A Stable Story: Bernie Traurig’s Equestrian Coach

By Jackie McFarland

Bernie Traurig’s Equestrian Coach
We are deep into a new age where knowledge is literally at our fingertips. From connecting to collecting, the wealth of available resources awaits the typing of a simple address. Not your physical address, but the uniform resource locator or URL. That string of characters – www-dot-equestriancoach-dot-com – represents a wide world of people that are now reaching one another in ways that were virtually impossible just over a decade ago.

Although the equestrian niche certainly utilizes these resources – email, texting, web sites, Facebook, Google, PayPal – a select group have considered the possibilities of this vast network, combined it with their own bank of experience and connections to create an opportunity not previously available. One such individual is Bernie Traurig, the force behind the recently launched EquestrianCoach.com.
Bernie Traurig
First, step back in equestrian time and take note that Traurig has an extensive breadth of knowledge and success. Having achieved the top level of competition in all three of the International Equestrian Olympic disciplines: show jumping, dressage and eventing, Traurig has over half a century of experience to share.

Renowned not only for his riding talents, but for his teaching and coaching gifts as well, Traurig has been a member of the United States Equestrian Team in both the US and abroad. Still actively involved, he is currently George Morris’s Associate Chef d’ Equipe to the United States Equestrian Team on the West Coast.

Previous to the Internet age, the opportunities to learn from the masters meant proximity, perseverance and reaching deep in your pockets to pay for clinics, lessons, even DVDs and books. Several years ago, Traurig recognized that modern technology gave him a medium to ‘train’ anyone who wanted to learn.

By providing educational video clips by a list of top-level trainers, anyone at any level and at any time could watch and learn. What a great way to offer expertise for a reasonable price. Instead of going to the experts, they can now come to you.

After discovering these exciting possibilities, then came the long road of developing the web site. Conceptually the plan was a go and seemingly straight forward, but there were a multitude of steps to take before completion.

Gaining excitement by introducing the concept at the 2009 FEI World Cup in Las Vegas, the EquestrianCoach.com team had their work cut out for them. Filming, editing, generating content, creating a web site flow, pricing model and programming were just a few of the tasks. In the process, Traurig developed clips by show jumping greats such as Olympic Gold Medalist Will Simpson, USHJA International Hunter Derby Finals Winner John French, world class level competitor Rich Fellers and equitation expert Missy Clark as well as dressage and eventing stars Debbie McDonald, Gina Miles and Michael Plumb. The site also offers building blocks and clinics provided by Traurig. And that is just the beginning, more experts are lined up to participate.

Traurig comments with a smile, “I kept thinking we would be ready to go and then we would want to tweak something or realized we could make it better. It was and is an intense time commitment, but it’s so great to see it come together.”
Other sections include endorsements from George Morris and Paul Cronin, grassroots and horsemanship, a Kids Corner, interviews with coaches and the list continues to grow.

On June 1, 2010 all the preparing, planning and processing became a reality when EquestrianCoach.com officially launched.

Before the World Wide Web, the fundamental information that EquestrianCoach.com provides was only available to the sport’s elite. The site serves as a coaching aid to riders and trainers alike and aims to make quality education accessible and affordable to every equestrian, regardless of background, level of riding or geographic location.

Now riders from anywhere in the world can take lessons from top trainers. Even a high level rider can gain a new perspective for a very reasonable price.

For less than what it would cost to take a clinic from one of the masters presented on the site, a subscriber can purchase an annual pass of educational videos for a special introductory offer of $299. Or for significantly less than one training lesson, buy a monthly subscription and learn from several top trainers for just $29.99.

“One of the best parts is the chance to offer education to such a wide audience,” explained Traurig. “All the work is well worthwhile when I know how many riders could benefit.”

Besides a tutorial, there are a handful of clips available for free viewing as well as an FAQ section to answer all your questions. You can look at the options in the video library plus see a list of what’s coming next. What could be better for your virtual library than some of the world’s best riders and trainers just a click away and for less than a dollar a day?

A Stable Story: El Champeon Farm

By Jackie Freundlich McFarland

Söhnke ‘The Happy German’ Theymann
This is a tale of a faraway place where a young German has happily landed and is now spreading his wings. Many of us know the name El Campeon Farms, but may yet not know Soehnke Theymann.

El Campeon is certainly the home of champions. The multi-faceted farm continues to host clinics, film sets and commercial shoots, and without question is one of the finest equestrian facilities in California, if not beyond.

And now back to Soehnke (which is the English translation for Söhnke). Certainly destined for greatness, he is named after a famous German Olympic Medalist and Chef D’Equipe, Sönke Sönksen. He comes from a family with a strong equine background – his parents own a breeding farm in Dortmund, are both Grand Prix level riders and his sister has ridden on the German Dressage Team.

I was introduced to Soehnke a few seasons ago and although also from German descent (Freundlich means friendly), admittedly I had a hard time remembering this very German name. So to break the ice, I asked him how to say it and if there was another name he went by. Zunkah is how one might translate it phonetically, but to those who have gotten to know him in the show ring call him ‘the happy German’ as coined by our very own Janet Fall. And he explained that others, like Sophie and Ty Simpson, simply call him Tim.

EqSol: So you’ve been around horses all your life. What age did you start riding? Competing?
ST: Growing up on a 150-acre horse farm, there were always horses around. I was five when I started riding and was showing by age six or seven on ponies in both dressage and jumpers. I competed up to Level 5 in dressage, and rode in my first Grand Prix when I was 16. When I wasn’t competing as a junior any longer, I started to focus more on the young horses, getting our offspring ready to compete and sell.

EqSol: Did you always want to ride, teach and train?
ST: I went to school for Farm Management but then I got an unbelievable opportunity to work with Eva Gonda at El Campeon and really enjoyed it. I always had a few customer horses on the side, but now I am getting more involved in teaching. I really love the whole process of developing a horse and rider from the ground up, and customizing a training program that fits them.

EqSol: What do you see as the similarities and differences between American and German riding styles?
ST: The German style is based on dressage. Straight from the books – the classic system. The whole idea is to raise horses to jump well from a dressage background. I am also very focused on the horse’s fitness; making sure that when they start the show season they are 110% fit for the job that we are asking of them.

The American system is based in the forward seat. Riders evolve faster here – there are a lot of great trainers heavily involved in the process of the rider’s education. The process teaches riders to be very competitive in the show ring. I observed this when I came to work in West Palm Beach directly after high school. I was impressed with the style and could see that there are different ways than those I had learned to achieve top results.

EqSol: How does your German background shape your adaptation to the American system?
ST: We, the horses and the riders, strive for goals for the year and work towards that in our program – at home and at the show. We get an education every day – a lesson, flat ride or in the show ring. It’s a system we plan – it can change of course – but always looking towards the goal.

For example if we want to be competitive in the big class on Saturday, we may decide to ride the class on Wednesday slower to develop confidence for the horse. So we prepare in the previous classes to achieve the goal for that week.

EqSol: What do you see as the similarities and differences between your experience with California and German horse shows?
ST: At a number of the European shows, you trailer in, ride in four or five classes and leave that same day. I love how here you can spend the week and really gear up to your goal for that week. And there are great venues here in California – who wouldn’t love showing here?

EqSol: Going on your third year at El Campeon, what are your goals for 2010?
ST: To be as competitive as I can on El Campeon’s All Star. I brought him along from a 6 year old to the Grand Prix and at the end of last season I earned my first World Cup points on him. We will continue competing in the World Cup Qualifiers.

And to develop a nice string of competitive horses and clients at all levels. Becoming better horsemen, jumping solid rounds and achieving our goals. Of course it’s serious sport but we also have a good time.

EqSol: El Campeon is a fabulous facility – how do you take advantage of preparing for the show ring there?
ST: It’s unbelievable, the most amazing facility I’ve ever been to. From European walkers, the grass Grand Prix field, the all weather sand arena, indoor, you can’t prepare better than here – and I’ve been to good facilities. I am so very thankful to be here, you can really bring horses along here without over-showing them.

Even with the major storms that we had last week, we didn’t miss a day of training and fitness. We rode in the indoor during the downpour, but the outdoor arena was ready for riding within 12 hours after the last rain.

EqSol: So on to important things…what is your favorite American food?
ST: There are too many! Let me think… In & Out Burger – I must admit that I love that place. Also the Mexican influence, there are no Mexican restaurants in Germany. I do sometimes miss my mom’s German cooking.

EqSol: And how do you like the SoCal lifestyle?
ST: I love it. It’s laid back. People say that I don’t seem like a German because I am so laid back – so I fit right in! I think that’s why Janet called me ‘the happy German’ my first season in Thermal and it stuck. Of course I am so thankful to have this amazing opportunity – to live and work in southern California, at a facility that is second to none and with a great team of people.

Danke schön Söhnke! We always enjoy getting to know the people behind the names. Best of luck achieving your goals and continuing to live the dream at El Campeon!

A Stable Story: Hidden Valley

Hunt on over to Hidden Valley or Moorpark with Mark Bone

By Jackie McFarland

The word is out that Mark now has two locations in two very private settings, one owned by a client in Moorpark and the other at a facility made famous via its fabulous amenities, the family behind it and the horses they developed, Sandstone.

Knowing the expansive beauty of Sandstone, when I sat down to discuss the details, my first question was why go horse show when you can ride at Sandstone every day? Mark answered with a laugh, “It is majestic and quite lovely. Ideal as a training facility. That’s just it, you can win a lot of classes at home, but to see what you’ve accomplished through all the training happens at the horse show.” And you’ll always be glad to come home again!

Part of the move included a redefining of his business, which Mark calls a boutique program. “Catered to the individual, we customize a winning program unique to that person,” he explained. “We are clear on what we do best. Our strengths are in smaller numbers, not big. We tried big, it wasn’t a good fit.”

A custom fit program at a 52-acre facility where you can ride and train in numerous settings including a 3/8 mile training track, Grand Prix field, gymnastic dressage and large jumping arenas plus miles of trails has plenty of rewards. Mark agrees, “The days of getting on and hacking in the ring for 30 minutes are over. I’m riding more and loving it!”

Of course I asked about Gaby, assuming they had discussed this at length before moving ahead. “Gaby and I have a lot in common, similar interests and have been friends for many years. We are on the same page yet not conflicting in our goals, both believing in focusing on each client independently.”

It was nice to hear Mark say he had new dreams and inspirations. He envisions developing an exchange program with a European student coming here to experience the “American system” and one of his riders spending a month over there. Possibilities in the program – clearly a theme in this newsletter and in the direction of our hunter-jumper industry. Mark summed it up from his perspective, “You need the right program and chemistry – when you have both you’re a winner.”

For more details and photos, see Huntover’s recently launched website.

A Stable Story: Santana Stables

By Tammy Chipko

Santana Stables, situated in the Mexican city of Puebla, has chosen southern California as its home for the summer. I spoke with the owners, Paulo and Jennifer Santana, about their location, sale horses and summer plans.

Crocodile Z is an 8 year old Grand Prix prospect from Santana Stables.

Santana Stables is located in the lovely community of HARAS in Puebla, about 60 miles southeast of Mexico City. Surrounded by volcanoes and snow-capped mountains, Puebla is an important industrial, cultural and educational center of Mexico and one of the oldest colonial cities in the continent.

Known in California by her maiden name Preletz, Jennifer rides as an amateur. Now married and handling the sales aspect of their business, she explains that they live and work on one of the 50 beautiful farms in this community. Each farm shares the International Facility that includes, among other amenities, a Grand Prix Field and miles of green hills for galloping and conditioning. A medical hospital and an additional competition site are in the future plans. Their location provides a unique environment for keeping competition horses fit and happy.

Paulo Santana, originally from Brazil, started his professional career developing young riders and horses. He has successfully competed at the International level and continues to compete in Mexico, Europe, and the United States. At the request of a family whose son had Olympic aspirations, Paulo came to Mexico from Brazil in 2003 as the young man’s private trainer. In 2005 he opened his own business in Puebla training a small group of clients
and developing a select group of young horses.

Paulo characterizes his training method as the “natural” approach. Jennifer feels that he has a special talent for developing young horses. Patience is at the core of his technique and this calmness carries over to his horses and riders. His success spans from starting young riders as well as young horses in the 1.10m classes all the way to the Grand Prix show jumping level. Paulo explains that he prefers to keep a small group of horses and riders, so he can carefully tailor his step-by-step program for each individual’s needs.

“My approach is the same with sale horses. I don’t like to have more than six or seven sale horses at a time,” adds Paulo. “We typically keep a horse for a year or more prior to selling it. Each horse is given personal attention and goals are set individually. We represent young horses, amateur horses, and Grand Prix prospects and have a great track record of selling quality horses. That is most important to me!”

Competing in the young horse classes, 1.40-1.45m, as well as in a number of Grand Prix, this year’s select group of six sale horses and a couple of Paulo’s students will be in southern California this summer. The group’s plans include competing at Oaks Blenheim and Showpark during the June, July and August “A” rated shows.

As we welcome Jennifer, Paulo, their students and horses to sunny SoCal, we hope to have rtunity to visit their facility and competitions in Mexico in the future. See a great video clip from Mexico produced by Showjumping Unplugged!TV on www.santanastables.com.

Santana Stables contact information:

Jennifer                      Paulo
(310) 486-5345         (310) 925-2369