When Alfred Traurig decided to take an early retirement a few years ago, little did he expect he'd be washing his home almost as often as the wash and wear wardrobe he converted to.

"I decided I'd retire and kind of lead a 'pauper's life' and follow the horse show circuit," said Traurig, former general merchandising manager and vice president of the McCrory Corp, retail chain. "I thought it (the circuit) would be more interesting."

So it came as a surprise to his wife, Corrine, that Traurig bought a 29-foot travel-trailer to haul 15,000-plus biles around the country between February and November each year.

"You should have heard her the first time I told her about the camper. She was frightened, but now she loves it and wouldn't stay home," he said yesterday. "But, it's a world in itself and you don't even realize you're here at a show."

The Traurigs drove down from Syosset, L.I., for the Washington International Horse Show at Capital Centre. Their son Bernie is a strong contender with The Cardinal to win the Grand Prix horse of the year award.

The Cardinal is the leading money-winner.

The nomadic life-styles of those who travel on the horse show circuit would appear chaotic and expensive to outsiders who, perhaps, have never had to deal with anything more unsettling than boarding the family dog during summer vacation.

But, Traurig said, inconveniences are minimal and costs the same whether we're on the road or at home. Also, it costs $42 to hook up here to water and electricity for the week. I wouldn't be spending that at home. The tolls and gas aren't that much."

Additionally, the travel-trailer "is actually very convenient. Between the classes, you can go back and have a cup of coffee."

The Traurigs' camper also has the standard conveniences of home, from the bedroom to the kitchen and bathroom, plus two television sets. Back-step barbecues are commonplace. The laundry goes to the local laundromat.

Their life-styles have changed considerably in the 25 years since "My wife got the notion that it would be nice to have a horse in our back yard. I said, 'No way.'"

The next thing Traurig knew, they were selling their house to move to a Long Island house adjacent to an estate with bridle paths.

Bernie Traurig became more expert in riding and eventually qualified for the 1972 Olympics. He canceled because his horse was injured. He then turned pro on the circuit.

One year, Bernie Traurig imported 80 horses from England, making him the largest importer of horses in the country. His father joined him once, importing 14, but the tariffs soon made the business impractical.

No longer active in the business. Alfred Traurig is content traveling the country to watch his con compete.

It seems to be the carefree, leave-it-all-behind existence many retirees yearn for. With one exception. The U.S. Postal Service - by Traurig's arrangement - knows where to forward the bills.