could be true that some people have a better sense of depth perception than others,” says Traurig. “But I find that a lot of people, like myself and my daughter, were not people born with a great eye.”
In fact, Traurig says that the first time he remembers actually seeing
a distance 3 strides away from a jump, he was 13. “I went through a period of time as a junior, especially at 14, when I made wrong decisions, like we all do. The hunter courses in those days the last jump was a long way off and I’d see what I thought was the forward one, go for it and chip,” he recalls. “I made my father crazy!”
Traurig’s coach at the time, Vladimir Littauer, used exercises to help develop his eye. “Littauer used to draw lines on the ground; at a normal 3’3” jump he’d put the take off line about 6’ off. He’d say try to ride to that line. Then he’d put one 12’ away, so one stride from that take off spot, and say try to ride that line. He’d repeat that until we’d get 2 strides away, then 3 strides away (36’ from the 6’ take off spot). That exercise helped me a lot when I was 14,” says the associate chef d’equipe on the West Coast for the US Equestrian Team.
Today, Traurig uses modified versions of the same exercise with poles and cavalettis. In part 1 of this 5 Minute Clinic series he reveals his secrets to developing a better eye. Step 1: Identify the goal.
“Our goal is to arrive at the correct take off spot, with the right balance, speed and impulsion for the size and width of the jump,” says Traurig.
On courses over 3’ high, “the spot” is generally measured about 6’ away from the jump.
“When we start we’re happy to see a distance 1 stride out, 2 strides out. As we gain experience through exercises, that eye develops and over time we can recognize that take off spot 6, 7, 8 strides out,” he says. Step 2: Set a pole course.
Using poles and cavalettis in place of jumps, set lines, singles, even courses to exercise your eye. “Use a pole on the ground if your horse jumps poles well or you don’t happen to have any cavalettis. If he’s not impressed by a pole, set a jump with an 8” pole,” says Traurig.
Allowing for a 3’ take off and landing (+6’), set related lines of varying lengths. “Set different lines, bending lines, lines of 3 strides, 2 strides, 4 strides,” he says. Step 3: Play with the distance.
Traurig typically sets poles on a 12’ stride. “That works for a normal horse with a normal canter,” he says. “If the horse has a short stride or a long stride, adjust the distance.”
You can also play with the distance to make the exercise more challenging. “You can make it short where you have to land and shorten the horse’s stride a little bit. Or you can make it longer where you have to land and lengthen the horse’s stride a little bit. You should begin to see the distance from your landing or your first stride. Develop your eye earlier,” he says.
Be sure to count the landing, he adds. “I tell people to actually say ‘land’ because many people mistakenly count the landing as ‘1’; they don’t even realize they do it.” Step 4: Practice daily.
“As an amateur or young rider you don’t get the practice a professional gets riding 10 horses a day jumping, jumping, jumping. So you have to devise ways to maximize the development of your eye,” says Traurig.
“If you school twice a week with your trainer and jump maybe 30 jumps each time, so 60 jumps a week for 4 weeks, you have 240 jumps in a month to exercise your eye. That’s nothing. Go out there every day and practice these cavalettis. I don’t think it takes anything out of your horse to practice this everyday. It’s not like jumping big jumps.” Step 5: Watch and learn.
Study other horses at horse shows. “You can see distances from the ground sometimes a lot easier than you can from the tack. You start to be able to see 5 strides out and know where that horse is going to end up. Watch to see what the rider is going to do about it. Analyze that. That’s helpful,” says Traurig.
For video footage of this and other exercises you can incorporate into your flatwork to work your eye without overworking your horse, go to equestriancoach.com
. (If you click on the video, it takes you to another website that has the video on it. Sorry!)