“It’s very humbling to work with someone like Lindy. There’s always something new to learn…That hunger to always get better is one thing I took from it and through Art of the Cowgirl you’re always learning…I hope I can even say that when I’m 65 and 75…And just the fellowship and camaraderie,” not only with Burch, Dwyer said, but others who opened their homes. “They let us come in and work and stay with them and eat with them and get to know their families.”
The Art of The Cowgirl, founded by Tammy Pate, has a goal to assist and recognize emerging artists of the western genre. Pate hosts a gathering each year to showcase cowgirls and their artistic contributions. The organization offers a fellowship program that allows other young women to learn from a master to expand their skills. The masters include saddle makers, silversmiths, braiders and cutting horse trainers like Lindy Burch.
“[Art of the Cowgirl] has been a dream of mine for quite some time,” Pate said.
Pate has a background in ranch horses and she and her husband Curt taught clinics. Curt worked for Purina Mills, AQHA and Priefert so they spent many hours at horse expos.
Years ago Pate was taught to sew and paint by her grandma. She was then mentored by a custom boot maker named Mike Ryan.
“I’ve always been an artist. I wanted to find a way to give back and inspire women to live a unique life and pursue their art,” Pate said.
She wanted to host a horse expo that combined education and shopping, where cowgirls could compete on horseback, showcase their art and raise money for the fellowship. The first Art of the Cowgirl came together in January of 2019.
“My hope is through the fellowship process that we inspire women to become clinicians and teachers. Not just the competition side. With Lindy, not only is she amazing as a competitor but her love for passing the information on is what it’s about,” Pate said.
Burch said, “I think [Art of the Cowgirl], that Tammy and her team developed, is a great format. This last event was inspiring seeing all of the gals together enjoying the competitions. I think women felt very inspired to see other women put their best efforts in and be rewarded in a world where it’s easier for men to get along in…They all wanted to get better and left their egos at the door.”
Julie Clarke, owner of Clarke Butte Ranch, recommended Burch to Pate to be a master in the cutting fellowship. Burch was involved in choosing the person she would mentor for a year.
During the selection process, a young woman named Allie Dwyer from Kansas stood out to Burch and Pate. Dwyer had written a letter about the huge influence Burch had had on her father when he had worked for Burch. That experience had filtered down to Dwyer herself.
She started her own training program, as a non-pro and amateur, while she attended college. She would buy young cutting horses that were partly trained, then finish them and sell them. She is now a qualified speech therapist who spends all her spare time at the barn.
She enjoys teaching and the medical and science fields. She found speech therapy was a good combination of all three.
“It is truly a helping profession. You know why you go to work everyday. I just feel very lucky that I get to have a job that fulfills me and helps me give back. The flexibility and the perks of it allow me to pursue horses with such diligence. I feel very lucky to get to do both,” Dwyer said.
Dwyer’s fellowship with Lindy Burch began in 2021. The word fellowship has a special meaning to Dwyer because growing up her dad would always talk about how they were at a horse show for the fellowship, no matter how they performed in competition.
“No matter what kind of trade horse I was riding, we were there for the people that helped raise me and the community that we were building. I met my best friends through [the shows] and my cutting family.”
One of Dwyer’s best friends, Shynia Randles, a junior youth cutter, passed away in 2008. Dwyer wrote about this experience in her application letter. She holds a lot of gratitude for the cutting community and the support they gave her which left a lasting impression.
The Cuttin’ With Shynia Scholarship Cutting has taken place each year since 2009, most recently on May 29-31 2021 in Grand Island, NE.
“Moving forward, it is always my goal to bring light back to my friend because now we have a memorial cutting for her every year since she died. We have given away hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships to the youth,” Dwyer said.
She said there have been numerous people that have invested time and care in helping her become a better rider and showman.
“That’s why fellowship is a neat word. Because fellowship helped make me the person I am and it helped make me the cutter I am. It’s what continues to help me get through life. It’s a full circle to have Art of The Cowgirl call it a fellowship,” said Dwyer.
Dwyer said Burch’s natural confidence rubbed off on her. Burch returned the compliment.
“What made it really easy to work with [Allie] is that she pitches in and wants to learn so badly. She reminds me of me. She just really wants to learn all she can and she doesn’t mind working. It was just the way she was raised.”
Burch even allowed Dwyer to ride some of her horses so she could get as much practice in as possible.
For Art of the Cowgirl, Dwyer officially met Burch when she rode in her clinic in Montana last summer. They also spoke on the phone where Burch would advise Dwyer on any issues she was having with a horse. Later that summer, Dwyer worked with Burch at her ranch in Weatherford, TX.
They also traveled to other ranches and worked horses. Dwyer said due to Covid, the fellowship was not a full year but went from the summer through the fall.
One of the goals Dwyer had was to buy a younger horse and show at the Futurity. Typically she had always bought four year olds or older. She showed at the 2021 NCHA Futurity for the first time under Lindy’s guidance.
Burch also helped Dwyer pick out another horse that she is finishing right now.
Dwyer and Burch developed a camaraderie beyond just training horses. Dwyer said they spent a lot of time joking and learning from each other about all facets of life.
“Allie can call me anytime or come to the ranch and ride with me [whenever],” Burch said, “We’re going to remain friends forever as far as I’m concerned.”
Art of the Cowgirl changes its mentors every year. 2022 Hall of Fame Rider Cara Brewer will be the next master horsewoman.
“It does inspire and encourage new blood which I think is important for new growth,” Burch said.
“The most important thing I learned from Lindy on the cutting/ horsemanship front was ‘The cow is the teacher. I am only here to set up situations for them to learn from the cow. If I assist, it should be so quick that they think God did it, not me,’” Dwyer said.
Dwyer and CHTO are also sharing the donation of a year-long gold membership to the next cowgirl awarded the cutting fellowship.
* Photos Courtesy of Art of the Cowgirl and Allie Dwyer