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The night of Oct. 5 was a historic moment for the Feather River College Equine Program. Former student Nick Dowers walked his horse into the Reno Livestock Events Center for the 2013 National Reined Cow Horse Association Snaffle Bit Futurity, and came out a champion.
The Snaffle Bit Futurity is often referred to as the Super Bowl of horse shows, and Dowers proved himself the quarterback of the winning team when he won the futurity finals.
Not only did his win on his 3-year-old stallion, Time for the Diamond, bring him a $100,000 check, two custom saddles, two silver buckles and a myriad of other awards and glory, it also brought inspiration to the young students at FRC who got to watch their role model succeed at such a high level.
Dowers, 31, went to Feather River College in 2000. According to program director Russell Reid, he stayed for a couple of years and really made use of his time there.
“He was an outstanding student of the horse,” Reid said. “He wanted to learn so bad.”
Dowers said in a video biography that while he grew up with horses, his experience at FRC motivated him to become a trainer.
“I’d always used (horses) and been around them but it wasn’t until (FRC) that I was exposed to what they can really do and how you can unlock their minds,” Dowers said.
According to Dowers, the reason he originally went to FRC was to play baseball, but he thought the horse program would be a good opportunity for him too.
He said due to a scheduling conflict he had to choose between the two and he picked the horse program because training was what he was planning on doing for a living.
“While I was at the school I got exposed to really great horsemanship,” he said.
“The biggest thing he did was network with all of our guest clinicians,” said Reid.
The program brings in top trainers and clinicians and puts on exclusive clinics for the students. Dowers’ efforts to connect with these horsemen resulted in jobs with first-class trainers and ample opportunities for him to learn.
He then started competing as a trainer himself, and slowly gained experience in the competition world.
“(Competing) is a test,” Dowers said. “It’s a test for me and it’s a test for my horses.”
Throughout the development of his career, Dowers stayed in contact with Reid, giving him a call whenever he needed advice about horses or training.
A couple of years ago, Dowers went back to Feather River College as a guest clinician himself. Since 2011, he has returned to the school at least twice a year to help the students learn more and grow.
“(FRC) is a really great place to see young minds and try to open up their minds the same way I would open up a horse’s mind … I really get a lot out of that,” he said.
The night of the Snaffle Bit finals, Dowers was greeted by deafening cheers from a crowd full of FRC students. The more than 400 contestants were judged in three different events: herd work, reined work and cow work. All three events exemplify the finesse, courage and athleticism of a horse trained to manage cows.
Herd work requires the horse to separate a cow from the herd and prevent it from returning for a period of time.
Reined work is the only event without a cow; it involves a series of complex maneuvers, such as spins and sliding stops, to show the horse’s responsiveness to its rider.
Cow work involves only one cow and the horse must keep control of the cow at all times while also turning in circles.
The compilation of the score determines the champion, and Dowers’ spectacular score of 661 put him far in the lead. He not only won the favor of the audience, but also that of the judges.
“It’s a world championship,” said Reid. “It demonstrates to our students that they can do it. We can point them in the right direction. … It validates the opportunities we give to the students.”
Other examples like Dowers are reoccurring at Feather River College. Three students from the program who were at the Snaffle Bit Futurity that night got internships with three of the top trainers in the nation. Another is currently working with Dowers.
“People are starting to talk about FRC,” said Reid. “It’s not a secret. They know who we are. … It’s exciting.”
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