Performance Division - Rio Verde
Located in Rio Verde at 15217 East Rio Verde Drive Scottsdale 85262
Justin Cowden … The Next Generation
If you’ve ever watched an open hunter class, you have heard Justin Cowden’s name multiple times over the years. Having been involved with the Arabian horse industry since he was born, Cowden is a perfect fit for Royal Arabians in Scottsdale, Arizona, heading their performance program which specializes in hunter, western and English pleasure.
Raised having a grandfather who was a breeder, and a mother who rode and competed as a child and adult amateur, Cowden knew very young, that he wanted to be involved in horses, spending more time dreaming about them than doing his homework.
Earning the title of Leading National Hunter Trainer (based off Arabian Horse Times 2018 National show research stats), solidifies even more why he was named and awarded the 2018 APAHA Professional Hunter and Show Hack Trainer Of The Year, a very emotional moment for Cowden beyond being recognized by his peers.
A few months prior to the awards show, Cowden’s father, one of his biggest supporters, passed away. “My father loved watching me ride and hearing all about the horses,” Cowden shares. “Winning this award was more for him than for me.”
Acknowledging his accomplishments were a moment of surrealism for Cowden. “It’s been an exciting journey the past four years,” explains Cowden, “since I started with Royal, seeing my program grow from a handful, to a substantial group of beautiful and talented horses. Mark Davis and Cindy McGown have given me the template to achieve, as well as the many loyal and supportive clients that have followed me from a young age.”
And despite being one of the younger trainers in the industry, Cowden has made a lasting impact; known for his special relationships with his clients, as well as with each horse he brings into the arena.
These relationships are one of the reasons for his success in the show ring. Cowden has a lot of pride in his clients. “They are wonderful; they really are such a positive and uplifting bunch. Royal truly is a family. It’s fun for me to talk with my clients about their goals, and then hit the drawing board about how to get there with their horses and see them achieve it is why I do this.”
With no surprise, Cowden’s clients have nothing but love and respect for their trainer.
Leslie Kvistad described what makes him so different from other trainers, “I have admired Justin’s performances as a trainer for several years. He exudes confidence in the show arena, and epitomizes the phrase ‘cool, calm, and collected.’ I also have to say, his training program runs like a machine! An ultra-organized group of people, no matter the difficult demands, I watched them battle the extreme weather in Scottsdale this year—the lack of warm-up due to flooded arenas and a large number of back-to-back classes—and they were unflappable. Super positive and focused!”
Kvistad also shared how Cowden is consistently one of the most elegant riders in the show arena. “He exudes confidence into his horses, riding and clients, which makes each of us excited for our horse to enter the arena.”
Tom and Leola Hansen have been in training with Cowden since 2013, when they met him assistant training at Lervick Arabians in the Pacific Northwest that summer. The Hansens moved their hunter gelding to Cowden originally, due to a USEF conflict rule in order to exhibit at U.S. Nationals. Despite never having met him until then, the Hansens felt an instant connection to Cowden, and could tell, even though he was young, that he was knowledgeable and talented.
“He has an incredible feel for each horse he is training,” the Hansens say, “coupled with a natural talent as a rider.” This new relationship resulted in Tom’s first U.S. National AOTR championship and Justin rode their gelding to third overall in the open. “We asked Justin to find us a new young horse, and after many months of searching, he found us FVF Bucarrdi.”
Together, the Hansens and Cowden have achieved three national championships and five reserves, as well as multiple championships at Regionals and the Scottsdale Show. They consider Cowden not just a trainer, but family as well. “Justin has made us much better riders and we have a deep respect for each other. We laugh, cry, dream and spend off-time together. Justin is family. We look forward to many more years of making memories together.”
The Landman family were eager to share their love for their trainer. “Justin has an amazing ability to make every show experience meaningful and fun. Even if the class does not go well, he accentuates the positive and offers pertinent instruction to make a better rider. With Justin, every client feels important.”
Besides being a talented horse trainer, there is admiration for Cowden’s quick wit and sense of humor. Clients share that never is a dull time had when around Cowden. They also admire Cowden’s artistic abilities and believe he could be a successful artist if he weren’t a trainer.
Cowden is also held in high regard amongst his peers. Stachowski’s California trainer and Cowden’s friend, Jonathan Ramsay, had nothing but respect for Cowden as a person and trainer. “Justin is a great friend and horseman,” Jon says. “I love watching him turn out his horses for the arena for himself and his amateurs.”
Royal Arabians team member, Travis Rice, is proud to work with Cowden. “The Arabian breed and community should be honored to have a young trainer like Justin growing our industry. His unparalleled talents go beyond the finished product to his uncanny ability to spot prospects. His overall horsemanship is 100 percent. I enjoy Justin, because he is not just performance-minded, but also truly knows how to pick a good halter horse.”
Peer admiration isn’t one sided. Cowden’s respect for other trainers as inspiration is one of the reasons he loves what he does, since he feels he never stops learning. Cowden considers training an artform and continues to learn from each horse, trainer and friend he meets how he can improve every day.
—story by SARAH JAYNE JOHNSON
2018 APAHA Professional Hunter and Show Hack
Trainer Of The Year
What They Are Saying
“Watching a horse blossom as Justin begins to train it and demonstrate its talent, and then seeing that translate to the show ring is a blast every time- whether its him starting a young horse like multi-National Champion TN Khaliente and or beginning the transformation of a horse not yet successful into a highly competitive Open and Amateur Hunter like our own horse Whisky River VH, unlocking potential is his specialty.
Add to that Justin is not only able to accomplish those big breakthroughs with the horses that he shows himself, but also with his amateur riders, so that horse shows, and even just riding and getting together on weekends at Royal is absolutely the most fun adults can have! To say nothing about how he is able to maximize the investment in our horse program as owners and breeders.
He has much to offer the Arab business with his knowledge of both pedigrees and training, he is a real leader for the future of our business."
— Candace and David Berry | Caliente Creek Ranch
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