Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Get your motor running . . .

Ah, a brand shiny new year.  While I am not a fan of this time of year in North Idaho due to all the snow on the ground and the lack of saddle time, I am a fan of the concept of the new year.  There is something so refreshing about the thought of a whole new year of possibilities laid out before us.  Resolutions, goals, plans, and dreams all figure big into this cold and snowy month.

So, if you are like many horsemen and women across the country you may be dreaming about finally getting involved in this new community of Cowboy Dressage.  Perhaps you have been watching from the wings these past 5 years, waiting to see if it would amount to anything;  perhaps you have been waiting for a gathering or clinic to come into your neck of the woods.  Well, let me be the first to encourage you to stand on the side lines no more!

While the organic growth of Cowboy Dressage means that it has been slow to reach some areas of the country, it is not because the community isn't growing.  Cowboy Dressage is unique in that the growth and opportunities are completely instigated by curious horsemen and women just like yourself that take steps to bring Cowboy Dressage into their local community.  Many start just like Dan and I did so many years ago by putting up a court, printing some tests and inviting some friends over.  Others start by hosting a clinic or a play day.  It doesn't take much, and most people are hooked on their first try.  If you are still wondering how to go about bringing Cowboy Dressage to your neck of the woods, here are some of the tools available to you.

1.  Gather information.  One of the very wonderful things about Cowboy Dressage is that everything you need to know is available for free on line.  You are welcomed to join the movement and the community through an old fashioned cowboy handshake agreement (though this is a high tech digital handshake, it's the thought that counts!).  Then you are welcome to explore the many diagrams, tests, rule book and videos of example tests that are available at www.cowboydressage.com and www.cowboydressageworld.com.  Cowboydressage.com is the home web page for founders and Cowboy Dressage World Partners, Eitan and Debbie Beth-Halachmy.  There you can also find several of Eitan's excellent videos and DVD's.  Cowboydressageworld.com is the source for all things Cowboy Dressage across the world, including upcoming events, lists of resources, updates and changes that are in the works, newsletters and blogs.  Everything you need to set up your own court and start practicing are right there at your fingertips for the taking.
With your good ol' fashioned handshake you are a welcome addition to the movement of Cowboy Dressage

2.  Contact a Cowboy Dressage Professional.  One of the things that Cowboy Dressage World has worked very hard to do is to bring into the community qualified and passionate horsemen that believe in and want to spread the word of Cowboy Dressage and Kindness and Soft Feel with the very same message that Eitan and Debbie first envisioned with they founded Cowboy Dressage.  These professionals have all ridden with one or more of the Cowboy Dressage World Partners.  They have proven their skills on the Cowboy Dressage court and have been recognized by the Cowboy Dressage Partners as folks that they entrust to carry on the message of Cowboy Dressage.  These professionals love nothing more than traveling to far flung areas and helping to introduce Cowboy Dressage.  If hosting a clinic sounds like it is too much hassle, I encourage you to reach out to a professional and explore the options.  All of the Cowboy Dressage Professionals will go above and beyond to help you and to make sure it is an enjoyable and welcoming experience for everyone.  The list of Recommended Cowboy Dressage Professionals can be found on the Cowboy Dressage World Web page.  They are organized by area, but don't be afraid to contact any of them for information.  Most of us travel quite a distance throughout the year bringing Cowboy Dressage to new areas.
Cowboy Dressage World Professional Association members Jenni Grimmett, DVM and Martina Bone.

3.  Organize a Playday.  Perhaps you and your friends have had a professional come into the area recently.  Now, how do you keep the ball rolling?  In our area we hosted weekly ride nights for several years to help expose people to Cowboy Dressage as well as to give people a place to practice.  On Thursday evenings throughout the summer we opened our court and welcomed like minded budding Cowboy Dressage riders as we took turns calling tests and practicing on the court.  Cowboy Dressage is about so much more than just the work on the court.  The community it engenders is as much a part of the movement as anything else.  Our ride nights are a wonderful evening of laughs and fun followed by a BBQ all summer long.  You don't have to have a fancy arena.  Any 20m x 40m chunk of flat ground will do.  If you want to take it one step further and provide a judge for your play day to give it more of a light competitive feel, the Cowboy Dressage Judges program has learner judges always looking to get their judging experience.  Inviting a learner judge is a great way for everybody to get the feel of a real Gathering while keeping it loose and informal.
Lucky Duck Ranch Thursday Ride Nites open Cowboy Dressage Court and BBQ.

3.  Organize a Schooling Show.  While we will all tell you that Cowboy Dressage is about so much more than the competition we also recognize that it is the Gatherings and the opportunity to have a goal to work towards that seems to keep Cowboy Dressage growing and healthy once it has been introduced into an area.  There are many resources available and guidelines for hosting a schooling show if this is something you would like to do in your area.  Within the Cowboy Dressage Professionals Association there is a category for Ambassadors.  These are folks that are committed to promoting and building Cowboy Dressage in their area through hosting clinics, schooling shows, and playdays.  Your Ambassador membership allows you access to resources and support by other professionals and allows you to keep your thumb on the pulse of all the latest events and opportunities that are being developed by Cowboy Dressage World.  If you would like to see Cowboy Dressage grow and thrive in your area and are interested in hosting a schooling show, I encourage you to check out www.cdwpa.com to learn more about becoming an Ambassador for Cowboy Dressage.
Any flat piece of ground can become a Cowboy Dressage Court

4.  Travel.  Now, I understand that traveling with your horse can be intimidating and an expensive undertaking.  When Dan and I first became involved with Cowboy Dressage and realized we would have to travel not only out of state, but across several states I was concerned that we would never be able to manage it with our busy schedule and career.  That first 2 day trip on the road with the horses was nerve wracking!  But, there are plenty of folks that travel with their horses full time.  Once you and your horse both figure out the ins and outs of travel, I promise, both of you will be better for it.  My first summer as a Cowboy Dressage professional I hauled my horse more than I had in the past 10 years combined.  We stayed in several different barns, traveled both with friends and without, and learned where the best places were to stop and eat and rest along the way.  Before that summer my horse was a very nervous traveler.  After one summer of clinics he was a seasoned road warrior!  So, when I hear other folks dismissing events that are more than a few hours drive, I get it.  I do.  But, you never know what adventures lay in wait for you out there!  A half day of traveling is more than worth it to discover a whole population of friends you didn't know you had.
Find your tribe!  Friends are waiting to welcome you.  Photo credit R. Horst. 

5.  Volunteer.  Now if the above suggestion of traveling with your horse is just too daunting, then travel solo!  There are multiple opportunities for volunteers at any Gathering and most clinics welcome auditors as well.  For the summer Gatherings you can help in the office and learn how the tests are tallied or run test papers back and forth from the court to the office allowing you a front row seat to all the action.  Or you can get to know the riders and folks in the community by helping keep the show running smoothly at the gate.  There is no shortage of opportunities for the person longing to be a part of this growing group of horse people.
A few of the Cowboy Dressage World Finals volunteers and their thank you awards.  

So, now is the time.  This is the year.  Don't just wait for Cowboy Dressage to come to you.  Bring Cowboy Dressage to your community!  Or head out on the open road and find your tribe out there.  Eventually, I know Cowboy Dressage will be found in every corner of the globe. Until that time we are going to need a little help from our friends.

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