When she arrived at Downunder Horsemanship seven months later, the Academy was exactly what Kristin thought it was going to be. The entire class participated in the Colt Starting Clinic and then spent two weeks working around the ranch. “Once the clinic was over, we spent about two weeks doing all sorts of grunt work around the property – weed whacking, mowing, sawing down trees and limbs, pushing brush, washing trucks and trailers – you name it, and we probably did it,” Kristin says smiling. “It’s Clinton’s way of checking a potential clinician’s attitude. He wants to see if you have a positive attitude even when you’re not working with a horse and you’re sweating under the hot Texas sun.”
When the class began training horses, they were also given written exams over the Method. “It definitely took some time management to sneak in time to study after working my assigned horses,” Kristin says. “Luckily, I had done some serious DVD watching and note taking before coming to the ranch.” Kristin would carry the Arena Mates with her to the milking parlor and study the booklets once she had the milkers on the cows. “But the best way I found to study the Arena Mates was when I was using the skid steer to clean barns. I’d drive with my knees and read the Arena Mates,” Kristin says. The sound of the loud machine would block out all distractions so that Kristin could solely focus on the Arena Mates. Her dedication to studying paid off. During the graduation ceremony for the clinicians, Clinton praised Kristin for receiving the highest marks on the tests in the history of the Academy. “Knowing the theory behind the Method is just as important as being able to train a horse the exercises. If you don´t understand the ‘why’ behind everything and you are not able to explain it to someone, you can´t really help them learn the Method or teach them to do it on their own,” Kristin reasons.
Although she had the theory of the Method down well, she says from the first day she began working with horses on the ranch until she graduated, she was constantly adding to her knowledge and gaining phenomenal experience. “There were days when Clinton would meet us all outside on horseback and then take us through a ride he wanted us to put on all of our horses for the day. He’d give us a template and then tell us to mix it all up,” Kristin says. “I remember thinking to myself that I was so lucky to be riding alongside Clinton, somebody I’ve looked up to for years, and training horses under his name. I can’t even begin to put a price tag on the knowledge I gained being in the Academy.”
There’s no doubt in her mind that the horses Clinton had them working strengthened her feel and timing. “Every horse is a learning opportunity and I can honestly say that each of them bettered me as a horseman,” Kristin acknowledges. Training a horse for six weeks in the Academy Horse Program and then spending a day with the horse’s owner, showing them everything the horse had learned was the highlight of the Academy for Kristin and something she’s looking forward to doing as a Professional Clinician. “Some of the horses came with a lot of baggage and I had to put in a lot of time with them to get them to the level of ability they were cable of performing at. To see their transformation and then to be able to watch the owner´s emotions when you hand them a ‘new’ horse is unbelievable. You’re giving them the confidence and knowledge to go home and build a better partnership with their horse,” Kristin says. “That’s empowering and why I love what I do. I’m excited for my future as a Professional Clinician and look forward to helping people create better partnerships with their horses.”