It is important for Eitan and I that Cowboy Dressage be a part of the vast community that makes up this horse industry. It is our wish to serve them in some small way. With that in mind we have done three things. The new Cowboy Dressage court has a pink Breast Cancer Ribbon on the C. As you enter the court you ride towards it. When you stop and salute the judge you are also saluting the C and all those women who have survived and not survived Breast Cancer. The second thing we have done is the S will have a yellow ribbon for soldiers and veterans. We encourage all shows that host Cowboy Dressage Classes to add a high point award to the highest scoring veteran male or female. If you wish to do that for Breast Cancer Survivors please do that as well. Cowboy Dressage is also a supporter of the Horses for Heroes Project. This is a fabulous and very active program that rehabilitates returning soldiers through the magic of horses.
Visit the website below for the information on shows and clinics and all things Cowboy Dressage.
This is a short documentary video of Eitan Beth-Halachmy and his
Cowboy Dressage journey. From his early life in Israel to the present here in the US.
The Court of the West Mission and Vision Statement
Soft Feel (or Fresh Rein) is the guiding principle of Cowboy Dressage™. It is a wordless, intimate and for some a spiritual communication within the partnership between horse and rider. Soft feel is not only sending messages but having the sensitivity and awareness to feel and receive the message the horse sends back.
The timing and use of the Release, Relaxation, Preparation and Execution are the basic fundamentals of Soft Feel.
Most competitive disciplines have numerous pages of rules, restrictions and regulations. These are established in Completive Dressage to ensure the humane treatment of the horse as well as to set a standard of excellence for the sport. There is a new competitive discipline that is governed by many less pages - Cowboy Dressage. What do I mean?
Allow me to use a genre that man has chosen to express himself since sun and moon and horses were caved on walls - Art. The value of Art is in the visual expression of the finished product. There is the movement seen in a stationary sculpture, a light in the darkness radiating from the canvas, the expression of joy or sadness, or who knows what by the Mona Lisa. Emotion in the viewer is evoked by Remington's sculpture of the Indian on his pony, hunched over from the wind and cold and exhaustion. The art I am referring to has a recognizable image. It is contained in a canvas or bronze or wood. The essence of beauty is visual, yet unique. The artist expresses himself to the best of his ability in the finished product. But, where is the connection of Art to Cowboy Dressage?
In Cowboy Dressage the "canvas" is the court. The medium is the elements of the test. The visual expression is the performance of the test. The uniqueness is the breed of horse performing the movements. The artist is the rider AND the horse controlling the chisel or the brush. Wallah! The finished work is revealed at the last salute.
What is the judge (the ultimate viewer) looking for to score? Eitan's vision of the expression of Cowboy Dressage is harmony and partnership between horse and rider, evident in the performance of the test. The lightness in the use of the aids by the rider, manifested in elegant self carriage of the horse, from engaged haunches and elevated withers and poll. The visual presence of soft feel, imperceptible use of legs and seat and hands by the rider, and noticeable lack of extreme tension on the reins.
Since all breeds of horses are generally performing the tests, the focus is on the quality of movement determined by the inherent gaits of that breed. The relaxed frame of the quarter horse will be more level than the relaxed frame of the Saddlebred. The stride of the Warmblood will be longer than that of the Morgan. Just as the final class, the Best in Show, in a dog show, the judging is based on the animal that magnifies the best qualities of their breed. So it is the same in Cowboy Dressage judging. The judge should be scoring according to the best movement a Quarter horse has to offer in his execution of the test, when the Quarter Horse is the one doing the test. If an Arabian enters at A, the judge should be looking for the best movement offered by the Arabian, a higher head carriage, light foot fall and perhaps more animated steps.
All of this is to be in addition to the goal of flawless execution of the elements of the test, by a willing horse, responding respectfully to the direction of the rider. A square stop, a show of the free, working and collected frames of the horse, a round 10 meter or 20 meter circle, smooth transitions from walk to jog or jog to lope; turn on the haunches, turn on the forehand; absence of the horse's head behind the vertical, absence of sluggish steps by the horse. As well, the four beat walk, the two beat jog and the three beat lope.
It is as if the judge of Cowboy Dressage needs to develop a third eye. This third eye needs to see the harmony and partnership between horse and rider present in the performance of the test. Yes, it is a subjective element, not easily defined in words, but recognizable when it is happening.
Message from Debbie and Eitan
Cowboy Dressage™ has long been a labor of love for Eitan and I. It started with Eitan’s work and performances with home bred Holiday Compadre in the early 1990’s. It is because of this great horse, his talent and his heart that Cowboy Dressage™ first came to public recognition and applause. Due to demand Eitan and Compadre soon became educators as well as performers. From Eitan’s years of contact with the general horse public the idea of Cowboy Dressage™ as a competition came to being. At first only a dream it is now a reality. In Eitan’s efforts to continue on with his own personal dream and to continue on the legacy that he and Holiday Compadre founded he has brought forth his personal dressage home for the western horse. It is Eitan’s vision that this be a western discipline that is enhanced by dressage, not ruled by it. The tests are very western. Like the early west the rules are simple and the freedom abundant. It is based on release, not contact. Soft Feel, founded by great horseman of the past is Cowboy Dressage™’s core. It is the goal of Cowboy Dressage™ to promote and teach that in a competition atmosphere, bringing it to light to a public that is in great need of it.
The competition part is new and will need time to grow and develop. It is created for those of you who longed for a place to hang your hat and live and ride the western traditions. It is our hope that each of you will embrace this new division. It is offers a place for the “partnership” to be rewarded more than the “maneuver” and the wellbeing of the horse and rider are held in the highest regard. If you ride the trials, the range, the rodeo or the dressage court you have a place to explore and grow with Cowboy Dressage™.
Cowboy Dressage™ is not a club or association. There are no dues or membership. All copy, tests and courts are owned and trademarked ( ™ ) by Debbie and Eitan Beth-Halachmy. Permission to ride and use tests are granted to the public. To duplicate in any form of media, in any manner for financial profit is strictly prohibited. Anyone wanting to place information, tests, rules or court design on other websites or printed material must first ask permission by email Eitan@foothill.net.
Cowboy Dressage™ Classes can be added or included to any non USEF show.
Thoughts and Comments
Soft Feel represents the highest achievement between horse and rider. There are no short cuts on the road to its success. It is a pure partnership built on trust and reward. Soft Feel is accomplished when full use of the riders correct aids have maintained the horse in balance, cadence and carriage. When a horse is taught to “balance himself” and not rely on the riders hands to hold him in frame, “lightness” occurs.
For me, Soft Feel represents my own journey in horsemanship. It is what I wish to accomplish with each horse I train. The principles of dressage are the foundation of Soft Feel. The western is the freedom to ride it.
"I think Eitan’s ability to combine the best from both these worlds is an inspiration to new generations of horsemen and women who are looking for a more enlightened path." ~ Robert M. Miller, DVM
"In essence the soft feel for me is; a light, but gently firm, if necessary contact with my entire horse's mind, body and spirit, focused through the bridle reins with hands that are directing, supporting, but always yielding to the life and movement of the horse." ~ Lester J. Buckley
Horsemen all over America are quickly learning about a new discipline called Cowboy Dressage, and most are aware of its tremendous value. Few realize that this concept is the brainchild of a great horseman named Eitan Beth-Halachmy, who has pioneered it from its start. His stunning performances all over America and abroad are responsible for this coming revolution in Western Horsemanship. It's potential is unlimited and my hat is off to Eitan, its founder. Here lies the opportunity to ride better horses! ~ Jack Brainard
This past August 3,4 and 5th, Varian Arabians held it's 28th Summer Jubilee with the master horseman Eitan Beth Halamchy as the clinician along with Sheila Varian. Introducing the first appearance of the Cowboy Dressage court designed by Eitan, Eitan explained the Cowboy Dressage premise to the 200 Summer Jubilee attendee's and with the help of the Varian staff and Brett and Margie Becker led us through the different levels of competition as we rode under Eitan's direction. It is an exciting new step for people that enjoy riding the western horse to apply dressage principles and design to a light and softer western rein. To say Cowboy Dressage had everyone fascinated would be an understatement. It was obvious immediately that here was a new and very innovative as well as fun, new approach to riding well and isn't that what we all want... new and interesting ways of riding well?
~ Sheila Varian
Horses made cowboys, cowboys made horsemen. Together they made some of the world’s most popular and exciting horse events. On August 30th, 2012 another event has been added. Eight tests were designed and for western horses. Sixty-Five cowboys and cowgirls joined in a landmark event. This stampede of enthusiasm will fill a draught in the equine world. It is something all ages, all riding levels and all breeds will feel excited about. It is something that fits in the western world. It’s an old thing with a new twist, It is made in America, it is COWBOY DRESSAGE!
Soft Feel and beyond-
Try to develop a “feel” for your horse’s mental outlook. Does your horse seem tired, disinterested in his work, confused? Feel is not just about what you feel through your reins, seat, and legs. It is about sensing your horse’s mental and physical state. It is about thinking about your horse and it’s development when you are away from your horse. To me, feel is about my mental connection with a horse. I often do my best training at 2AM while lying in bed. For some reason, the relaxed state seems to allow my mind to problem solve. It is a good idea to take time to develop your eye when watching horse’s work. I watch a lot of horses throughout my work week. I know each of them pretty well. I am always watching them with a “soft eye”. This often lets me know when a horse is starting to develop a soundness problem or needs some additional strength training. It is good to just sit and watch horses and how they move. This really helps a person develop as a horseman. Take time to observe your horse out at play. How evenly and well does he/she move without your involvement?
Lyn Ringrose Moe
Today's Western horsemanship has honed practical working skills to finesse. Classical Dressage is known and respected for its sequential task pyramid and the beauty of its performance. When two great disciplines come together, you can bet that the union will produce an irresistible entity. Eitan's dream is now a reality - The cowboy now has his own discipline of dressage skills, with the cowboy in focus.
When I first saw Eitan ride, I was brought to tears - not sadness, but a deep longing to achieve the same with my horses. Cowboy Dressage makes this available for all riders who want more.
Take a look at the rules and court and goals of Cowboy Dressage. Logic in the court design, balanced progression of tasks in the tests. And a notable absence of detailed rules and regulations. You can use a ring snaffle or a curb bit or even a bosal and mecate. But the saddle must have a horn and the rider must be in western attire. You can wear blue chaps or a riding skirt, a pink saddle blanket or a felt pad. You can ride with one hand or two. The mane can be braided or flowing. the reins can be mohair or leather. The shirt can be blue checkered or pink with crystals. How can you resist?
But, above all of these, when you read the mission statement of Cowboy Dressage, you find a goal that requires one's heart in their hands and legs and seat and mind. It is the soft feel of the reins, the harmony and partnership visible between horse and rider. The sport of horsemanship is driven by love for the horse. If that love is truly present, the study of Cowboy Dressage brings that harmony and partnership to life. The tests are very eventful, with frequent transitions and tasks to complete within 5 minutes. Actually, everyone who has done the tests say that they are fun. Fun tests???
So, this is why I practice and teach Cowboy Dressage. My students of all levels of ability and all ages have something of significance to work on. All breeds of horses benefit from the goals set forth in CD. What a delight to set our horsemanship goal to be of horse and rider in visible harmony and joy.
Cowboy Dressage is excited to form an alliance with Cowboy Solutions.
Please contact them for your Cowboy Dressage Court needs. They have a wide range of models and prices to choose from. These are beautiful quality courts and state of the art quality and design.
Cowboy Solutions is also an authorized GGT Footing subdealer, specializing in Western blends, a full range, of Cowboy Dressage Competition and training arenas and accessories, trail obstacles and natural horsemanship training obstacles, and more. Ask for Allyn. She will take wonderful care of you.