There has been a spark of Cowboy Dressage smoldering in North Idaho. Whiffs of smoke and fleeting glimpses of flames had started folks whispering in barn alleys and arenas across the northern counties. What is this Cowboy Dressage? How can we learn more? How is it different from Western Dressage? Yesterday a dedicated group of Cowboy Dressage enthusiasts met at a local barn to fan those flames and firmly establish the fire of Cowboy Dressage in North Idaho.
Through word of mouth and a heavy campaign via local and national Facebook pages local horse enthusiasts were invited to the gorgeous Running W ranch in Rathdrum, Idaho for an introduction lecture and demonstration rides on Cowboy Dressage. We were expecting 25 people to attend. We were hoping for 50 people to attend. We were blessed with over 125 people in a standing room only gathering of what can only be called a mob of dedicated and enthusiastic horsemen and women and children hungering for a better way of being with their horses.
The presentation described the origin of Cowboy Dressage and it's evolution and brief association with Western Dressage. The emphasis throughout the presentation was always soft feel as that is the driving principle of Cowboy Dressage and the hallmark that sets it apart from every other equine discipline. The courts, tests, and rules were explained in brevity and then in more detail why each and every western horseman and western horse can benefit from time spent on the Cowboy Dressage court.
Looking out across the packed crowd of enthusiastic faces with one poor lady left to stand with just her head in the door I was struck by the enormity of the blessing and privilege that we have in spreading the word about Cowboy Dressage. The Cowboy Dressage movement has been largely an organic one. Eitan and Debbie Beth-Helachamy, the founders of Cowboy Dressage, have gifted this to the equine community because they believe in making better horseman and making life better for horses. Through a campaign trail of expositions and clinics and appearances they have set small fires through the country and left the fires of enthusiasm and the spirit of Cowboy Dressage in the hands of the local horse folks to fan and build and grow Cowboy Dressage in their own communities.
Through the founding of Cowboy Dressage world they have selected leaders to help spread that word and grow the discipline for folks craving the competitive side of Cowboy Dressage. The judges certification (boot camp) program is working hard to teach people how to judge Cowboy Dressage because the future of Cowboy Dressage as a competition lies in the hands of the folks sitting at the table at C. Without judges who are rewarding soft feel and harmony we will lose the focus and purpose of Cowboy Dressage. As this side of Cowboy Dressage world grows, so too will the shows available for folks across the US and Canada grow to.
But, for those of us waiting in rural parts of the country where Cowboy Dressage is still a smoldering flame and whisper of smoke on the air it is difficult to know how to get started. Waiting for a show to come to your area so you can give it a try is backwards thinking. That's how the other disciplines function, not so Cowboy Dressage. While the shows and gatherings are fun and will grow, that is not the purpose. Anybody interested in Cowboy Dressage that has access to flat ground and a tape measure can set up a Cowboy Dressage court and get started. Invite your friends, fire up the BBQ and have a Cowboy Dressage party. Even if you are still struggling with the concept of soft feel, if you are riding with soft feel in mind and beginning the search, it will come. Everything that you need to get started with Cowboy Dressage is out there for the taking at www.cowboydressageworld.com and www.cowboydressage.com.
If you will allow me to wax rhapsodic, the Cowboy Dressage court really is the field of dreams. If you build it, like minded horseman will flock to learn more and try this new discipline. What may start with just one or two friends playing in a field with some white buckets will grow as more and more people come to see what it's about and stay because they love how good it feels.
Spreading the word about Cowboy Dressage is up to us, my friends. I can't tell you how good it feels to share Cowboy Dressage with a horse person who has been hungering for something to do with their horse or a community of horse folks they can ride with and feel welcome. I've seen ladies moved to tears and exclaim with feeling, "This. This is what I've been looking for." Haven't we all? With a handshake membership we can all be part of the movement.
For North Idaho folks local resources include:
Marcia Moore Harrison of Potlatch, Idaho
Cowboy Dressage World of Idaho Facebook page
Running W Ranch, Rathdrum, Idaho hosting Eitan Beth-Helachamy July 24-26, 2015
(you can find them on facebook)
Michelle Binder Zolezzi, of Spokane, Washington
Jenni Grimmett, DVM of Sagle, Idaho