Putting a solid foundation on young horses & understanding the psychology of the horse are skills Sarah Dawson acquired at a young age through the guidance of her father, renowned professional horseman Richard Winters.
“I could not be more proud of the path that Sarah has taken & the dedication she has put into her career & the genuine respect of the horses under her care,” says Richard.
After graduating from high school at 16, Sarah made the Limited & Intermediate Open Finals at the NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity at 18 & was offered a job by Jon Roser. With two Reined Cow Horse World Championships as a youth rider under her belt & a passion & skill for Three Day Eventing & colt starting, she departed home, taking with her all of the support & knowledge both her parents, Richard & Cheryl Winters, imparted on her. You could definitely say they put a strong foundation on Sarah which opened the doors to opportunities with other professionals such as Doug Williamson, Carol Rose, Bill Smith, & Sandy Collier.
Under the guidance of masters such as those & the experience with the quality horses in their programs, Sarah advanced her skills & a respected reputation as a first-rate colt starter was born.
“My father instilled in me the importance of how a horse should be started. He’s the one that gave me the foundation & the understanding of colt starting & horse psychology. Through his work with me I gained the confidence in myself & my abilities to set out to build a career as a professional horsewoman,” says Sarah.
Traversing the United States on colt starting contracts, Sarah grew her reputation & sharpened her showmanship skills, never wavering in her dedication to truly understanding the mind & movement of the horse as she had been brought up to do.
While focusing on developing her professional career as a horsewoman, a cowboy named Chris Dawson was climbing the ranks of the Reined Cow Horse scene & their paths crossed on the show circuit, one day both realizing they were a true fit.
Both Sarah & Chris are products of an environment where horse training is a way of life & share the same ideals on the importance of the foundation of the horse they were both taught to respect.
“Chris & I are so lucky to be able to have one another’s trained eye & to be able to develop talented horses together,” says Sarah, who admits she definitely is much more nervous when Chris enters the show pen than when she does & the feeling is mutual.
“I am so much more nervous for her than for myself when we’re showing,” says Chris. “I want her to do well so badly & I know how much she deserves to succeed.”
Unless they are placed close together in the draw, you’ll always find Chris & Sarah at the ingate analyzing one another’s runs, cheering for one another, & being the first to consult with each other when stepping out of the show pen.
Aboard Shine Smarter, owned by her parents, Richard & Cheryl Winters, Sarah took 5th place in the Open at the 2015 NRCHA Futurity, Reserve Champion in the Intermediate Open, & Champion in the Limited Open. Since then, Sarah & Shine Smarter have made the finals at every Derby this year.
For Chris Dawson, growing up on the back of a horse & a start in lead line quickly evolved into an Appaloosa Youth World Championship under the guidance of parents & professional trainers Sandy Campbell Jirkovsky & Ron Dawson.
“I always told Chris, so many times as a youth, ‘Do your job & then some’. I am so proud of the man he has become, always helping others & always doing his job & then some,” says his mother, Sandy.
Showing in the all around in the AQHA helped Chris hone his skills as a showman & then came the event that began his career in the Reined Cow Horse industry: The World’s Greatest Horseman in 1999 where Chris was a spectator & in awe.
“I immediately fell in love with the Reined Cow Horse. Even as a spectator, the energy, the camaraderie, the excitement, & the tremendous ambition & great horses it takes to be judged in three different events like that, well, I decided that was for me,” says Chris.
A good fit it turned out to be. After graduating from high school, Chris became an assistant trainer for Todd Crawford, whom he credits for teaching him so much about the sport. While there he met & learned from Harold Farren as well, putting a solid foundation on his start in the Reined Cow Horse industry.
“My time at Todd’s was a great foundation for my Reined Cow Horse career,” says Chris. “I learned so much & soaked up everything I could.”
Four years later Chris went to work for Carol Rose where his knowledge & his opportunities continued to grow. With mentors like Ron Ralls, Don Murphy, & Jim Paul, he built enough of an understanding of the Reined Cow Horse to set off on his own.
In 2013 Chris made his biggest mark thus far in the industry aboard a stallion named Travelin Jonez, also known fondly as “TJ”.
That year he won four NRCHA majors aboard TJ that catapulted him into the rankings with the best of the best.
“Travelin Jonez is such a gritty stud. He certainly has a motor in the show pen & I let him take the wheel & I just made sure I applied the brakes,” says Chris. “It came together for us time after time with a great horse with a huge work ethic & a little luck sometimes too.”
In 2015 Chris was asked by NRCHA Hall of Fame Horsewoman Carol Rose to “put a special touch” on a very special stallion, Reys A Shine. That special touch prevailed & Chris rode Reys A Shine to the NRCHA Open Derby Championship that year.
“I’m always proud of him. Whether he wins or looses. His winning is a great accomplishment but his greatest accomplishment is just being him,” says Chris’s father, Ron Dawson.
That’s the general consensus regarding Chris. He is known throughout the industry for being a man that is never too busy to lend a helping hand, share wisdom, & provide encouragement to fellow competitors & those who look up to him.
Now, sitting as the number two Open NRCHA rider in the country, Chris is able to share the thrills of victories for his horses, his clients, & those he coaches with his wife, Sarah.
“What Sarah & I have is an incredible thing for us, our customers, & our horses. We keep our training simplified & aim to understand the abilities of each horse. Having her to help keep me grounded & knowing that the advice she gives me comes straight & genuinely from her heart helps me to be a better horseman,” says Chris.
Their families agree. Both of their parents are proud of the people they are together & the dedication & passion they have for the sport.
“Not only is the Reined Cow Horse industry a perfect fit for Chris,” says Sandy, Chris’s mother. “Sarah is too & the unique & special relationship they share is so fun to watch I couldn’t be more proud of them both.”
As the 2016 NRCHA Futurity nears, Chris & Sarah are excited to show the first foal crop by Travelin Jonez there, building a legacy & continuing to chase their dreams & those of their clients.