“I wasn’t very good at riding though,” Shana admits. “Everything seemed so confusing to me. At the end of camp everyone got awards for what skills they improved on the most. I got the award for ‘Best Tack Cleaner.’”
The Vermilion, Ohio native grew up in a family that didn’t know much about horses, let alone own any, but that didn’t stop Shana. Once she was bitten by the horse bug, it was hard for anyone to hold her back. The determined teenager soon had a horse of her own, a jumper pony named Jimmy, and began going to a local barn where she took lessons.
“Jimmy was an awesome jumping horse – he’d go over anything I’d point him at. What Jimmy wasn’t so great at though was stopping when I wanted him to. He’d run off with me all the time and often ignored my cues to turn. Basically, he was a typical jumper – hot and really stiff,” Shana acknowledges. “I thought it was something I just had to accept. I thought jumpers were supposed to be that way.”
That line of thinking changed when Shana discovered Clinton and the Method. During the early stages of his career, Clinton started coming to Shana’s boarding barn every six weeks to teach horsemanship clinics, and Shana quickly decided to participate.
At just 14, Shana still remembers her initial exchange with the Aussie horseman. “It’s funny now to look back on what I said to him, but at the time, I didn’t know any better. When he asked me what sort of problems I was having with my horse, I said I didn’t have any problems. He just looked at me and said, ‘So you’re telling me your horse stops when you ask him to?’ I said, ‘No, not really.’”
“He turns as soon as you ask him to?” Clinton asked her.
“Well, sometimes not,” Shana remembers answering.
“And he always goes the speed you want?” Clinton asked.
“That was definitely not the case,” Shana says, “but at the time I didn’t think any of those things were problems; I thought that was just the way a horse rode because I’d never known any different!”
At the end of the clinic, Clinton gave Shana homework and exercises to work on with her horse, which she astutely followed. Before long, she became a regular at Clinton’s clinics and dedicated herself to learning the Method, working with her horse every day between sessions with Clinton.
From the beginning, it was obvious to Clinton that he had an extremely hard worker on his hands. “Shana would sit there from 7 in the morning to 7 in the evening and watch my clinics and listen to me. And literally, other than going to the bathroom or getting something to eat, that girl would not move,” Clinton says. “She was absolutely glued to that chair. I have yet to meet another young person that has the dedication and ability to stay focused like she did.”
As Shana’s horsemanship skills improved, she started giving riding lessons at her barn. “I loved being able to share my knowledge of horses with other people, especially when they were as passionate as I was about riding,” she says.
So when Clinton invited Shana to start his apprenticeship program, it sounded like a dream come true to Shana. She wanted to start working for Clinton as soon as she graduated high school, but her father persuaded her to first get a college degree. Though Shana reluctantly agreed, she put her time in college to good use, gaining a bachelor’s degree in both business management and equine business management. However, unlike many who go to college to find a career, Shana knew before the first day of class what her passion was: working with horses and people using the Method. Throughout her time in school, Shana never lost her desire to learn from Clinton and become the best horseman she could possibly be.
Unfortunately, there were only limited amounts of time to work with Clinton and horses during her college years. Though she couldn’t ride as much as she would have liked, she still learned from Clinton every chance she could, helping him during school breaks and summers. For Shana, the wait to work with Clinton fulltime was torture. “It was terrible!” she says. “The town I went to college in had an equestrian program but I wasn’t in it, and you could only keep your horse there if you were in the program. So I went to different barns and asked if I could please ride their horses.”
Although the seven-year wait to work for Clinton felt like an eternity, Shana is now living her dream of training horses and teaching clinics. The first horseman to receive Clinton’s highest level of certification, Shana earned her Professional Clinician title in 2009. Today, she works at the Downunder Horsemanship Ranch overseeing the Clinton Anderson Clinician Academy and helping Clinton train his performance horses.
As for what it’s like to work for Clinton, Shana says she loves that he pushes those around him to keep an open mind and try new things. “He’s always encouraging us to go out and explore new options. He’s just very open-minded person and that’s what makes him really fun to work for.”
Helping people improve their horsemanship and boost their confidence using the Method has remained a passion for Shana. “My favorite thing is seeing somebody come to a clinic who is scared to death of their horse and have a total lack of confidence. At the end of the clinic, you can see they’re much more confident, they’re in control and they don’t have those fear issues anymore,” Shana explains.
Clinton is quick to acknowledge that Shana is a phenomenal horseman and knows the Method inside and out. “She has a tremendous amount of feel and timing. Very few people can get a horse as soft, supple and broke as Shana can. And, what’s more is, she has a unique ability to work with people. She’s always smiling, she’s very friendly and she never quits. It doesn’t matter what I give this girl, she never quits.”
Throughout her career as a Professional Clinician, training horses on the ranch, instructing clinics and teaching the Academy students, Shana says she’s learned to refine her approach to horses and people. “Different personalities respond better to different techniques. I’ve also learned to compromise with both horses and people, which is sometimes hard for me because I’m such a ‘Get it done perfectly right now!’ type of person. But many times, compromise is necessary to get the concept of a lesson across and establish a starting point,” she explains.
As for her own horse training, Shana enjoys teaching horses on the ranch how to perform tricks and liberty routines. “Several years ago we started dabbling in trick training, something we were unfamiliar with, but it’s turned out to be a great learning experience. And, it gives all of us some variety in our training program,” Shana says. Teamed with her Quarter Horse mare, Jillaroo (a daughter of Clinton’s mare Mindy), Shana puts on a dazzling display of how far the equine/human partnership can go with a trick and liberty freestyle she performs at tours. “I love a challenge, I love working with horses and absolutely love what I do for a living,” Shana says, “and the most exciting thing is that I’m not done learning or bettering myself as a horseman.”