Range Tested

Nick Dowers Trains Arena Horses on His Nevada Ranch

Western Horsemen
Story and photography by Ross Hecox
February 2016

Riding a 3-year-old cow horse prospect, Nick Dowers drives a herd of black yearling calves into an open meadow. Putting the group together by himself, pointing them north and moving them across a new irrigation ditch requires plenty of riding, with his horse trotting, stopping, rolling back, and sometimes loping off to turn a wayward calf back into the herd.

The moves his horse makes are similar to the maneuvers it will execute in the show ring, and Dowers believes the practical application will make the horse a more consistent performer.

As the yearlings line out and plod along, Dowers could settle in behind and keep the herd rolling forward with little effort. But he can’t help but see opportunities to train his horse.

“Just because I’m cowboying doesn’t mean that I’m on a loose rein, just walking around all day,” he says. “My focus is to get the job done in an effective manner, but also to use that job to get my horse broke. I’m going to work on things that I know I’ll need in the arena. I’m constantly meshing the two.

“For example, I love getting my [2-year-olds] prepped for a lead change while moving cattle. I’ve got the pull of the cattle drawing my horse forward, so I start moving my horse’s hips and shoulders. That’s the best time because I’ve already got forward motion. In the arena it’s so much harder, especially on a young horse, to keep the motion and direct it, too.”

Dowers spends plenty of time working his horses on soft, flat, arena dirt. But he frequently rides outside on all of his horses, from 2-year-olds to seasoned show horses. Whether trailing cattle or trotting through the rocks and cacti surrounding his training facility in Dyer, Nevada, he constantly hunts for ways to enhance the training of his reined cow horses.

Drills in the Ditch

About half a mile from his arena and stalls, Dowers trots a young horse up and down an irrigation ditch. He directs the horse along the bottom of it, where the ground is wide and flat. But the horse gravitates toward the stalls and begins moving along the bank of the ditch. Dowers uses this opportunity to teach straightness.

“If the barn is to my right, I’ll set it up to where he has to work up the side hill if he wants to lean to the right,” he says. “I offer the bottom of the ditch as the easy deal. If he takes that, great. If he chooses to go along the side of the hill, then more power to him. It’s pretty smooth and level on the bottom, and on the hillside he’s got to negotiate the rocks, and [the uneven ground] requires more work.”

Dowers says most horses quickly learn to stay between his reins and legs.
“It usually doesn’t take too long

because this sets it up in a way that the horse is wanting to change,” Dowers says. “It becomes his idea. So he might make this mistake [of leaning] two or three times, maybe four, and then figure out that, ‘The bottom of the ditch is good enough for me.’ ”

Once the horse learns to travel straight down the bottom of the ditch, Dowers rewards the horse with a break.

He also uses the bank to teach rollbacks. Moving again along the bottom, he stops and then asks the horse to make a 180-degree turn toward the bank. Ideally, it rocks onto its hindquarters, bends its neck and frame, makes a tight turn without crawling up the bank, and steps out following the tracks it just left. If it decides to leak forward and make a sloppy turn, it has to work uphill.

“If he is inclined to not follow my hands and roll forward, he could,” Dowers says. “But the environment tells him not to. It’s more work to turn uphill than follow my hand. He’s going to learn pretty fast that that’s not the right option.

“That’s how I try to set up every- thing; so the horse has an option. I don’t want to do the thinking for him, but the quicker his option aligns with what I’m wanting, the better it’s going to be for him.”

Sagebrush School

Dowers also likes to train while riding through rocks and sagebrush. By weaving through such obstacles, the horse becomes more in tune to the rider’s legs, seat and reins. By trotting small circles around a bush, it has to lift its back, bend its frame and work off its hind legs.

“I like doing it at a trot because I can feel the mistakes more,” Dowers says. “He’ll lean in more or lean out more at a trot. I’m looking for him to be more fluid as he goes around and hold his shape. All of the spots where he leans are the same spots where he’s going to lean during a turnaround [in a reining pattern]. So it helps me see what I’ve got—if I have him soft enough [through his frame] and in my hands.

“Then I start upping the ante. I turn him [180 degrees] toward the bush, then make a full turn away from the bush. I’m testing how well he’s going to follow my hands and stay balanced.

“I’m riding him where I want him to go, and if he chooses to lean and get tangled in the bush, more power to him.”

Sagebrush, or any other obstacle on the range, can also be used to improve a horse’s stop. Just as reining horse trainers ride toward a fence, Dowers trots toward a bush, tree or cactus, and just before getting there he sits deep and releases leg pressure. He doesn’t pull the reins, but lets his seat and the obstacle convince the horse to hit the brakes.

“My focus in everything is to get our thoughts aligned,” Dowers says. “If they aren’t, he’s going to cause himself more work. But when our thoughts align, instantly it becomes smooth sailing. It doesn’t take long and there’s no place he’d rather be than with me. That’s what I’m after.”

Uphill Training

Backing up a small hill is another outside exercise that Dowers values.

“You might think you have a horse backing up good in the arena,” he says. “But if you go outside and back him up a hill, he’ll show you that it’s not as good as you thought. He might struggle there.”

The horse may root out its nose or veer right or left. But to accomplish the task the horse must tuck its nose, dig in with its hindquarters and move backward evenly. Dowers adds that backing uphill also enhances a horse’s sliding stop.

“I like backing horses up a hill, especially if it’s a little sandy,” he says. “The horse has to work and really engage his hindquarters. I think to create the perfect sliding stop, your horse has to be square and straight. So the hill is a good diagnostic to see what you need to work on.”

Switching Leaders

One of Dowers’ favorite exercises is for he and an assistant to ride two young horses out in the open. The two take turns riding in the lead, each time moving a little farther apart. The goal is to make each horse less dependent on its buddy and more in tune with the rider.

“We’ll go out, and I’ll trot ahead however far I can until my horse is out of his comfort zone,” Dowers says. “That might be 20 yards and it might be 100. And about the time my horse is getting on the edge of that bubble, or the other horse gets to the edge and feels like he needs to catch up, I slow down and start walking.”

Sooner or later, the other horse will want to catch up, so Dowers’ assistant asks it to speed up but then continues trotting past Dowers and takes the lead. They repeat the process over and over, expanding the two horses’ comfort zones each time.

“At first, when the other horse gets by me, my horse will want to keep up,” Dowers says. “But I’ll just do what I can for awhile to keep him at a walk. Eventually I’ll let him trot to catch up, but then I’ll keep trotting ahead to the edge of that bubble. So you build his confidence one horse length at a time, and pretty quick you can flat leave the other horse and it doesn’t matter. He’ll just bebop up the trail because he knows he’s not getting thrown off the deep end.”

This switching leaders exercise may not involve an advanced maneuver specific to reined cow horse competition, but Dowers says it still prepares the horse for the show ring.

“This is something that anyone can apply with their friend to help them get with their horse,” he says. “It works for a trail rider, but at the same time I do it with my performance horses. When the [arena] gate shuts and I’m the only one in there, if my horse isn’t confident being by himself, what do I have? How is he going to execute a pattern?”

Building confidence is one of Dowers’ key components to preparing cow horse prospects for the show pen. He attains that by riding and using his horses outside of the arena whenever he can. Roping and doctoring yearlings teaches a horse to track a cow and get in position so Dowers can rope it. That translates to circling a cow in reined cow horse events.

Packing gear into the mountains for one of Dowers’ hunting trips instills a blue-collar work ethic. Dragging calves to the branding fire exposes a horse to a wide array of sights, sounds and smells. Sorting cattle in an alley sharpens a horse’s cow sense and gives Dowers a chance to work on neck reining and shoulder and hip control in tight spaces.

Essentially, after a horse has been given numerous jobs and performs them in all kinds of environments, stepping into a show pen is not so intimidating.

“Why does everyone want to buy an old ranch gelding?” Dowers asks. “It’s because he’s been exposed to a hat flying off, to everything that goes on at a branding, to so much more. And he has learned to cope with it and doesn’t get scared.

“Performance horses can be taught the same, where they develop a confidence. It’s hard to develop confidence when you ride him for a short period of time in the arena every day. At least it’s hard for me to do that.

“You definitely have to spend time in the arena. There’s no way around that. But there are times you can fit other stuff in and mesh it all together.”


The 3 Principles of Nick’s training

Nick Dowers: All Cowboy, All Champion

The Great Basin region has produced generations of working cowboys who have been capable trainers for the type of horse used in that area for all types of ranch work. But there’s one Fish Lake Valley, Nevada native who has gone to the top of the craft of horsemenship and proven his craft in the ultimate cow horse competition. On October 5th, after a grueling set of go-rounds to earn a place in the highly competitive finals of the National Reined Cow Horse Association's annual Snaffle Bit Futurity, Nick Dowers rose like cream to the top of the finalists and earned without any question the title of Open World Champion aboard his own three-year-old stallion, Time For The Diamond.

For a couple years, Dowers had been trying to purchase a One Time Pepto at the NRCHA Sales in Reno during SBF. However, the prices were always high and it wasn’t until 2011 that Gardiner Quarter Horses presented a young stallion that went through the sale at a price Dower and the family could afford. It was a bright red colt with the kind of balance and power that Dowers admired so much in that pedigree. Dowers says, “I saw his head and neck sticking out over the stall door and thought he had the prettiest head and neck of any horse in the sale. And that was the look I wanted, so we started bidding.” Dowers bid the horse to own him and he was placed in the family ranch name, as Dowers'  family had as much to do with the dream as Dowers himself. ‘Cactapus,’ a name thought of by Dowers daughter Tuli, then an imaginative 5-year-old, has stuck as the barn name for Time For The Diamond.

Dowers and his son of One Time Pepto earned over $120,000 in the three-event competition; herd work, reined work and fence work. All three are examples of the sort of work a trained ranch horse is prepared for. At Snaffle Bit Futurity, it is taken to another level! The herd work is as precise and measured as a cutting competitor would wish for, while the reined work looks to be a foundation for a National Reining Horse Association prospect. The fence work, as demanding as the other two combined, puts horse and rider to the test on a level almost unthinkable in a three-year-old futurity horse. These reined cow horses handle it with such talent, and Time For The Diamond took it to another level, illustrating his grit, heart and the toughness that Nick Dowers has been seeing since he first saddled the young colt. Their finals fence work was straight out of the handbook, and the crowd was on its feet. Here was a true champion in the hands of a great horseman. Nick Dowers won the Championship title hands down! It was a great event, and one for the books. Dowers gave a ‘how to’ clinic right there in those hard-fought finals.

It was almost not the dream come true. Prior to the event, Dowers was approached by one of the big guns of NRCHA fame, who stepped up with a six-figure offer. For a ranch owner in the middle of tough economic times for all ranchers, turning down that offer was almost impossible. Dowers tells us, “I stewed over that offer for a few days and then called a friend, a true mentor, and asked him what he thought. He asked me what my dream was worth.” That made it possible to turn down the offer and continue on the path. “My dream of winning this event was just not priced.”

We asked Dowers what the fence work finals felt like. “I was hearing the screaming and yelling and it was unreal. At one point I got worried I wouldn’t be able to hear the whistle for the end of my work. It was loud out there! It still hasn’t sunk in. I’ve been telling my wife for a year that I’ve got the horse that can do it all if I just handle it right.” There’s little doubt that Nick Dowers ‘handled it right’ when it counted!

Dowers background, although not much in the show pen, has been built around the young horses that he’s started for friends and other professionals. Andrea Fappani, a top level NRHA trainer, brags that Dowers used to come to the ranch and help start two-year-olds for him. Another leading NRCHA professional, Annie Reynold's who Dowers worked for in 2010 sends a large group of her best horses to him for their entire two year old year. Reynold's has always believed that Dowers is incredibly talented– her best horse, finishing in 4th place this year at the Snaffle Bit Futurity was also a product of Dowers program. A Non-Pro friend who had Dowers  come to their ranch to help start the babies watched him at work the first day and, “I took the rest of the week off to watch. He is an amazing horseman and gets such cooperation from a young horse.” Dowers says, “On the ranch, we use our horses for serious work. I have been able to somehow translate that to the show pen and use that environment to test my ability to understand my horses.” Not every horse reacts to the same process. “I say I tailor-make my horses according to their comfort. One might take it best in the arena while another will need time being ridden out on the desert or up in the mountains before they gain that important level of confidence.”

If there was one statement made by Dowers during the conversation, it was this: “If they’re afraid of cattle, I might ride them in the feedlot till they relax. I look for the level of ability in each horse, not looking for them to fit an exact program.” In essence, Dowers lets the horse show the way. His SBF World Champion, Time for The Diamond, is a classic example of a horse that liked his trainer and his regime. Dowers  let ‘Cactapus’ show the way. A true Champion reflecting the best of a great young trainer.


The Cowboy Way

Nick Dowers is confident in his identity and no title is going to change that.

By Kelsey Pecsek

Quarter Horse News
November 15, 2013

Steeped in tradition and shaped by the terrain of Fish Lake Valley in Dyer, Nev., Nick dowers exudes an aura of authenticity. He is a rancher, a showman and a National Reined Cow Horse Association (NRCHA) Snaffle Bit Futurity Open Champion, but above all, he is a horseman.

For the 31-year-old, staying true to his character is paramount. Family comes first. Loving horses means using successful communication to help bring out their best. Hard work is the best way to get what you want, don’t ever stop learning and always look a challenge square in the eye.

Living in the Great Basin’s arid climate does not lend itself to training performance horses. January’s typical high temperature is around 45 degrees, with winter snowfall averaging 11 1/2 inches. In the summer, 95-degree heat rarely meets more than five inches of precipitation a year, and powerful winds produce unbearable dust storms. But the 450-resident valley is home to Triple D Ranches, and that is home sweet home to Dowers.

“Where I come from is who I am,” he said. “[Triple D Ranches] wasn’t something that my great-grandpa had that we just fell into. It’s like an American dream.”


Where the heart is

Triple D Ranches is a 5,000-acre spread, with miles of alfalfa fields, approximately 400 head of range-fed beef cattle, several feedlots and the Colt 76 training program. Dowers runs the training and cattle outfit, while his sister, Valerie, and brother-in-law, John Maurer, do the farming. His brother, Robert, is responsible for the ranch’s irrigation system.

“When I was young, we moved from Oregon to Nevada. I remember we worked on a ranch when we moved, then we were able to get a little place bought,” Dowers said. “It just grew bigger and bigger every year. My dad’s a really awesome businessman. He was able to go from working on a ranch to farming half the valley.”

Dowers’ parents, Rod and Maria, oversee all of Triple D’s operations and double as a moral support system for their children. Rod’s keen mind for business keeps everything running as smoothly and suc- cessfully as possible.

“He always says it’s the art of the deal,” Dowers explained. “It’s pretty unique; a lot of the family deals don’t work. This one works because I’m real passionate about my end of it, just like my brother-in-law is real passionate about farming. I’m not stuck on a baler, thinking about horses; he’s not stuck on a horse, thinking about a baler.”

Dowers spent his second-to-eighth-grade years as a Dyer Elementary Bobcat in Nevada’s smallest school district. Each grade level held between five and eight kids, with a total student body of around 40. Dowers’ parents cheered him on as he played Bobcat basketball, but there was still work to be done at home.

“I drove a lot of tractors and started riding horses when I was pretty young,” Dowers said. “I rode any day I could, just to get out of driving tractors.”

It was a 90-mile journey, one way, from Triple D Ranches to Tonopah High School, but Dowers took advantage of the opportunities that came with being a Mucker. He added football and baseball to his repertoire, quickly proving his competitive spirit an asset to his teams.

“In football, I never sat out. I played the whole game,” recalled the tall, slender horseman. “I was a swap between a running back and receiver on offense, then on defense, I was an outside linebacker.

“In baseball, I played center field, but I was the lead-off [batter] because I was fast,” he added with a laugh. “I was real passionate about getting on base which ever way I could, because then I could steal second and third. If that meant getting beaned, it didn't matter to me. I was fearless."

Dowers had fewer ranching responsibilities as a teenager, because the school bus picked him up at 5:30 in the morning and practices kept him out until 8 at night. The extra time in Tonopah also gave him the chance to become good friends with Jackie Merlino, a girl he liked so much he just had to ask her out.

In the summers, Dowers took on a larger role at Triple D and his new girlfriend worked on the ranch cutting hay. After graduating, Jackie left for the University of Nevada, Reno in pursuit of a nursing degree and Dowers headed to Feather River College, in Quincy, Calif., hoping to play Golden Eagles baseball.

Higher calling

“The baseball team is top notch and they have a great horse program,” Dowers explained about Feather River. “I thought I could tie them both together. When I showed up, they said I couldn’t. The schedules were too conflicting.

“I had to decide which one to go with,” he said. “I went with the horses because I was smart enough at the time to know it was something I was going to go on with for the rest of my life.”

Despite the culture shock that came with being five minutes from the grocery store and gas station, Dowers blended into the college lifestyle. Nothing could derail his purpose – he wanted to learn.

“He was not only interested in projects that pertained to his horse, but he was watching pretty careful when I’d help anybody,” said horseman Bryan Neubert, a frequent guest clinician at the college. “He was pretty eager and not afraid to ask a stupid question. If I said I needed a volunteer, his hand would be up before he even found out what we were going to do.”

Dowers absorbed all Feather River offered, enrolling in every horse class available. He elected to work toward cer- tificates instead of a degree, deciding he “didn’t have time for the whole academic part of it.”

The equine studies classes followed a balanced structure of discussions, training videos, anatomy education and handson riding. Respected horsemen conducted clinics to teach students the theories of horse training.

“It’s a really good school for a base. I didn’t train horses at all until I got there, I just used and enjoyed them,” Dowers said. “I knew nothing about training horses; I didn’t even pretend to train them. Russell Reid was really instrumental in getting me open-minded to unlock a horse’s mind and channel everything through that.”

When the ranch back home needed extra hands, Dowers loaded up his classmates and drove them five hours to Triple D for calf-branding field trips. And since Reno was only about an hour away, he spent his free time building a serious relationship with Jackie.

As Dowers progressed through his two-year education, Reid, Feather River’s equine studies program director, allowed him to bring outside horses to school. That gave Dowers the unique opportunity to begin developing as a trainer and understanding each horse as an individual.

“I rented a pasture in town from a local guy and I borrowed some panels from my instructor,” Dowers said. “When people sent me some outside horses, I’d go and catch like seven or eight and then haul them to school with my stock trailer every day.”

“He challenged me as a teacher to keep him busy with horse information; therefore, he forced me to become a better teacher,” Reid remembered. “He would take an idea and build on it, and then come back for more. You just could not overload him with horse information or challenges.”

Following the techniques he studied from videos of Ray Hunt and Tom Dorrance, Dowers continued to impress his instructors and mentors. He built friendships with Reid, Neubert and Gene Armstrong, constantly turning to them for more knowledge. On spring breaks and long weekends, he would drive three hours to Neubert’s ranch in Modoc County for extra help.

“He’s a master, he really is,” Dowers said. “I was bugging him all the time. He taught me to present myself in a way that’s not demanding or dominating, but just working with the horse.”

“All I did is get him thinking a little different,” Neubert said, humbly. “He grew up with a work ethic and he was not afraid to fail. He didn’t let pride get in the way of his horsemanship.

“It’s just been fun to really become a friend,” Neubert added. “There’ve been a few people in my life that have not only passed me up [as a horseman], but left me in the dust. I look forward to working with him and him helping me. I’m happy for him, but if he hadn’t won the [NRCHA Snaffle Bit] Futurity, he’s a darn good hand anyway.”

The wanderer

Dowers finished school in 2003 and set out to complete his version of a well- rounded education. Neubert helped him find clients and he began working at various ranches.

“That’s when I went into the cowboy/ traveling colt starter thing,” Dowers recalled. “I would go somewhere and start 10 or 15 [babies] in a month or two, then go on and start the next bunch or do work on a ranch. I just kind of bounced around.”

In the off-season, Dowers spent most of his time working at big ranches, where he would go out on the branding wagon for a month at a time.

“It’s real,” he said with conviction. “It’s a way of life – it’s not a job. It’s not something you turn off. It’s who you are, and I really like that.

“As a cowboy, you have to get by with what you’re riding that day,” he continued. “Every horse has to cut a cow and every horse has to be roped off of. You learn to get by with what you’ve got. I’m always in for the challenge.”

Along the way, Dowers formed a valuable relationship with renowned horseman and clinician Joe Wolter, which resulted in several trips to Wolter’s Aspermont, Texas, ranch. Today, Dowers credits Wolter for shaping him into the trainer he’s become.

“Nick had tons of talent; I had nothing to do with it,” Wolter said. “He had a lot of practical experience – he could ride any kind of horse and get the job done too. He had a confidence about him and he believed in himself, but he was humble. He doesn’t lose himself doing it – it’s still Nick. I’m just pleased to know him.”

Between sessions at Wolter’s facility, Equi-Stat Elite $3 Million Reining Rider Andrea Fappani called Dowers with an offer. He had recently moved to Arizona and needed someone to come help him start a large number of young horses.

“He came down just for that, and the thought was that he would spend 30 to 60 days just getting those colts started and move on,” Fappani explained. “I noticed right away that he had way more talent. He was pretty much amazing around a horse. Within just a few days of being around him, the babies that had never been touched wanted to do everything he asked them to do.”

And, Dowers’ love of a challenge prompted an interest in learning more about reining, so Fappani reached out to help.

“I always credit Andrea for teaching me to get one to stop and turn,” Dowers said. “It was a whole different atmosphere from the ranches and that kind of lifestyle, but it was really good and I got a lot out of it.”

“It definitely was a good experience for both of us,” Fappani assured, praising Dowers for building a training program his own way. “I learned quite a bit from him, and things I’m still teaching my guys now. The reining, for him, was a piece of cake. I think that kid could have gone any direction he wanted with horses and he’d be successful.”

Building a family

Despite the nomadic nature of Dowers’ journey to reap an education from the greatest horsemen he could find, his and Jackie’s relationship grew stronger.

“Nick traveled a lot after he got out of school and I stayed busy in nursing school,” Jackie said. “For a couple years it was a long-distance relationship, but I knew how important it was for him. He was getting a lot of great experience.”

In 2006, Jackie graduated from college, and by November of that year, she and Dowers were married. Jackie got a job as a registered nurse at Northern Inyo Hospital in Bishop, Calif., and Dowers began starting 2-year-olds and rehabilitating problem horses out of Triple D. After working his way through several programs, often cleaning stalls and trading compensation-free work for priceless instruction, he was ready to settle down.

A year later, the couple welcomed daughter Tuli. She was born with congenital limb deficiency, meaning parts of her arms did not develop normally in the womb.

“It just made us stronger. The way we look at it is, God wouldn’t give a child like that to just anybody, so we feel privileged to have her,” Dowers said of his daughter, who is now 5 and already riding horses. “It’s really fun to watch her figure out how to do things; she’s really intelligent. We let her be independent and strong.”

The Dowers family was blessed with a son, Crue, in 2010. His obvious love for animals and fanatical attraction to horses has the now 3-year-old showing signs of following his father, proving what Jackie calls “The Dowers Gene” strong.

“Crue is a sweetheart and he really loves being around the animals like Nick does,” Jackie said. “Tuli is very competitive and very determined in everything she does. There’s no stopping that girl.”

A yearning

When Dowers returned to Nevada, he worked with the late Bill Van Norman in Tuscarora, where he was introduced to reined cow horses and got his initial taste of show pen competition.

“Bill was the man,” Dowers said. “He showed at a local level, and I was always admiring his horses. We would use them on the ranch and do everyday ranch stuff, then he’d go to town and beat the local trainers at the cow horse stuff. He was the bridle horse authority around Elko, [Nev.]”

In 2009, Triple D Ranches purchased JP Royal Boon (Showstoppin Boon x Royal Jody Chex x Bueno Chex Jr) from Van Norman Quarter Horses. Over the next two years, the 2006 gelding earned $9,950 under Dowers’ saddle. Their strong showing at the 2010 NRCHA Hackamore Classic made JP Royal Boon his rider’s first true show horse.

Dowers fell in love with the feel of an arena performance. He liked the idea of working hard, using his horses at home and then testing them, as well as himself, at events. To develop a skill set fit for the performance world, he turned to seven-time NRCHA Futurity Non-Pro Champion Annie Reynolds.

“That’s where I really got the show experience that I desperately wanted,” he said. “My bread and butter was the colts, and probably always will be, but I like to be pushed.”

With the unwavering support of his wife, Dowers packed up his family of four and traveled to Reynolds’ Why Worry Ranch in King Hill, Idaho.

“It was a nice break from work and it gave me time with the kids,” Jackie said, declaring the trip a blessing, not a sacrifice. “We tagged along to the horse shows and just enjoyed Nick getting so much show experience. It was a year of growth and learning for him.”

Dowers immersed himself in the preparation that went into Reynolds’ leading program. They had agreed on a one-year contract, so making good use of the time they had was essential. He learned how to get a horse ready for competition and took his showmanship abilities to the next level.

“He has a tremendous amount of feel,” Reynolds said. “He’s got a lot of patience, and obviously he’s a great athlete and an excellent rider. He has a different background than most trainers. I think that he’s driven to do the best he can with what he’s got. It’s a matter of pride for him.”

While working for Reynolds, Dowers got firsthand experience showing first-class reined cow horses. He piloted Shiney And Verysmart (Very Smart Remedy x Shirley Shine x Shining Spark) to $24,113, including Intermediate and Limited Open titles at the 2011 NRCHA Stakes, where he finished fourth in the Open.

Dowers was also granted the opportunity to show Smarter Image (Very Smart Remedy x Teena Cash Flo x Nu Cash). Equi-Stat Elite $3 Million Rider Todd Bergen handpicked Dowers to catch ride the horse, and the duo went on to win the NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity Limited Open.

Dowers’ Equi-Stat record soared from $14,478 to $71,287 in a single year. He returned to Fish Lake Valley with the essential tools for success – it was just a matter of time.

Perfect timing

Dowers happily adjusted back to the rancher-with-a-dream lifestyle. In the summer, Jackie gave birth to their third child, daughter Jovi. While his blossoming family lifted his spirits, he was still a man equipped with the knowledge to train top-notch performers, but lacking the horse- power to do so.

“It was tough [in 2012],” Dowers admitted. “I think I only won $260 the whole year. But I was able to get through it. Once I got home, I still wanted to stick to what I do, putting that day-to-day work ethic into my horses and not being tied to the arena.”

Dowers knew his ticket to the top was to find the right horse. At a Snaffle Bit Futurity sale in Reno, his family lucked into an affordable One Time Pepto colt named Time For The Diamond, out of the Playin Stylish mare Diamonds With Style. Tuli nicknamed the horse “Cactapuss” and Dowers did what he does best.

“Cactapuss is the best horse I’ve ever trained. He is so selfless. I’ve never had a horse try so hard, day in and day out,” he said of the stallion who carried him pack hunting in the mountains as a 2-year-old, and then to the 2013 NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity Open title a year later. “My parents have been real supportive all along. My dad is at the mercy of the show season more than the market on when we sell our calves, because I need my cattle to work. He’s willing to sacrifice selling his calves at the best time to help me be successful.”

A mob of inspired fans swarmed the arena after Dowers clinched his first Futurity Open Championship in Reno. The hometown cowboy’s integrity and style made him an audience favorite, and among the multitude of people celebrating was the Dowers family.

“It’s been so cool, and the best part about it is Nick hasn’t changed personally,” Jackie said, proud of her husband’s accomplishments. “He’s always pushed himself to get better and gain as much knowledge as he could, and he strived for what he wanted.”

Remaining true to himself is a vital part of Dowers’ program. For him, how he does things is just as important as the result.

How & why

Dowers’ program, which revolves around getting into the horse’s mind, focuses on the “how and why” in everything. This unique approach helps him to understand and communicate with all types of horses.

“I want to be able to train my horses to the highest level, but not lose my horsemanship integrity to do it. Keeping the horse in mind is a big part of what I do,” he said. “I need to know what to do, when to do it and why to do it. That’s everything.”

In the interest of helping fellow riders, Dowers has started teaching clinics. It all began when Reid asked him to come back to Feather River College.

“The students really relate to him and look up to him. He is a great teacher, breaking lessons into small pieces so both the horse and student can understand,” Reid said. “With Nick, it is all about the ‘soft skills,’ such as showing up to work, working hard, paying attention and asking questions. Each year, he offers some of our top students a summer internship.

“I have never experienced so many folks in our industry so excited for one person to win [the Snaffle Bit Futurity],” continued Reid. “Nick represents all the original values of the NRCHA.”

But for Dowers, his life is a normal one. He wakes up every morning, heads out to work his horses and doesn’t realize the impact his story has on those around him. In his mind, there is still much to learn.

“The challenge is to stay true – not lose sight of who I am and what got me here,” he said. “There’s a lot of guys in the industry that I really look up to. It’s pretty cliché, but I just want to get better. If you’re green, you’re growing; if you’re ripe, you’re rotting.”


Nick Dowers Wins 2011 NRCHA Stakes Intermediate and Limited Open Championships on Shiney And Verysmart!

by Roberta Johnston
March 29, 2011

Nick Dowers began working for acclaimed National Reined Cow Horse Association Non Pro Anne Reynolds at the beginning of 2011. Only a few months into his job, the young trainer won over $22,000 in a single event – the National Reined Cow Horse Association Stakes!

Dowers was riding Shiney and Very Smart, by Very Smart Remedy out of Shirley Shine, a horse that Reynolds rode to the 2009 NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity Non Pro Championship. On Finals day of the NRCHA Stakes, Dowers and the 5-year-old cow horse marked a 218.5 in the herd work, a 216 in the rein work, and a 221 in the cow work for a 655.5 composite.

“The herd work was awesome and right on. It was easily the best I’ve ever had on him. He was just on it from the start. The rein work was really good, even though I could have shown him better,” he said. “In the cow work I could see the cow down the lane and I knew it was going to be good and feely. It was just what we needed.”

Not only did the high score result in the Intermediate Open and Limited Open Championships, totaling $9,355 in earnings, the pair also finished fourth in the Open, worth an additional $13,113. “It was a good time today,” noted Dowers modestly. “He’s a phenomenal horse and I’m very thankful that Anne lets me show him.”

Dowers, now of King Hill, Idaho, not only thanked Reynolds. “I really appreciate Jake Telford for all his help, as well as all the team from our barn,” he said.


National Reined Cow Horse Association
October 18, 2013

In his first trip to the National Reined Cow Horse Association Snaffle Bit Futurity Open finals, Nick Dowers, Dyer, Nev., claimed the $100,000 Championship aboard Time For The Diamond (One Time Pepto x Diamonds With Style x Playin Stylish), a horse he owns under the name of his family’s Triple D Ranches, LLC.

Dowers, 31, piloted the sorrel stallion to a total 661 score (218.5 herd/218.5 rein/224 cow), earning a deafening ovation every time he entered the arena.

“I wasn’t sure I would be able to hear

the horn at the end of my fence work,” he said, smiling. “This is surreal. It hasn’t even sunk in. I’ve been telling my wife for a year – I got the horse to do it. If I can get things done right, I got a shot.”

Besides the six-figure paycheck, Dowers won two Bob’s Custom Saddles sponsored by Jeffrey & Sheri Matthews/One Time Pepto and the NRCHA; two custom saddle racks sponsored by Sunmoon Ranch; two Gist buckles sponsored by Hooker Creek Ranch/Matt & Lesley Day and Lone Oak Veterinary Clinic; the Dorothy Jenkins Bush Perpetual Trophy, sponsored by the Ralph Gragg Family and Keith Christie; a polar fleece cooler from Classic Equine; Platinum Equine from Platinum Performance, a 30x hat from JW Brooks Custom Hats; Back On Track product sponsored by Back On Track; and a 10 pound bucket of UltraCruz Sand Clear plus a $50 gift certificate and a coffee tumbler in a cooler tote bag, sponsored by San Juan Ranch, a division of Santa Cruz Animal Health.

Time For The Diamond was bred by Gardiner Quarter Horses, Ashland, Kansas. Dowers purchased the stallion at the 2011 NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity Sale as a yearling – and it was love at first sight.

“I saw his head and neck sticking out of the stall, and I was, like, ‘Wow.’ He’s got the prettiest head and neck of any horse here, in my opinion. And that’s what drew me to him.”

Dowers considered selling “Cactapus”

– nicknamed by his 5-year-old daughter, Tuli – when an elite NRCHA professional threw a six-figure offer on the table this summer.

“I stewed over it for three or four days,” he said. “I called a good friend and mentor and asked him what he thought. He said, ‘Well, is your dream worth that?’ I was, like, ‘You’re right. It isn’t.’ So that was my decision. My dream of this, tonight, wasn’t worth the price.

Nick Dowers & Time For The Diamond Win NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity Open Championship

Written by NRCHA Press Release
October 06 2013.

Nick Dowers and Time For The Diamond

In his first trip to the National Reined Cow Horse Association Snaffle Bit Futurity Open finals, Nick Dowers, Dyer, Nev., claimed the $100,000 Championship aboard Time For The Diamond (One Time Pepto x Diamonds With Style x Playin Stylish), a horse he owns under the name of his family's Triple D Ranches, LLC.

Dowers, 31, piloted the sorrel stallion to a total 661 score (218.5 herd/218.5 rein/224 cow), earning a deafening ovation every time he entered the arena.

"I wasn't sure I would be able to hear the horn at the end of my fence work," he said, smiling. "This is surreal. It hasn't even sunk in. I've been telling my wife for a year - I got the horse to do it. If I can get things done right, I got a shot."

Besides the six-figure paycheck, Dowers won two Bob's Custom Saddles sponsored by Jeffrey & Sheri Matthews/One Time Pepto and the NRCHA; two custom saddle racks sponsored by Sunmoon Ranch; two Gist buckles sponsored by Hooker Creek Ranch/Matt & Lesley Day and Lone Oak Veterinary Clinic; the Dorothy Jenkins Bush Perpetual Trophy, sponsored by the Ralph Gragg Family and Keith Christie; a polar fleece cooler from Classic Equine; Platinum Equine from Platinum Performance, a 30x hat from JW Brooks Custom Hats; Back  On Track product sponsored by Back On Track; and a 10-pound bucket of UltraCruz Sand Clear plus a $50 gift certificate and a coffee tumbler in a cooler tote bag, sponsored by San Juan Ranch, a division of Santa Cruz Animal Health.

Time For The Diamond was bred by Gardiner Quarter Horses, Ashland, Kansas. Dowers purchased the stallion at the 2011 NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity Sale as a yearling - and it was love at first sight.

"I saw his head and neck sticking out of the stall, and I was, like, 'Wow.' He's got the prettiest head and neck of any horse here, in my opinion. And that's what drew me to him."

Dowers considered selling "Cactapus" - nicknamed by his 5-year-old daughter, Tuli - when an elite NRCHA professional threw a six-figure offer on the table this summer. "I stewed over it for three or four days," he said. "I called a good friend and mentor and asked him what he thought. He said, 'Well, is your dream worth that?' I was, like, 'You're right. It isn't.' So that was my decision. My dream of this, tonight, wasn't worth the price."



NRCHA Derby Open Reserve Champion
Smooth Bellingrath & Nick Dowers

The 2016 NRCHA Derby Open Reserve Champion was Smooth Bellingrath (Smooth As A Cat x Very Special Peppy x Peppy San Badger), shown by 2016 Road to the Horse Colt Starting World Champion Nick Dowers for Triple D Ranches. Dowers and the Woody Bartlett, DVM-bred 2011 stallion had the high score in the preliminary composite, and in the finals, they had the high rein work score on their way to an overall 664.5 (217 herd/226.5 rein/221 cow). They took home $23,283.


Road to the Horse 2016
Nick Dowers

Watch the world's greatest horsemen partner with the world's finest wild horses, in an epic challenge to see who will win the 2016 Road to the Horse held in Lexington, KY at the Kentucky Horse Park on March 18-20, 2016.

Road to the Horse has become addictive and global. Fans travel from around the world to witness the edge-of-your-seat action that the world’s most anticipated equine event is well known for.  Anyone who loves horses will want to watch the best horseman use their techniques on the untouched horses from the 6666 Ranch and what they can literally do with them in such a short time”.

Road to the Horse is an exclusive horsemanship experience that combines valuable education and thrilling entertainment!
A competition untouched by others, tests skill, experience and colt training prowess, Road to the Horse dares elite horse trainers to create a trusting partnership with an untouched 3-year-old American Quarter Horse. The test begins with the selection, choosing only one horse from the AQHA Remuda from the 6666 Ranch; competitors have just three days to build a working relationship. With disruptive sounds, exhilarating sights and adrenaline-pumping time constraints each competitor must face the final trial, an obstacle course. Only one can walk away with the Colt Starting World Champion title."

For ticket information: