Friday, January 1, 2016

Year in Review

Chico and I doing "groundwork" Jan 1 2015 Photo Credit: C. Holloway
Riding with Dale Rumens-Partee Jan 1 2015 Photo credit: C. Holloway

2015 was quite a year.  It began on New Year's Day with a Cowboy Dressage clinic in the frigid temps and that set the tone for what would be the busiest year I've had in a life of busy years. Learning, teaching and competing in Cowboy Dressage was the theme of 2015 for sure.

I never set out to be a teacher.  My goal has always been to be the best horseman I could be, whether by serving the horse through veterinary medicine, or more recently by improving my personal horsemanship skills to better my ability to handle and talk to my horses and my patients.  It was reluctantly that I took up the mantle of Cowboy Dressage Professional.

Teaching in Stevensville, MT
Firstly I felt vastly under qualified.  While I had been involved in Cowboy Dressage since it was called Western Dressage, I didn't feel my skills were up to snuff.  Being a full time veterinarian leaves precious little time for being a full time horseman.  But, because Cowboy Dressage was growing so quickly, devotees were needed who understood the principles and purpose of Cowboy Dressage and were able to spread the word.  If this discipline and revolution in horsemanship were going to grow we needed people to step forward and spread the word.

So, with the urging of Eitan and Debbie I hesitantly booked my first clinic in May of last year.  I had a vague notion of what I would teach for the two full days and hoped that I could pull it off and at least present Cowboy Dressage in a good light so that the folks involved would be inspired to continue on.  Of course, that first clinic was smack in the middle of breeding season so I worked like a dog to get done with work to make it out there then had to drive home after the first day of the clinic to breed a mare and then return first thing in the morning to continue the clinic.

Teaching in Colville, WA
As I was driving home late that night I began to wonder what the heck I was doing.  Surely I was busy enough and didn't need this added stress.  Instead of taking my weekend off call and working on my own horse at home I was spending the weekend teaching other folks the basics of Cowboy Dressage.  It wasn't until the next day that I began to see the appeal in teaching.  When the group of horses and riders rode into the arena on day two showing significant improvement over the first day that's when I was hooked.  It floored me that the horses and riders could change that much in a short period of time.  I began to wonder if they had just been holding out on me the day before.  Surely I couldn't be responsible for that!

After my first clinic I wasn't sure if anybody else would be interested in learning from me but the calls just kept coming in.  With each group of horses and riders that I taught I realized how much I was learning as well.  Teaching is a wonderful way to improve your own skills and discover new ways to look at a problem in a horse or rider to help them find the solution.  I found I really enjoyed getting on other folk;s horses to see how the horse was responding so I could better help them communicate.

There is no greater reward for me as a teacher than seeing not only the rider get it, but for the horse that may have been defensive, resistant or fearful finally relax as suddenly the communication from the rider makes sense.

I used to spend my weekends off trail riding and exploring the hills and mountains of North Idaho.  I didn't do more than one or two local trail rides this year.  Instead I spent my weekends off traveling the Northwest spreading the word about soft feel, harmony and partnership and Cowboy Dressage.  I don't know if I've ever worked harder in a year or enjoyed it more.

We also dove head first into the competitive side of Cowboy Dressage this year participating in as many of the gatherings in the region as we could attend as well as participating in the Final Gathering and the Top Hand competition.

There is nothing like the crucible of competition to really push you to work hard and meet your goals.  Both Dan and I worked hard to improve our scores from one gathering to the next.  For me, personally I have never trained so hard for a single event as I did for the Top Hand competition this year.  I learned how much progress you can make when you really and truly dedicate yourself to a goal.  It was also reinforced on me how important your foundation is in Cowboy Dressage.  It doesn't matter how well trained your horse is if your partnership with your horse isn't solid.  Participating in the Top Hand was exciting, stressful and it pushed me past my limits in horsemanship and showmanship.  It's definitely something that I will participate in again.
Dan winning reserve high point rider. Nov. 2015

Dan worked so hard this year that he went from most improved last year to second place overall at this year's Final Gathering.  A testimony to the beautiful partnership he shares with his little red mare, Salsa and the time and effort that they put into preparing for the big Gathering.  

As I look back on 2015 I am reminded of all the new friends I have made.  I'm reminded of the wonderful horses that I have met.  I'm reminded of how far I personally have come in my horsemanship goals.

My goals for 2016 read much the same as my goals for 2015.  I want to improve.  Always.  I am lucky to be a passionate participant in a life sport that provides infinite opportunities for personal growth and learning.  I learn something every single time I touch a horse.  It's the number one reason why this sport is so addictive to me.  Finding a niche, like Cowboy Dressage that includes soft feel and partnership as the cornerstones just makes me more passionate.  I can reach my goals through methods and means that encourage and foster the relationship I have with my horse.  I suspect, looking at my calendar for the coming year that this year may be even busier than last.  Squeezing as much life and riding out of the year as possible.  Every year my I see my friends make resolutions to ride more in the coming year.  I am lucky to say I don't think that is possible for me without retiring! Every moment I'm not working as a veterinarian will find me mounted and working on one of my horses.

Chico and I at Finals in Nov 2015,  Photo credit: R. Horst. 
I plan to spend today much as I spent the first day of 2015.  We'll be on the Cowboy Dressage court working on improving our soft feel and developing harmony with our horses.  I'm excited for 2016 and the new things that Cowboy Dressage World has to offer.  I'm proud to be a part of the Cowboy Dressage family and hope that I can continue to spread the word to horse folk ready to learn how to improve their horsemanship and just enjoy their horses.

1 comment:

  1. I was tired reading about all you did! Glad you found your niche!