Published Summer 2013
The EQ team recently visited Bernie and Cait Traurig at their home in Southern California, slightly north of San Diego. The setting, surrounded by fine horse farms and an easy drive to beaches and Temecula wine country, comes quite close to being paradise.
Bernie Traurig is perhaps the only athlete to have represented the United States Equestrian Team and reached the top of the sport in three of the International Equestrian Olympic disciplines: show jumping, dressage, and eventing. In 2009 he was inducted into the National Show Hunter Hall of Fame and last December received the United States Hunter Jumper Association (USHJA) President’s Distinguished Service Award.
Traurig represented the U.S. Equestrian Show Jumping Team several times, including the 1982 world championships in Dublin. He competed in eight world cup finals and is the winner of over 60 show jumping grand prix events.
He won fifteen grand prix and grand prix special classes in dressage and was short-listed for the 1986 world championship trials and the 1988 Olympic Games. He also won the high point dressage award in 1988 at the Olympic selection trials.
Relaxing at the Tiki Bar
We settled in at the Traurigs’ festive tiki bar, which was built by Cait. Surrounding us were horses; a gold and blue macaw named Flip; and four dogs: Garth, a shepherd; Falcon, a Belgian Malinois; Russell, a French bulldog; and Chop-stick, a Basenji-mix stray.
We asked Bernie how he ended up in this wonderful home, which is an eclectic blend of Polynesian south seas, Western, and California styles, and he readily described the colorful and circuitous road that led him here.
Traurig explained that when he was 16, he won both the AHSA (now United States Equestrian Team) Medal Finals and the Maclay Finals. He became a working student of Frank Chapot and trained out of Gladstone, N.J., with the United States Equestrian Team. In 1964 Traurig was second at the Olympic Trials in eventing.
“My eventing career abruptly ended when my horse bowed a tendon one week prior to shipping. I moved on to the show-jumping squad and had the opportunity to train with the incredible Bert deNemethy,” reflected Traurig.
According to Traurig, after working a brief time in the steeplechase world, “I started my own business in the hunter jumper world at the age of 21 in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and I had to do everything myself.” He braided, drove trucks, taught lessons, and mucked his own stalls.
Bernie always wanted to end up in California, so after 10 years in Pennsylvania and numerous stints around the country, he decided to pack up and make the move. That was 26 years ago. In 1999 he met Cait, and together they discovered what they endearingly refer to as Ant Hill Farm, a two-acre parcel that at the time of purchase was “just a patch of dirt and sand.” The original house on the property had burned to the ground, and only a shack-like shed remained.
Cait decided that the elevated location of the old shed was perfect and that the dilapidated building could become a unique home. Cait did much of the reconstruction herself, and Bernie helped with things like the irrigation system. They planted hundreds of shrubs and trees, creating an amazingly vibrant and lush property.
They boarded their horses with a nearby neighbor for a period of time but eventually decided to add their own horse facilities. They built barns to accommodate 18 stalls and hauled out 200 tons of dirt to create a training ring. Bernie and Cait have managed to utilize every square inch of their land, yet the property feels so much larger than its two acres.
Expanding the Reach
From this polynesian-Western base, Bernie travels the world as one of the most sought-after clinicians in the country. He is famous for his natural gifts of teaching and coaching. But with 48 years of training, and experience with thousands of horses, Traurig was intrigued by how he could extend the reach of his teaching using new technology.
While he might be limited to only 15 to 24 students in a traditional clinic, he could reach many thousands by using the internet. “To me, reading a book on how to do something is one thing, but actually seeing it brings a new clarity,” he explained. In 2009 he began filming clinics, and in 2010 he launched equestriancoach.com, a subscription education service that provides systematic, online lessons presented by Traurig as well as a host of other world-class trainers and competitors, including Rodrigo Pessoa, Eric Lamaze, Laura Kraut, Missy Clark, Peter Pletcher, Louise Serio, Julie Winkel, and many more.
“Our mission is to make quality education accessible and affordable to every equestrian, regardless of their background, their level, or their geographic location,” said Traurig proudly.
Equestriancoach.com is not only a labor of love, it’s a family affair. Cait, also an accomplished equestrian, edits 90 percent of the videos in her home office, because, as she explains, “to be done properly, it really needs to be done by a horse person.”
Equestriancoach.com has received accolades and endorsements by the world’s top educators of the sport. According to former United States Equestrian Foundation’s Chef d’Equipe, George Morris, “You can’t go wrong with education spearheaded by these kinds of people.”
The most recent addition is the “American Hunter Jumper Forward Riding System.” Traurig produced this series to encapsulate the fundamental elements of the forward riding system: position, control, and schooling. The introduction to the series is a history lesson on the contributors to the forward riding system with incredible, old footage of Italian military cross-country training.
Ant Hill Goes Global
We found Bernie and Cait’s excitement contagious — realizing that cozy Ant Hill Farm, once “only a patch of dirt and sand,” has, in a sense, become a major center of equestrian education.