Down The Fence with Chris Dawson

If you are a Netflix fanatic like most of the U.S. population, you need to check out the phenomenal documentary called Down the Fence. It features multiple professionals in the reined cow horse discipline and their journey to the NRCHA futurity and derby championship. Among the trainers in this film are a handful of Kimes Ranch endorsees. We recently spoke with Chris Dawson about his experience with the movie and his background in the cow horse world.

“I grew up with my mom being a horse trainer,” Dawson said. “I rode Appaloosa western pleasure and rope horses as a youth. I started off working for Todd Crawford and Carol Rose. There’s so much good stuff about the cow horse. What really drew me there was when I went to the World’s Greatest Horseman at the Lazy E Arena in 1999. It just felt like that was where I belonged.”

Dawson started Dawson Performance Horses in 2008 and trains alongside his wife Sarah. He knew Matt Kimes way back in the day before the name change to Kimes Ranch. Dawson really liked the idea of supporting a small business and helping out when Kimes started out.

“Amanda let me try on a few pairs at the AQHA Select World and I really liked them,” Dawson said. “I liked the company and liked the product, so I tried to get that hook there once they got established at Kimes Ranch. They came and talked to us about doing something with them and we couldn’t say yes fast enough. The Dillons are my favorite, but I wear the Watsons and the Chucks quite a bit too.”


Down the Fence has become a big hit. For most of the trainers in this film it was the first time being hooked up to a mic and having film crews at shows. Dawson was ecstatic to be part of this with the other established professionals.  

“It was an exciting deal and they did a great job,” Dawson said. “It was a couple years in before anybody really knew what was going on. The horse shows run together and it seemed like they were around a long time. They had us all come in and do interviews in Vegas toward the end. Being a part of that group of guys that they featured in the movie, rubbing elbows with them and being considered in that peer group was very much an honor. You knew they were working on it and doing something, but not really knowing what to expect and then seeing the movie be so much more that what you could have imagined it being was great. The way they put it together and made everyone seem so relatable was great. They made it to where the average person could enjoy it.”

Dawson has been very successful in the NRCHA and holds many titles. He looks for a few certain attributes in young prospects.

“You have to look at that stop,” Dawson said. “That’s the first thing. You can help a lot of the rest. Probably something that I look for that isn’t your standard textbook answer is I pay a lot of attention to those two-year-olds and how they are on video day. I haven’t done any scientific research on this, but I feel like it’s a window into their soul so to speak. It shows if they have what it takes to be there for you on Saturday night. I’ve had a lot of horses I have really liked and couldn’t win anything on. I’ve had horses that I thought were average, but they love to horse show. You can’t put a price on that. You still also need good conformation and mindset too.”

We wish Dawson Performance Horses the best of luck on this upcoming season!

~ Courtney Hall, Photos Courtesy of Dawson Performance Horses