I wrote this on the last day of the Cowboy Dressage World Finals Show, at the Rancho Murieta Equestrian Center, an immense facility out in the middle of nowhere (sprawling, rolling grasslands). I love this event for several reasons.

It is a competitive discipline, which if performed correctly, cannot damage the equine, mentally or physically.

Thanks to its Founding Father, a horseman Eitan Beth-Halachmy, its essence is “Soft Feel”.  To quote Eitan, its “Mission and Vision” is “Soft Feel”, the guiding principle of Cowboy Dressage.  “It is wordless, intimate communication within the partnership of 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 variety of breeds I have seen is amazing: Stock horses, Gypsy Vanner, Rocky Mountain, Tennessee Walker, Arabian, Warmbloods, Mules, Fjords, Morgans, Mustangs, etc.

The people.  I have met hundreds here, and, without exception, they are kind, generous, considerate, friendly, gentle, open-minded horse lovers.  That’s why this discipline appeals to them.  It’s kind, humane, and gentle to the horse, yet very sophisticated and intricate horsemanship.

Having attended countless horse and mule shows in my lifetime, very rarely as a competitor, but as a spectator, a show vet, a practitioner there to attend to a patient, as a judge, as a journalist and even as an announcer, I can see this show is unique.  It is unique because of the emphasis on empathetic communication with the horse, and the complete absence of that small minority of people who contaminate most horse shows; the showoffs, the complainers, the egomaniacs, the extremists.

A feature of special interest at this show was a full day of lectures by a variety of experts on different subjects.  It drew a very satisfied audience, obviously eager for more knowledge about horses and horsemanship.

One of the founding partners of Cowboy Dressage, Garn Walker of Dewey, Oklahoma said, “Education is first.”  Without exception, everybody involved in this discipline believes that.

They are hungry for knowledge.