Coming into the Academy, Jeff was well aware of its notorious reputation for being tough. “I knew going in that there were going to be a lot of long days, so overall I´d say the program was exactly what I expected it was going to be. When you arrive at the ranch, you hit the ground running,” Jeff says.
In the beginning, students are given two horses to work with. “These horses can be a 2-year-old colt that needs started, or an 8-year-old gelding that´s been turned out in a pasture for three years and his owner wants him to be trained in the Method, or a horse with dangerous behavior that´s been turned away by six other trainers,” Jeff explains.
Although the horses test the Academy students´ skills as trainers, the Certified Clinician is quick to point out that there are no better teachers than those horses. “It would be a real injustice to a student if Clinton had you work with anything but these horses. As hard as some of them are and how frustrating they can be, they´re typical of the type of horses that show up at our clinics. As Clinton likes to tell us—there is no substitute for experience,” Jeff says.
To ensure that prospective clinicians are learning the Method correctly, Clinton works with them every day, six days a week. As they get better versed in the Method, he progressively steps back and watches from afar. “He´s always got eyes on you. He might not be in the arena with you, but he´s always watching you, trust me,” Jeff says.
Towards the end of the program, Clinton spends a day each week with the students, and he´ll ask them to bring their most challenging horses to work with while he watches. “When he says that, your first thought is, ´I don´t want Clinton to see my most challenging horse. I want him to see my best horse so he thinks I´m on top of my game,´” Jeff says, and adds that he and the rest of his class got a lesson on that line of thinking. “Not far into the Academy, Clinton made it clear to us that our job was not to impress him. Our job was to learn the Method and be good at it. He warned us to take advantage of the time we had on the ranch to learn from him,” Jeff says.