Christine Traurig has begun her role as USEF Dressage Young Horse Coach in May 2015, bringing a lifetime of experience, accomplishment and passion for her job. The USA Dressage Olympian Christine was born and raised on her parent’s farm near Verden, Germany, home of the FEI World Young Horse Championships. Her father was a breeder and she began riding before she could walk. At 12-years-old she attended the National Riding School at Hoya with the legendary trainer Otto Meyer. Under the guiding eye of her longtime mentor Johann Hinnemann she competed at three consecutive Bundeschampionat in Warendorf on Limited Edition placing in the finals (top 8) each year. At the 2000 Sydney Olympics, Traurig rode Etienne to his best score ever to enable the USA to clinch its third consecutive Olympic Bronze medal. She was named the US Olympic Committee’s Female Equestrian Athlete of the Year in 2000. In 2002, Traurig and Etienne were selected as the alternate rider for the US to WEG in Jerez, Spain. Christine, also a member of USEF’s Dressage High Performance Committee recently spoke with Sheryl Ross for DressageDaily on her plans for the US Young Horse program, now in its 10th year.
Now that you are officially the USEF Young Horse Coach and you have had some time to think about things have you decided what you want to focus on both in the short and long term?
Yes, I’ve given this a great deal of thought. My immediate objectives are to establish dates and criteria for the Young Horse Clinics for the remainder of 2015 and the first part of 2016.
As for the criteria, I want to remove the mystery regarding how the horses are selected. What I want is to see videos of the young horses and riders and base the selection on quality. What I mean by quality is identifying the young horses that demonstrate the talent to be top-level FEI competitors. And once we have identified them we need to develop a system that supports and tracks our top talented young horses and riders. This is critical for developing a pipeline of talented young horses for the future.
How do you intend to keep tabs on the top young horses and riders?
One of the ways I intend to support and track our top young horses and riders is to require that they stay in touch with me. I want to review all of their show videos and test score sheets. And provide them timely feedback.
I think it’s important that they know I care and I want them to succeed.
And I want people to know that if they have a nice facility and they can fill it with quality Young Horses and riders I will come and give a clinic. Another thing I plan on doing is putting up a Facebook page so people can know what’s happening. And after each clinic I will publish a summary of what took place.
That’s a great set of short-term goals. What do you see as the bigger pictures goals for the program?
First, I think it is very important that we make our Young Horse Program more prestigious. What I mean by that is, we need to elevate the horses and their riders with National competitions and recognition. I think they should be competing at the same National events our where our top FEI riders compete. The events should not be separate.
Building on this concept, I would love to see a “Festival of the Future Champions”. I see this as recognizing future talent of the Young Horse and the riders. We need a pipeline of talent of both horses and riders. And we must provide opportunities to encourage and reward them. And we need to track their progress. When a one of the standout young horses drops out we should know why. What went wrong?
By elevating the competitions where our Young Horses compete will also raising the awareness of the Young Horse Program nationally and internationally. One of the over arching goals of the Young Horse Program is to promote, cultivate and prepare young horses for future careers in the sport of Dressage.
Currently there aren’t any grants for riders of young horses. Do you think this will change?
Absolutely! I want to see increased funding and sponsorships for the Young Horse Program.
If we are serious about building a pipeline of talented horses then we must support them with grants and sponsorships. Another way to support the program is to build awareness of the pipeline of talented young horses here in the U.S. One of the hardest things is that the United States is so big. The key is to build awareness through constant communication. If we want people to buy horses here in the U.S. instead of Europe we have to build awareness and develop a solid pipeline of talented horses.
I believe making our Young Horse Program more prestigious will help. But we also need to make things more exciting and rewarding for the owners and breeders. If the owners and breeders get more involved and receive recognition for their contributions then I think we will see more sponsors getting involved. When we start buying more of our horses here in the U.S., everyone wins and the program becomes more holistic.
You’ve talked about working with the breeders, inspectors and owners of young horses. How are you going to do this?
I want to have an ongoing dialogue with breeders, inspectors and owners of young horses. We need to identify the standouts as early as possible. For example, we should know which horses the breed inspectors have designated as premium and we should track them.
I think the only way the United States can stop buying the horses Europe is willing to sell is to build our own pipeline.
If you think about it, every breeder in Europe is breeding for the Olympic horse. There are only 4 spots on an Olympic team and it takes a large pipeline of horses to produce and develop those super talented horses. From that pipeline comes your small tour horses, then horses for the up and coming trainers and young riders and finally horses for the amateurs of all levels.
I’d love to see the “Breeder of the Year Awards” go to the breeders that produce winning high quality horses. The target should always focus on the quality of the breeding, consistency in producing talented young horses. Quality over quantity!!
I want the breeders and owners to feel that they can talk with me and get my feedback. If they’re wondering who should buy that special young horse or who would be the best rider, I want them to know I’m here to help.
In closing is there anything you want to add?
Yes, I want people to know that I am very excited about our Young Horse program. I plan to work very hard to improve, develop and elevate the program. I also want everyone to know that I am available. I hope people will feel they can contact me. The key to success is communication and dedication.
I will be in Florida the first part of 2016 and plan to have several young horse clinics.