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2017 Top Hand Competition

Photo credit: Richard Horst Photography

September 9, 2017
Rancho Murieta Equestrian Center
Rancho Murieta, California

The Cowboy Dressage Top Hand Competition was the brain child of the Cowboy Dressage World Partners. It is now seeing it’s third year of competition. The level of horsemanship continues to astound us each year. The growth and skill between each horse and rider’s partnership is rewarding to watch and be a part of.

We are very proud of all our riders in Cowboy Dressage and the Top Hand Riders represent the what Cowboy Dressage is as a discipline and sport.

Keep in mind that the judging of this competition is not just about skill, precision, horsemanship and partnership but also Kindness. Fifty percent of the rider’s score is based on that alone.

We mean what we say, we ride what we believe.

These rider’s had some good ol’ cowboy grit! 

In the tradition of the Cowboy and the ranches of the west there is no higher compliment than being christened the top hand.  All Cowboys worth their salt strive to be worthy of such a title.  It is not a title given lightly nor one that is awarded to a man that hasn’t put in their time.  It is a title of honor and respect.  While the Cowboy needed to be a man of many skills, including some of the dirtier ground crew work, the highest skill of the Cowboy and the one most respected was the horseman.  In all the skills the Top Hand had mastered, it was his skill as horseman that most earned him the title.

In Cowboy Dressage we honor the tradition of the Cowboy and the lifestyle of the West while building partnership and harmony with our horses.  We believe that in order to create the ultimate horse we have to be the ultimate partner for that horse.  By working to improve communication with the horse through soft feel we aim to create the perfect working partner that is soft and willing and capable and able to take on any job on the ranch or in the arena.

Creating that partnership and relationship with a horse requires a rider that is dedicated to the goal of soft feel.  While it takes time to develop true partnership in a horse, a rider that embodies soft feel can cultivate partnership in any horse that he mounts.  A true horseman can quickly adapt to communicate with each horse that he comes into contact with.  You might say the rider that has embraced the principles of soft feel and partnership in Cowboy Dressage is worthy of being called a Top Hand.

As we in Cowboy Dressage honor the Cowboy we also honor the horseman and no skill in the horseman is as highly valued in Cowboy Dressage as the skill of soft feel and partnership.  Do you think you have what it takes to be a Top Hand? Cowboy Dressage World is poised to give you the opportunity to find out.

While the end goal of Cowboy Dressage is not the competition we feel that it is right and fitting to honor the Top Hands out there that have dedicated the time and energy to become worthy of the title.  Though we no longer have the ability to prove our worth while riding for the brand each season, we can get together to showcase and honor the work we have done with our horses and recognize the men and women that have made themselves worthy of being deemed Top Hand.


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2017 Top Hand Results

Top 5 1 – Kellie Shields- Champion 2 – Joy Wilcox- Reserve Champion 3 – Tami Beach 4 – Jenni Purcell 5 – Nina Burkart Top Hand Contestants Erin Adderley JoAnn Gillespie Kellie Shields Joy Wilcox Jenni Purcell Tami Beach Tanja Kraus Nina Burkart Phil Monaghan

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Top Hand Contestants 2017

Click on linked name to read about the Top Hand rider. Check back for Updates

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Amateur Top Hand winner Jill Plumb

Winners of 2016 World Gathering and Show and Top Hand

  Here is a partial list of the winners. You can find a complete list at: Candids are on the Kodak Moments Page and more beautiful photos can be found at: And the winners are…… Top Amateur and Open Awards Open Overall High Point- Marcia Moore Harrison tie with Dee Myers Amateur Overall …

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Top Hand and Finals Winners for 2015

And the Top Hand winner is……………… Megan Gallagher!!! Young Megan (from Grass Valley, California!) is the winner of the first ever Top Hand Competition at the Cowboy Dressage World Gathering and Finals!  We couldn’t be more proud of her, and ALL the participants in this new addition to Cowboy Dressage. The level of riding, softness and harmony was superb. Congratulations …

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