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Cowboy Dressage Announces Western States Cowboy Dressage Weekend

Famed horseman and founder of Cowboy Dressage, Eitan Beth-Halachmy will be joined by fellow Cowboy Dressage World partners, Lyn Ringrose Moe, Susan Tomasini and Garn Walker in the Western States Cowboy Dressage Weekend, Feb. 15-17, 2013 at the Jackson County Fairgrounds in Central Point, OR. The Western States Cowboy Dressage Weekend is a 3-day clinic and judges’ orientation.

Friday Feb. 15th, starting at 1 p.m., there will be an orientation given by all four clinicians for those who are interested in judging future Cowboy Dressage competitions. Lots of information will be given on judging criteria, the new court and the tests. Video presentations will be featured as well. Both western and dressage enthusiasts are welcome.

Saturday Feb. 16th is a clinic day with more in depth education and horsemanship shared by auditors and demo riders. Well-respected Vaquero clinicians Katrina and Jeff Sanders will be present and demonstrate Cowboy Dressage Vaquero Style. The new Cowboy Dressage Challenge tests will also make their debut on Saturday.

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Debbie Beth-Halachmy and Morgan gelding Indigo Gold, warming up for Cowboy Dressage Tests. | Photo by Rafter 7 Photography

Sunday Feb. 17th is the second day of continuous clinics. This day riders will actually ride the tests with critique and instruction from Eitan Beth-Halachmy, Lyn Ringrose Moe and Garn Walker.

Dr. Robert M. Miller will be a guest speaker on both Saturday the 16th and Sunday the 17th. He will be giving highly educational talks on Cowboy Dressage and why it is good for the horse and good for the rider. Dr. Miller is one of the world’s leading and most respected equine behaviorists. He lectures all over the world and has numerous books in publication in multiple languages.

More activities are planned throughout the three days. The event is held indoors so will be warm and comfortable in case of bad weather.

And below is an explanation of Cowboy Dressage,  by Susan Tomasini:

Most competitive disciplines have numerous pages of rules, restrictions and regulations. These are established in Competitive Dressage to ensure the humane treatment of the horse as well as to set a standard of excellence for the sport.

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Debbie Beth-Halachmy gives a salute on Morgan gelding Indigo Gold. | Photo by Leslie Deutsch, Blue Fountain Photography

There is a new competitive discipline that is governed by many less pages – Cowboy Dressage. What does that mean?

Allow me to use a genre that man has chosen to express himself since sun and moon and horses were caved on walls – Art. The value of Art is in the visual expression of the finished product. There is the movement seen in a stationary sculpture, a light in the darkness radiating from the canvas, the expression of joy or sadness, or who knows what by the Mona Lisa. Emotion in the viewer is evoked by Remington’s sculpture of the Indian on his pony, hunched over from the wind and cold and exhaustion. The art I am referring to has a recognizable image. It is contained in a canvas or bronze or wood. The essence of beauty is visual, yet unique. The artist expresses himself to the best of his ability in the finished product. But, where is the connection of Art to Cowboy Dressage?

In Cowboy Dressage. The “canvas” is the court. The medium is the elements of the test. The visual expression is the performance of the test. The uniqueness is the breed of horse performing the movements. The artist is the rider AND the horse controlling the chisel or the brush. Wallah! The finished work is revealed at the last salute.

What is the judge (the ultimate viewer) looking for to score? Eitan’s vision of the expression of Cowboy Dressage is harmony and partnership between horse and rider, evident in the performance of the test. The lightness in the use of the aids by the rider, manifested in elegant self-carriage of the horse, from engaged haunches and elevated withers and poll. The visual presence of soft feel, imperceptible use of legs and seat and hands by the rider, and noticeable lack of extreme tension on the reins.

Since all breeds of horses are generally performing the tests, the focus is on the quality of movement determined by the inherent gaits of that breed. The relaxed frame of the quarter horse will be more level than the relaxed frame of the Saddlebred. The stride of the Warmblood will be longer than that of the Morgan. Just as the final class, the Best in Show, in a dog show, the judging is based on the animal that magnifies the best qualities of their breed. So in Cowboy Dressage judging. The judge should be scoring according to the best movement a Quarter horse has to offer in his execution of the test, when the Quarter Horse is the one doing the test. If an Arabian enters at A, the judge should be looking for the best movement offered by the Arabian, a higher head carriage, light foot fall and perhaps more animated steps.

All of this is to be in addition to the goal of flawless execution of the elements of the test, by a willing horse, responding respectfully to the direction of the rider. A square stop, a show of the free, working and collected frames of the horse, a round 10 meter or 20 meter circle, smooth transitions from walk to jog or jog to lope; turn on the haunches, turn on the forehand; absence of the horse’s head behind the vertical, absence of sluggish steps by the horse. As well, the four beat walk, the two beat jog and the three beat lope.

It is as if the judge of Cowboy Dressage needs to develop a third eye. This third eye needs to see the harmony and partnership between horse and rider present in the performance of the test. Yes, it is a subjective element, not easily defined in words, but recognizable when it is happening.

For more information on the West Coast Cowboy Dressage Clinic, contact: Julie Malick at:

For information on the Cowboy Dressage Judges Orientation contact: Sarah Dickinson at:

For more information on Cowboy Dressage, it’s tests, rules, scoring, diagrams, court, videos and all general information go to:

Cowboy Dressage Mission and Vision Statement:

Soft Feel (or Fresh Rein) is the guiding principle of Cowboy Dressage. It is a wordless, intimate communication within the partnership between horse and rider. Soft feel is not only sending messages but having the sensitivity and awareness to feel the message the horse sends back.

The timing and use of the Release, Relaxation, Preparation and Execution are the basic fundamentals of Soft Feel.

Since Soft Feel is the mission of Cowboy Dressage it will be scored with emphases on lightness, harmony, finesse and partnership as a priority. Balance, cadence, carriage, control, and performance are additional areas the horse and rider will be judged and scored.

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