SpectraVET Performance of the Week: Eitan Beth-Halachmy & Santa Fe Renegade at the 2014 Cowboy Dressage World Finals

Watch the founder of Cowboy Dressage (motto: “When dressage suits your needs but a Stetson suits your lifestyle”) show us how it’s done.


Photo courtesy of Lesley Deutsch /Blue Fountain Photography.

The 2014 Cowboy Dressage World Finals and Gathering took place in Rancho Murieta, California, over the weekend. Cowboy Dressage is fast gaining in popularity, as evidenced by attendance at the 2014 finals. There were over 800 rides in four arenas over the course of four days as well as exhibitions and a clinic.

By all accounts, it was a fun, welcoming and educational event. Jenni Grimmett, a Cowboy Dressage enthusiast from North Idaho, enthused in her Cowboy Dressage blog earlier this week upon returning from the Finals: “I’m not sure that you will believe me when I try to describe the welcoming environment present at the Finals. This is the big Cowboy Dressage show that wraps up the entire year. Hopes are high for good rides, of course, but more than anything else, people are just universally happy to see you and happy to share this dream with others who are trying to find a better way to be with their horse. This is a community of horse people that is inclusive instead of exclusive and that is dang rare in ANY equine discipline. They are supportive, helpful, gracious and kind. They embody this movement in horsemanship in everything that they do. You can’t be a kind person in the barn and a jerk outside of it. It doesn’t work that way. These people carry kindness in their hearts to their best abilities and inspire you to do the same.”

Nowhere was that spirit more present than in a freestyle exhibition by Cowboy Dressage founder Eitan Beth-Halachmy and his Morgan stallion Santa Fe Renegade on Saturday evening. Wrote Jenni, “Eitan rode with a host of mounted riders on horseback surrounding the court. It was breathtaking to watch and I don’t believe there was a dry eye in the house when the music changed to Garth Brook’s “The Dance” and Eitan directed the applause to Santa Fe and sat and stroked his beloved partner as the riders filed out of the arena.”


Chill bumps, right? Michelle Binder-Zolezzi kindly shared this account of the competition:

The horse show world is full of anything and everything a person could want to do with their horse. As human beings, we gravitate toward the type of relationship and toward disciplines that suit us both as pleasure riders and competitors. So what is it that makes Cowboy Dressage such a fast growing discipline and such an amazing experience for horse people?  Attending the 2014 Cowboy Dressage World Finals in Rancho Murieta California was just one more way to find the answer to that question.

Cowboy Dressage is so popular and just continues to grow and develop. This year the Cowboy Dressage World Finals Show and Gathering was an even bigger event than last. The Show has grown from over 500 rides in 2013, to over 800 rides in 2014 over the course of the four day show with up to four arenas running simultaneously. It is beyond amazing to see such growth in just 2 years. The facility at Murieta Equestrian Center was top notch with arenas perfectly groomed and decorated and the office staff did an amazing job of scheduling so the whole show ran smoothly. Competitors came from 8 states some from as far away as Kentucky, Oklahoma and Texas. Spectators and volunteers came from the international community as well with contingents from Germany, Australia and Canada. In all it took 5 organizers, 20 volunteers and 4 judges to produce the event that also served as a training ground for 15 judge candidates.

Each night there were clinics and speakers including renown veterinarian Dr. Robert Miller who spoke eloquently about why correct work is so fundamentally important to riding horses. One evening was devoted to the launch of the Cowboy Dressage e-learning program, an online educational program designed to teach fundamental training in workable modules. A new division is being developed and spectators were treated to the debut performance of the Liberty Challenge. Northwest trainer Marcia Moore Harrison introduced the crowd to the new discipline with her beautiful black horse “Black Tie Affair.” It will be exciting to see what happens with the liberty work in the future but I expect just as the other divisions have taken off, so will it. Vendors booths lined the main arena edges so shopping was available during all four days. You could get a hat in any one of several styles, buy beautiful handmade tack, order a custom saddle, get fascinating clothes and jewelry, or purchase a sweet treat to benefit Safe Haven Horse Rescue. Joanne Roll, a custom hatter who fits palm leaf hats was a vendor at the show and commented that “The people are just really outstanding; I’ve really had a good time.” Regarding why she loves this show so much she said with emphasis, “It’s the people, it’s the people, it’s the people.” On Saturday night we stepped into the ‘Cares and Whoas’ equestrian boutique to attend a wine and chocolate reception for us ladies!

At the show I was struck by several things and those things were backed up by every person I interviewed whether they were competitors, spectators, vendors, staff or judges. First and foremost was the quality of the atmosphere at the show. Marcia Moore Harrison, a new CD competitor drove 20 hours from Potlatch, Idaho, and rode 11 tests at the show. She explained “We came down last year to observe and we really liked the philosophy, the atmosphere so that’s what got us hooked. Now I am more hooked than ever. I really love the people, the culture of good horsemanship… the patterns are very challenging but doable for any horse, any rider at any level, and any breed coming from any discipline.”

Instead of stress, the whole event was permeated with an air of relaxation, peace and harmony. Surely everyone was busy enough! But I have never been at any show where everyone was actually kind, concerned and helpful to one another, regardless of where they came from, what kind of horse they were riding or what kind of tack or clothes they were riding in. There was no strife between horses and riders in the warm up areas either. Oregon competitor Rebecca Wirth expressed the difference between her experience of Cowboy Dressage and other types of showing very well, stating: “I was here last year and it just impressed me so much with how friendly everybody is and how kind they are to their horses and I just see that again. It is so welcoming here that you just want to be here.” Rebecca’s beautiful horse received several scores of 10 during the competition and she rode a freestyle with the garrocha pole as well. A dressage competitor, she expressed her appreciation of Cowboy Dressage saying, “It is so unique in the dressage world to have that kind of helpfulness and kindness and everybody is striving to just be better horseman.”

Even the horses were, for the most part, relaxed and when they weren’t, even judges were patient and forgiving while a young or inexperienced horse was settled. Sometimes even buddy horses were brought into the ring so “nervous nellies” could have the best show experience possible. When asked about her experience of the day, one spectator commented, “Well, first of all the horses are incredibly well trained and beautiful, and the horses and riders have an amazing connection and it is so nice to watch such good riding.” As a dressage rider she saw the connection between Cowboy Dressage and dressage but was very clearly impressed by what she was watching. “This is like way beyond dressage, to me, because there are so many more things here to do,” she said. A fabulous commentary from an experienced rider seeing Cowboy Dressage for the first time.

So many breeds were represented at the show and it was refreshing to see so much variety. Dale Rumens-Partee of Snohomish, Washington, brought an Arabian, a Saddlebred and a Quarter Horse and echoed Rebecca’s observation, adding that a big difference she sees between Cowboy Dressage and the breed show world she came out of is “…the whole way everybody is with their horse… it’s all about actually the horse, about the partnership and the harmony and the joy in everyone’s hearts. That’s what I feel and that is what I see from everyone around the arena — people smiling and happy and genuinely proud to be here.” Dale went on to win 2 silver buckles in the Vacquero division.

A competitor with a horse wearing a freeze brand was walking her horse Sunday afternoon. When I asked Annie Tyo “How has the show experience been for you?” she replied, “It’s just been so amazing. I came for the first time last year with my friend and I just thought it was such a wonderful discipline for the horses. Everyone has been so kind and friendly and we’ve just had the best experience of any horse show that I’ve ever been to in my whole life.” Annie rode a 9-year-old Mustang named “Wild Bill” and found that her mustang from Wyoming was well accepted at the show, respected for the quality of training she had worked so hard to give him and just as welcome as all the other breeds of horses present at the show.

Following the Freestyle rides on Saturday evening was a presentation by Eitan Beth-Halachmy riding his beautiful Morgan stallion Santa Fe Renegade. It was really everything I had hoped it would be — quiet, elegant, beautiful, a harmonious partnership between a man and his horse. It was truly the perfect way to visually explain the hallmark concept of Soft Feel and the relationship Cowboy Dressage promises to help us create between ourselves and our horses, but maybe more importantly, between each other.


Go Cowboy Dressage, and Go Riding!

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