Written By Jack Brainard
This question is being asked by nearly all horseman and horsewomen in America. The words Cowboy Dressage seem to be a contradiction; since Cowboy horsemanship and Classical Dressage are miles apart in style, execution, and format.
Dressage training has been practiced for 500 years, and originated in training the warhorse. We know that the Spanish Ridding School had its beginnings in the 1500’s. The American Cowboy came onto the scene after the civil war in 1865, so he is a relative newcomer in horsemanship skills. His talents were based on riding long hours on half wild horses, chasing cattle 1000 miles over rough country in all kinds of weather. Why wouldn’t there be a wide range of horsemanship styles?
Modern Dressage horses execute beautiful movements in their competitions, and we in Cowboy Dressage are going to enjoy some of them, only our horses will be more versatile. We want to ride our horses in rough country, chase a cow, wade through deep water, swing a rope, and run wide open if needed, and not in an enclosed arena. This combination will surely improve the riding quality of our horses and we will have fun doing it!
Why can’t men and women of all ages, in a Western saddle do a canter pirouette and a spin, or a rollback and a piaffe? Why can’t we have organized competitions where riders of all ages and abilities compete at their own level, and increase their horsemanship skills as well as improve the quality of their horses?
Actually in Cowboy Dressage we are going backwards into history to go forward into the future on a more versatile horse.
In Cowboy Dressage there are three areas of competition. In the first segment the horse and rider individually ride a Cowboy Dressage test in an open court thru a series of moves executed at various markers or letters on the outside of the court. Each maneuver of the test is individually marked and the judge gives feedback or comments back to the rider. The second segment is Cowboy Dressage Challenge. This segment is ridden in the same Cowboy Dressage court with the letters in the same place but with the addition of ground polls strategically placed within the court to greatly improve not only the riders understanding of the Cowboy Dressage Court, but the placement of the ground poles will enhance the riders ability to improve their horse. Riding the Cowboy Dressage tests, whether you are in your back yard or at a show, can help you to train your horse! The third segment of Cowboy Dressage Competition is the Freestyle. This is ridden to the rider’s choice of music over a 4-minute time. The rider is free to do anything that he likes as long as he includes a short list of required maneuvers. In this we are going to see many maneuvers not seen in other horse competitions. It is the ultimate expression of what the horse and rider have learned through their involvement with Cowboy Dressage.
The interest and enthusiasm in this new venture is unbelievable and Cowboy Dressage is here to stay. It’s a case of the old meeting the new for the betterment of both!
You ain’t seem nuthin’ yet!!!
Jack Brainard 8/12/1921 – 11/24/21
For more information about Cowboy Dressage please visit:
For more information about Cowboy Dressage activities in Texas please visit:
Cowboy Dressage of Texas Coordinator
Bonnie Glasgow 214-707-1873