A year after the accident, his daughter’s horse (the one Dale had been riding) died tragically after suffering a rupture through his intestinal wall. Though the Cunninghams tried to save the horse through surgery, their efforts were futile. The Quarter Horse gelding had been his daughter’s mount for her drill team in which the Cunninghams are actively involved. The Westernaires Drill Team includes a roster of a thousand riders ranging in age from eight to 18. While his daughter rides in the organization that sends its top teams around the nation to perform, Dale is among the many instructors who volunteer to coach the riders.
“It was very tragic for us, but especially for my daughter who was nine at the time,” Dale says. “She was having a really hard time with it, so we found her what we thought was the perfect horse.” At first, the little Paint gelding seemed a perfect fit, but that changed drastically once the Cunninghams brought him home. “A month or so later, we realized that he was going to kill my daughter because he was out of control. He was pushy when leading, running her over, way too fast at a lope, and in general, a road hog, a big bully,” Dale explains. Selling the horse wasn’t much of an option as his daughter was already attached to him, so instead Dale began to look for ways to “fix” him.He studied and tried training techniques by trainers but found that they were either too difficult to understand or seemed disjointed. Then he remembered watching Clinton on RFD-TV, and decided to learn more about the Australian trainer and his method. “Just like Clinton, I tried to read books and watch DVDs from other trainers, but it only made me more confused. All those frustrating feelings he talks about – wanting to kill the horse, kill the dog, burn the house down, I was feeling them,” Dale says laughing. But the techniques he saw Clinton demonstrate on TV started to work on his horses. That Christmas his wife bought him the necessary training tools and DVDs. “When I watched the DVDs, there was no doubt that I found what I had been looking for – it just clicked,” Dale says. “When Clinton talked, it made sense.”
At that point, the Cunninghams had four horses and the entire family started using the Method to train them. “We’d go out to the barn and try the things we learned from Clinton. My wife would say, ‘That’s not right.’ And I’d say, ‘Yeah, it is.’ And we’d go back and forth like that until we’d finally go into the house and review the DVD and see who was right,” Dale jokes, but the transformation they saw in their horses amazed them. “My daughter’s horse went from the horse that was going to kill her to this fantastic horse that everybody wished they had. People could not believe what we did to this horse. Knowing what I know today, it was relatively easy and I didn’t do a whole lot,” Dale reasons, “but the results were beyond compare.”