History and Training Philosophies of Dale Cossman :
"Life is a school of
constantly changing attitudes and thoughts. We can learn from the
past, but we can't live in it".
"Advancement is essential in the
realm of horse training.
I've seen horse training go from
"bucking" them out to "foundation training".
That's a good thing in my opinion." "I've had the privilege of
training horses for some time now, it is truly a satisfying work, even
the trying times." - Dale Cossman
Dale was raised on a ranch in Kansas where his great
grandfathers homesteaded and his grandfathers and father farmed and
raised stock and dairy cattle. Daleís interest in horses started early
in his life."When I was a very young boy, I dreamed
about riding and roping. Watching Roy Rogers, Dale Evans, Hop-A-Long
Cassidy and the Lone Ranger inspired me to ride horses. Sometimes I
think I was born in the wrong century." Dale recalls his first
mount when he was three years old, "It was no small pony either. He
was a full-size horse with no saddle. Due to being dragged by a horse,
my dad, Keith, would not allow me to ride with a saddle until I was
older." Riding bareback taught Dale two important things:
good balance and a "feel" for how a horse moves.
When he was a little older, Dale and his dad would travel to leased
pastures to check the cattle. Dale remembers,"Weíd jump Pepper
(a full-grown horse) into the back of the pickup with no stock racks. We
would be driving down the highway and Pepper would rake his bit
across the top of the pickup cab! People would pull over, stop and
stare, as weíd go by. When we got to the pasture, we jumped Pepper
out, and I would ride the pasture checking the cattle. I regret we never
got a picture of Pepper riding in the pickup with no stock
In the early 70ís, Dale started training horses for himself.
Working for Pawnee Valley Feeders Feedlot near his hometown of Hanston,
Kansas, afforded Dale the opportunity to see what a good experience
feedlot riding was for a young "started" horse. It was
here that he started to ride for clients. Dale recalls, "The person
that had the most influence on me at that time was Larry Phillips of
Jetmore, Kansas. He is a heck of a hand with a horse. I not only had the
privilege of working with Larry in the feedlot and learning his training
techniques, but he also taught me how to shoe a horse."
1983 brought big changes to Dale, his wife Susan and their two
children. As they said goodbye to family and friends and all the
familiar surroundings of growing up, they made an adventurous move to
Washington State. Continuing his training of horses in Washington was a
challenge for Dale, because no one knew him there! He worked diligently
to get his reputation established by always being fair and honest with
his clients and developing a clear understanding of their unique needs.
Lisa Herres of Richland, Washington, writes: "I first
met Dale when I purchased a Palomino gelding from him in 1992. Before I
took the horse home, Dale spent a great deal of time educating me about
the techniques he had used to train this horse, ensuring our success as
rider, trusted friend and mount. I was so pleased with the geldingís
quiet, gentle, easy-to-handle manner, that I have since had two more
horses successfully trained by Dale. My confidence in Daleís training
techniques has paid off, as both of these horses finished their training
with the same gentle, easy-to-handle characteristics as that first
Palomino gelding. Many of my colleagues have remarked that my young
horses ride as quiet and nice as their seasoned horses. I just smile and
tell them, "You just canít beat Daleís foundation
training!" In May, I am fortunate enough to be sending a third
horse to him for training and am excited at the prospect of riding
another "Dale Cossman" foundation-trained horse. In my case,
Daleís training soon extended from training my horses to educating me.
I have sought his advice countless times, and always with a successful
outcome. Dale has a rare talent for training horses that not many
possess. He is one of the most knowledgeable "honest-to-goodness
horsemen" that I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. I consider
myself fortunate to have him as my trainer and friend. As long as I am
lucky enough to own horses, they will be "Dale Cossman"
To know Dale is to appreciate his knowledge of horses. An old cowboy
once told him, READ, LISTEN and LEARN and take from that what you can
use! And that is what Dale has successfully put into practice. He uses
the "Western Horseman" as a study guide and he is always
willing to get sage advice from seasoned trainers. Most recently Dale
spoke with clinician Al Granchamp from Radersburg, Montana, to get
advice about a horse he was having trouble with. In addition, he has
spoken to Larry Trocha of Petaluma, California, and he also utilizes Mr.
Trochaís training videos for himself and his clients. Dale keeps
abreast of the latest training methods by occasionally attending a
training clinic. Curt Pate is one of Daleís favorite clinicians
because of his hands-on common sense techniques.
Dale believes in " Foundation Training". In fact they have
a saying at his ranch: " FOUNDATION TRAINING, WITHOUT IT YOU HAVE
What is foundation training? Dale says, "It is working the horse
from the ground up. Working with the horse on the ground gives me the
opportunity to get to know the horse and the horse gets to know me. I
start the groundwork in my round pen. I teach a horse to lead forward
and backward with a soft cotton rope on any leg. Then, I move to ground
driving him. Once I have good control on the ground of the young horse,
I move outside the round pen to do most of my driving. (A young horse
gets bored going round and round. Moving him to the open allows me to
take him by things he will be seeing when I ride him.) This allows the
horse to learn what I will be asking him to do when I mount him. Move
forward, turn left, right, backup, stop and give to the bit. When I feel
the horse is ready to mount, I move back to the round pen. If the horse
doesnít listen to me on the ground, I donít get on because itís a
sure thing he wonít listen when Iím on him. No two horses are alike,
and each one takes itís own amount of time to understand what Iím
Susan recalls, " Iíve watched Dale ride and train
horses for 32 years. More than once he has come across a stubborn,
hardheaded young horse. Heíll be doing his groundwork in the round pen
and the colt just wonít cooperate. Dale comes in tired and
discouraged. I just tell him, "Give the colt a bit more time, and
heíll give to you soon. Iíve seen it a hundred times with you and a
young horse." And when it happens, you can actually see the horse
"give" to Dale, and from that time on the colt is willing to
put forth effort to please his new found friend!"
Daleís training program promotes quiet, gentle and easy-to-handle
horses. He puts into practice what he feels is essential for the horse and
rider. "I feel working a horse in circles is really important. It
teaches a horse to neck rein, rate, balance and execute lead changes. A
lot of outside riding is the best thing you can do for a horse. It lets
the horse relax and be a horse. If I have a "bug-a-boo"
situation, I have to work through it. I canít quit. What would that
teach the horse? (Act up and the guy on my back gets off! I can do that
every time! In no time, Iíll be a fat pasture ornament!) He will never
get better if I quit. I never quit a horse on a "bad note." I
try to quit when Iíve made a little bit of progress. You have to
remember: There is no science tohorse training. I have to
read each horse individually, working that horse through his particular
problem. Horses, like people, are not perfect. I have to be forgiving,
especially with youngsters because they are going to makemistakes.
Most of the youngstersí mistakes will be corrected with consistent
Standing tied is also part of his training program as
is sacking out a horse. Why? Read about B. Dalkeís experience.
Barbara Dalke of Delta, Alaska writes: "Owning and riding a
horse in Alaska are challenges in themselves. The diverse types of
ground - from bogs with Jell-O consistency to loose, sharp, shale rock,
and Alaskan wildlife (bear, moose, caribou, and bison) traveling the
same trails can test the best rider and his/her horse at any given
moment. The trust or bond between rider and horse directly reflects, I
believe, upon training."
"I've owned many horses and have ridden in the wilderness areas
of Alaska for the last 20 years. This year, I purchased a gelding from
Dale at Sand Dunes Ranch near Richland, Washington. Dale had worked with
and trained this gelding. Not once during the 2500-mile trailer ride
home did my new horse, Lace, balk or refuse to load. He was patient as I
fiddled around and unloaded his trailer mate. He was calm each night as
he was unloaded in the dark and put in new pens."
"Once back in Alaska, I rode Lace and immediately came upon a
grizzly in the trail. Lace remained calm (much calmer than I) and stood
quietly as I pulled my rifle from the scabbard. Several days later, a
moose in the trail drew the same response from my horse. His calmness
and actions in these tense moments are a testament to the training he
received. Whether on hard ground or on soft ground where the bottom
drops out underneath us, I have a trustworthy, calm mount. Thanks,
Education of both rider and horse is crucial!
Dale recently gave a weeklong, one-on-one training clinic to Molly
Sanders, an aspiring young horsewoman. Molly and her father, Gary, had
purchased a mare from Dale a few years back. Being a young rider, Molly
needed a little help getting her spirited mare back to the safe, sound
handling and riding condition she was in when she was originally
purchased. Dale spent afternoons teaching Molly how to handle her horse.
Molly was able to ride along and learn first hand as Dale worked with
his colts. Molly came away from the clinic with a renewed sense of
confidence in her horse and her riding ability.
Gary Sanders of Kingston, Washington comments: "When Molly
and Dewzy started having trouble, I knew things were only going to get
worse unless we got some 'top notch' help in a hurry. Fortunately for
us, Dale Cossman agreed to work with both of 'my girls'. Molly kept a
journal of her training week, and when I read her entry for the fourth
day, I knew we had found the 'top notch' training we were looking for.
She had written about a trail ride she and Dale had taken among the sand
dunes, stopping to work the horses along the way, '...Today was
perfect, Dewzy was so good, she didn't do anything wrong! It was the
greatest feeling in the world to be able to ride my mare with such
confidence.' Thanks to Dale, both of 'my girls' are still doing
fine, looking forward to spring, and, more importantly, enjoying
each otherís company. There are a lot of things changing in this crazy
world we live in it's nice to know that there are still good men like
Dale Cossman out there."
Nevada Fateley of Sweetwater Ranch in Washington writes:
"I've had the privilege of being a "student" of Dale's,
if you will, as he is always willing to teach the owner/rider of a
horse, not just the horse. From watching Dale work the colts, it is
really apparent that he can get inside the head of a horse. This is a
unique talent in my opinion, because although all horses may have
general ways in which they are alike, each horse is an individual in its
responsiveness and personality. Dale seems to know just the right way to
handle each individual horse. Dale isn't just a horse person, he is a
people person too."
What Dale likes to see in a horse after 60 days of training:
1) Stand quietly tied at the hitching rail.
2) Stand quietly while being saddled.
3) Longe/ listen to commands.
4) Stand still while he mounts.
5) Walk off: flex / give head each direction.
6) Trot circle.
7) Lope circle.
8) Take leads most of the time.
9) Open and shut a gate (requires side passing and standing quiet).
10) Ride off on the trail quietly.
Dale cautions," Do not expect a horse to be seasoned in 90
days!" Dale will tell you 90 days does not make a horse. He has told many
clients the biggest mistake they can make is taking their 60-day or
90-day horse home and not ride him with consistency. Most trainers will
tell you it takes about two years to make a seasoned horse. Now, most
people cannot afford to have a trainer ride their horse for two years!
Dale works with the clients showing them all the ins and outs of their
young horses before they take their horses home. He encourages his
clients to continue the same kind of riding when they get the horses
home. (Dale has been known to call his clients and ask them if they are
riding regularly!) This is only a sampling of how Dale will put a good
foundation on your horse.
Daleís success is shown in the many satisfied clients that he has
sent home with "Foundation-Trained" horses. His reward doesnít
come from fame or national recognition, but rather seeing the result of
his common sense horse training benefiting the horse and the rider!
"In Riding A Horse We Borrow Freedom"
"To watch Dale ride is to see the rider and horse as one! The
fluid movements of Dale and his horse are beautiful to watch. I call it
poetry in motion. As a photographer, I enjoy capturing the execution of
rhythm and grace in which both trainer and horse unite," states
Daleís enjoyment of handling young horses can be seen when you talk
with him here at the ranch or on the phone. He invites you to stop by or
call and talk with him about your horse. Do you want to lay a
solid foundation for your horse for future success? Dale is now taking
bookings for the spring and summer sessions.
Daleís training techniques and philosophies are well
Catherine Wolkenhauer of Washington writes: "I am very
comfortable leaving my horses with Dale and have been pleasantly
surprised with their remarkable improvement. There are three things
about Dale's training program that I think makes it very successful. I
have noticed that Dale never tries to "steal a ride" on a
young colt. He doesn't let a colt cut a corner just because he's acting
up. He persuades the colt to want to do the right thing, rather than
intimidating him into it. I always know that my horse is going to be
dealt with kindly, but also learn some discipline. Secondly, Dale is
very consistent. By riding the horses on a daily basis, he establishes a
routine that the horse can expect and learn from. He has taught me that
horses are made by a lot of wet saddle blankets. Above all, I think
Dale's best quality, as a trainer is that he is incredibly humble. For
someone who has spent his life with horses, he is very unassuming. I
don't know how many times I have been present when a horse owner shows
up and starts telling Dale about horse training and Dale just smiles. He
never tells anyone what to do, just gives suggestions based on what has
worked for him in the past. He is open to new ideas and is willing to
admit that a tried and true technique might not work for all
Robbin Wight of Radersburg, Montana, says: "I have watched his
method of training and was always amazed at his patience and kindness
with a horse. One thing about Dale's method with a horse is you can rely
on the fact that he will never abuse the animal, no matter how difficult
the situation gets. He starts a horse from the ground up with tolerance
and know how of what will work best with each individual animal. I have
worked many horses, starting in the early 30's, and have made some
suggestions to Dale at times when he was having trouble getting a horseís
attention. But my method was always a little too rough for Dale, and he
just stuck with his system and it usually paid off. He is a good man and
a good trainer ,and I am glad to call him my friend."
Pam Echols of Oregon writes: "I met Dale through a phone
conversation about 10 years ago. I was in Alaska, and saw his ad for
this gelding. In five minutes we were friends, and I didn't even know
the man, but I could tell he was genuine, and trustworthy, something
Alaskans praise highly. He did not brag or try to sell me this horse. He
told me about the horse, his disposition, way of going, and how he had
been trained. I was impressed, not only with his knowledge, but the fact
that through his training methods, this horse and he had met common
ground, but that might not happen with all people that were interested
in him. Through the years I have spent time with Dale, and I feel he is
a true horseman in all respects. The reason I say this is because he
does not profess to know all. First and foremost, he is for the horse,
he can read what the horse is saying, and he tries to match the people
to the horse not vice versa. He might say, "This horse is too
advanced for a beginner, or this horse anyone can ride." I think
that is important because you want the horse to have a good home. What I
like to see in a trainer is fairness with the horse. It doesn't mean you
have to be a wimp, you just have to think like the horse, and Dale does
that. I would recommend Dale as a trainer to anyone. His foundation
training that he uses shines through when you come to get your horse.
The horse has confidence in the job he is bred to do."
We would like to thank The Judge's Choice - Classifieds for featuring Dale as their "Featured Trainer" for the month of May 2002.
A link to their site has been provided on our "Favorites" page.