Christine Traurig - From Hanoverian Auction Rider to US National Trainer for Young Dressage Horses
Friday, March 4, 2016
One thing I learned from Christine: You do not need to get this one good horse, you need to make this one good horse. Christine Traurig is one of the most successful riders and trainers throughout the US, and that over almost three decades. In 1988 Nemesis, the horse she trained and showed became USDF Horse of the Year. In 1998 she won the Intermediare I Championships in Gladstone, NJ on Etienne, the same horse with whom she won the team bronze medal on the Olympic Games in Sydney in 2000. From 2002 to 2004 she trained and showed Limited Edition whom she placed in the Finals of the German National Young Horse Championships each year (!!), just to name some of her success stories. Besides her incredible success as a rider, Christine is just equally as successful as a trainer. In 2015 she served as Chef d’Equipe for the USEF at CDIO Rotterdam and CDIO Hagen. In that same year she was nominated as USEF National Young Horse Coach, and in that role accompanied Endel Ots with his two horses to the World Championship of Young Dressage Horses in Verden, Germany. Her coaching skills have contributed to the success of international riders like Kathleen Raine with Breanna, David Wightman with Partous, Sabine Shut-Kery with Sanceo (2015 Pan American Games team gold medal), and Jan Ebeling with Rafalca (2012 London Olympic Games) and Rassolini. - A list of achievements that make her the idol of many aspiring young riders.
We met Christine 32 years after she had left the Hannoveraner Verband where she had trained and worked before she made the decision to follow “Amonasro”, a horse she was riding at that time and that was bought by Bernie Traurig, to come to the US. At that time she was attempting to stay here for a couple of months, a couple of months that turned into decades. Christine has now made her life here. She has two children, Natasha and Lucas, her daughter Natasha being a successful show jumper trainer and competitor, her son Lucas a passionate scuba diver and underwater photographer. Despite her coaching efforts and her position as National Young Horse Trainer, Christine still finds the time to further her current horse Louisdor whom she competes at Grand Prix level.
This all sounds too good to be true, but yes, it is. Meeting Christine was enlightening to me in many ways. Not only does it make me as part of the Hannoveraner Verband very proud to see one of “our riders”, one who basically grew up at the Verden Auction, to achieve this success, but also have I been very happy when seeing her training and finding one of the very few people who do not only talk about Horsemanship and correct training methods, but who actually live it! In her riding, training, and coaching efforts, Christine extremely values the establishment of the basic building blocks of the training pyramid: The horse has to be physically and mentally confident, comfortable and trusting in the basic aids implemented by the rider. In Christine’s view horse and rider have to have a bonded relationship in order to achieve their goals. The rider has to lead the horse to understand the concept, which is why Christine does not train horses for the short term. From her early beginnings on, when she started to train with Mrs. Koehler in Verden, then being only 13 years of age, she learned to improve and develop a horse. She has never forgotten this notion and still emphasizes that each training has to be led by a long-term goal that has been set taking temperament, talent and character of the horse into account.
Christine may be one of the most dedicated people I have ever met. She has truly worked her way up from the basis. From the time when she started working at home with her father’s horses, improving herself was always one of her main focuses. She never took success for granted, and despite her huge achievement, she always remained a down to earth person who knew she was only able to succeed through dedication and hard work. That also led her to the decision to return back to Germany in 1999 to train with Johann Hinnemann in preparation for the Olympic Games. She went out of her comfort zone, left her family and friends to pursue a life long dream to compete at the Olympic Games. Only through making sacrifices, dedication, and focus on her goals has she been able to write the success story she did and become this astonishing person she is today.
Christine’s current role as National Trainer for Young Dressage Horses is definitely a perfect fit. Christine is truly passionate about the training and development of horses to the best of their ability, training riders the skills and the Horsemanship needed to succeed, producing horses to contribute to the international success of the US, her home of choice, and finally also furthering young talents to become established riders like she is: Riders that make horses better, that train horses for a lifetime, and that do not only talk about but truly live Horsemanship.
Besides all fame and success Christine genuinely cares about the people and horses in her life with the outmost integrity and passion and professionalism. Trust is the most important basis in the relationship between her and her horses. To say it in her words “Developing trust is good riding which results in obedience and respect based on correct academic equestrian knowledge implemented with common sense and feel”, which she had learned from her very first trainer at the Hanoverian Auction, Mrs. Koehler.
Being this kind of person, I was curious to learn more about her beginnings and what let her way to where she is today. This is her story:
"I was born and raised on my parents farm in Altenbuecken near Verden, we bred Hanoverians and marketed them through the Hanoverian Elite Auction. I thought all horses at my father’s farm were the best in the world. In time I learned that not to be always the case but it never inhibited my passion for one moment. There was not a day since I can remember that horses were not the most important thing in my life except for now my daughter Natasha and my son Lucas. Initially I wanted to become a veterinarian but then I didn’t take school serious enough to pursue the required grades because riding was way more important.
I started to work at the auction when I was 13 years old during spring and fall breaks from school: I helped tack horses, cleaned stalls, cleaned tack etc. During this time I caught the attention of Mrs. Koehler because she thought I was responsible and had a good feel in being around and handling horses. When I was 17 I was allowed to actually participate in the auction itself as a rider. I only got to ride ONE horse, the rest of the time I had to assist other riders in preparing the horses.
During my time at the Hannoveraner Verband in Verden, every single moment was special to me; riding at the Elite Auction was one of the best times of my life. The Auction Team was family to me. The biggest success of my career as an auction rider, riding one of the top priced horses, Amonasro, actually paved my way to the US, when Bernie Traurig bought him, and brought me to the US with him. However, riding auctions had its downside as well, at the end of every sale I cried buckets of tears when my favorite horse got sold.
One of the most important things the Hannoveraner Verband taught me was TEAMWORK!!! We tried our best to produce the best horse for the buyer to get the best price for the breeder. It was special because we as riders and staff represented the Verband and the breeders, we identified with them and we learned to provide excellent customer service to potential buyers. From a riding perspective, the experience of riding many different young horses of various potential and ability had an enormous effect on my skills as a rider. Learning to be versatile in order to adapt to different horses quickly was something I could not have gotten to this extend anywhere else. I had a special relation to all of my horses, which made selling them so hard. One special moment I will always remember though, is when “Wendus” (on the auction ridden by Dr. Ulf Moeller, later in the US named “Nemesis”) was bought and imported to the US for me to train and compete. To this day he is one of the best horses I ever rode and I compare every horse to him.
As far as my riding career is concerned I was very lucky to meet exceptional people that helped me find my way to where I am now: Mrs. Helga Koehler who thought that I had a special way with horses when I was 13, my first trainer and guide at the Hannoveraner Verband. Holger Schmezer whom I met at the auction and who told me “I know you can make horses rideable, confident and make them move better, now it’s time that you learn to teach them to go sideways”, and thus offered me a position as a working student in his barn, where I rode some of his horses until I finally met Bernie Traurig. Bernie asked me to come to the US to “show us how to put warmbloods on the bit!” He is most certainly one of the greatest riders I have ever known and I owe a tremendous amount of opportunities I have had in the US to him. And finally Johann Hinnemann, the master who put it all into place. Besides those professional relations, my family has always played an important role in my life. My father, who always dreamed big. My daughter and my son, without a doubt my greatest accomplishment and then there is the highlight of winning an Olympic team bronze medal at the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000.”
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