Nick Dowers and Cowboy Week


In late January, various horsemen and horsewomen gathered at Triple D Ranches for Cowboy Week. The event was hosted by Nick Dowers, seen here working with Quaid McKay.

By , Platinum Performance®

An Annual Gathering of Master Horsemen and Horsewomen Offers an Intimate Look at Top-Tier Colt Starting and Finely Tuned Training Techniques

Close your eyes and you can almost picture yourself there. Crisp morning air, juxtaposed by breath steaming around a soft muzzle. Whiskers backlit by the slanting sun that illuminates the imposing White Mountains to the west, home to the Great Basin Bristlecone pines, the most ancient trees on the planet. Every step of a shod hoof stirs up a swirl of high desert dust, almost enveloping all in its path, transforming horses and riders into ghost-like silhouettes set against a low hillside. Boots slide into well-worn stirrups; spurs jingle, ropes hang at the ready, and wild rags are wrapped, tied just snug enough to keep out the late-January cold. There’s a loose grouping of Nevada flat hats bobbing in concert as riders long trot through the sagebrush, shadscale saltbush and winterfat. Calves bawl and cattle dogs work low and cat-like to steady the herd. This is real life — every day in the heart of Nevada’s rugged and unbroken Great Basin — and this is Cowboy Week.

The setting is Triple D Ranches. This million-acre spread — a combination of deeded ground and land leased from the Federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) — has been the life’s work of the Dowers family for generations. They’re the clan that includes top-shelf professional horseman, showman and NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity Champion Nick Dowers. The ranch sits in the Fish Lake Valley, surrounding the rural outpost of Dyer, Nevada, located midway between Reno and Las Vegas near the California border along Nevada’s western slant. To the novice eye, the desertscape is rough and wild — the definition of remote. A normal trip to the grocery store means hours driving winding roads, ascending the towering mountains, then snaking down toward the nearest town. To the Dowers family, however, this alluvial valley northwest of Death Valley is hallowed ground. They’ve worked this land over the decades, raising each year’s plentiful crop of mama cows and calves, farming expansive plots of alfalfa and raising horses that have risen to the top of the reined cow horse world under Nick’s purposeful tutelage. It’s an achievement through grit, sweat, headdown determination and a commitment to maintaining the ranching way of life with faith, family and hard work as his compass.

Joe Wolter and Bryan Neubert are known throughout the western world as the pinnacle of colt starting prowess.

Joe Wolter and Bryan Neubert are known throughout the western world as the pinnacle of colt starting prowess.

While Dowers has achieved nearly every major accolade in the cow horse world, his roots are firmly planted in southwestern Nevada, and his heart is with the people here. His horses are scrappy; shined to perfection in the show pen yet equally able to perform in the branding pen and riding point with the herd. As a horseman, he remains deeply committed to evolving his craft. It was during his early days apprenticing on Bill Van Norman’s Tuscarora, Nevada, ranch 400 miles to the north, near the Idaho border that inspired the idea for Cowboy Week — a five-day gathering at the Dowers family ranch. “Up there in Northern Nevada, they get a lot more winter than we do down here,” remembers Dowers of his days at the Van Norman ranch, an outfit that ran about 1,400 cows, calved in the spring and carried them through the winter. “When there’s snow on the ground, those ranchers would feed cows, then come over in the late afternoon to Bill’s place,” he adds. “He had the only indoor arena around at that time, and we would start a bunch of horses. There were a lot of really good hands there, and the camaraderie was just through the roof. It couldn’t have been a more fun atmosphere for the horses or the riders.” Six years ago, Dowers decided to emulate those days with his own weeklong iteration, sticking with the casual name coined during the Van Norman ranch days: Cowboy Week. In Dowers fashion, the handful of friends who gather aren’t just his old pals, they’re also masters of their craft. Texas’ Joe Wolter and California’s Bryan Neubert (both having cut their teeth under legendary horseman Ray Hunt, who passed in 2009), are known throughout the western world as the pinnacle of colt starting prowess. They came together for Cowboy Week with fellow ranchers and deeply-handy horsemen and horsewomen, including Rye and Quaid McKay, Casey Bieroth, Alethea Prewett, Tess Turk, Susannah Campbell, Justin Sorensen, Chase Fisher, Luis Moya, Joseph and Ethan Bentz, Connor Garwood, Jill Rigler, Maddie Kelly and Peyton Paul. Together, Dowers and this posse of experts share techniques while offering a worldwide audience a fly-on-thewall view via a webcast. Picture the ultimate howto western reality show, sans the drama but heavy on in-the-moment instruction delivered honestly with wisdom through the hands of horsemen who revere these animals. “It’s just a bunch of really good hands getting together to start some horses, have some fun and tell some stories,” Dowers says simply. That simplicity is perhaps the secret sauce of Cowboy Week, delivering profound lessons on horsemanship — and life.

Cowboy Week Available Now On-Demand

12 hours of on-demand content delivered in 3-hour increments. A longtime Platinum Rider, Nick is offering Cowboy Week to Platinum friends at a $20 discount.

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With Dyer such a remote location, Dowers sought to bring the camaraderie and how-to content of the week to as many as possible. An online webcast allows fellow horsemen anywhere in the world to log on and feel immersed. Cameras follow riders from their time around the coffee table in the early morning — where they talk life, horses and lessons learned — to the saddle in the arena and out on the ranch, swapping techniques for starting colts, tuning horses and getting “their thought to become my thought,” as Dowers says of his goal for his mounts. The nexus of horse and rider is paramount and hinges on the belief that earning trust in a horse’s mind is what true “horsemanship” is. Any rider can make a horse follow direction if they stay at it long enough, but achieving that true connection where a horse intuitively performs for its rider, is the ultimate target. And that is what viewers see: the evolution of untamed colt to willing and learned young horse — in the span of a week and at the hands of supremely-talented trainers. Cowboy Week is the ultimate inside look from the comfort of home. Dowers — a Million Dollar Rider in the National Reined Cow Horse Association (NRCHA) — will start colts alongside his fellow riders, but he’ll also break out a handful of the superstars in his barn, including Cabanna Boy (champion at the 2022 National Stock Horse Association Futurity in Las Vegas), Cats Nu Shine (2023 NRCHA Hackamore Classic Championship in Tulsa, Oklahoma) and Smart Shiney Playboy (2019 Snaffle Bit Futurity champion in Reno). “You’ll see some of my top horses, but I’m also really excited about my 3-year-olds,” says Dowers of the crop of young horses that will rise up as his next generation of headline-makers.

Cowboy Week is a poetic combination of tutorials delivered by experts who make their living on the back of a horse, combined with an intimate look at what it means to be an honest to goodness cowboy. Dowers and his fellow hands harbor a reverence for the horse and a soul-deep appreciation for the western landscape that continues to shape their lives. For the viewer, Cowboy Week offers 12 hours of on-demand content delivered in threehour increments, allowing a virtual step inside the arena with some of the best as they go to work creating sound-minded, athletic and willing mounts.

“It doesn’t get better than having your peers and mentors together with you for a week on the ranch,” says Dowers. “There’s a lot about horses that people will get to see but also a lot about just being a better human and treating people right. Iron sharpens iron, and these people give me something to strive for.”

“Iron sharpens iron, and these people give me something to strive for.”
— Nick Dowers, NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity Open Champion and 2-Time Road to the Horse Champion
Platinum advisor with her horse

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