Cowboy Dressage is a Gift…..

kristaIn the past few years Cowboy Dressage has become part of our lives. It has become one more tool in our bag for helping our clients and horses gauge their progress and give them a very realistic set of goals. It is something every horse and every rider can do, something we should all at least be proficient at for the good of our Horsemanship. I will be the first one to say how much my horsemanship and riding has improved since beginning the Cowboy Dressage Journey.

Before Cowboy Dressage came into our lives, I was so frustrated for my clients and horses to not have something they could all do. Before CD, if one wanted to show their horse, they would have to learn how to lope circles, take a cow down a fence, do flying lead changes and more maneuvers that most riders and horses will never realistically achieve. Not to mention that there was no time being spent on correct development and balance of both horse and rider, especially at the lower gaits. Everything seemed so unattainable that I think most Horse People just accepted it and resigned themselves to Trail riding and the occasional Clinic for a change of pace.

We now have a clear way to measure our progress with each horse and easy short term goals to work towards. Cowboy Dressage is comprised of Geometric Patterns, 10 & 20 Meter circles, changes in direction, gaits and frame. By consistently practicing these maneuvers, our perception of where we are going and how to properly set the horse up for each one becomes more clear and correct. The horse begins to develop a relaxed and happy way of going, while learning to anticipate the changes he will be asked to make. The overall picture becomes one of harmony and quality communication. CD is based on Classical Horsemanship, developing self-carriage and soft-feel. Everything you need to learn to start doing Cowboy Dressage is already available through long standing successful training methods that are well documented through Classical Dressage Training.

The Horses we have been developing for our clients to do CD on have advanced tremendously and opened the door for us to try new disciplines such as Working Equitation and Upper Levels of Dressage. Sadly our current way of using horses to win a prize without spending the time to build an athlete first, causes so many problems with our riding horses. I find as a Wild Horse and Abused Horse trainer, most all of their issues stem from a physical problem. Whether it is pain, lack of strength and balance, improper muscle development or old injuries, these problems create defensiveness, resistance and refusals. A horse cannot perform comfortably and happily until he feels good while doing what is asked of him. That is the only way to win the mind and heart of your horse. Only when they are happy in their bodies can they be free to think clearly and process the information that is necessary to being a reliable and safe riding partner.

The Clients that have taken Cowboy Dressage seriously have excelled in a very short amount of time. They all have found it to be fun and stimulating while improving their Horsemanship. It has also provided a much needed structure for their learning process. The environment that has been created by Cowboy Dressage both at shows and with their honorable Handshake is nurturing and supportive to taking your time, enjoying the process, and constantly improving. Finally a discipline that supports the old ideas of a horse being valuable and worthy of time spent due to it’s experience and slow development as opposed to the precious few that make the cut in traditional Aged events.

In the 20 years I have spent as a Professional Trainer, I have become involved in many different types of training and continue to do so. We work with all breeds and backgrounds, we have started many colts and prepared them for many different purposes. I have trained everything from Gaited horses to Mules and Drafts, this is the first place I have been able to take all of our riding horses regardless of breeding, whether or not they were rescued or just started later in life and be successful! There are no age limits as to what equipment you use or what level the horse is at. You can show your horse at any level you and he are comfortable and in just about any head gear you like (some rule restrictions apply- see for all rules and other details.). We recently showed a full sized Percheron PMU rescue mare in both Walk Jog Challenge Classes and Jr. Partnership Under Saddle achieving Blues and very high marks on our tests! There is finally a non-discriminatory place for anyone to show their favorite horse and have fun doing it!

My personal background is very diverse, making me at least proficient in most Disciplines. I have even done some very strange specialty jobs, such as preparing young horses for Falconry and started Mini Donkeys to drive! I have shown Mules All-Around, done 5 Extreme Mustang Makeovers, Reality Competitions such as Project Cowboy, 5 Charles Wilhelm Super Horses, Mustang Breed Shows, Open All-Around Shows, Trail Trials, Trick Training, Several Methods of Natural Horsemanship, Classical Dressage, Bio-mechanics, Reining, Gymkhana, Cow working and more than I can list. I like to think of myself a Horse Behaviorist much like Cesar Millan and his dog/human understanding type of training. The key is teaching the horse to become trainable and humans the patience and wisdom to encourage desirable behavior. CD definitely supports this way of thinking and opens the Horse World’s eyes to how wonderful it can be!

Something I am very impressed with is the freedom to train the way we each have personally developed and in the manner that best suits our personal needs. The important part is the final product! A happy, soft well trained horse that knows his job and proudly carries his gentle, patient and balanced rider through anything, including a Cowboy Dressage test at a Show. For more information on Cowboy Dressage, go to to start the journey. For More information on us and what we offer, go to We offer many different types of training and lessons, including Cowboy Dressage at our Ranch in Arroyo Grande, California. Our specialty being Young Horse development, Wild/Ungentled Horse handling and Stallion socialization and behavior.