Mitch had done his homework and knew coming into the Academy to expect to be tested mentally and physically. “I didn´t know exactly what it was going to be like, but I wasn´t surprised about the long days or the workload or that we didn´t spend a whole lot of time working with horses initially,” he says. “I was just happy to be at the ranch, to tell you the truth, and was willing to do whatever was needed to succeed.”
To train students how to handle any type of horse they come across as clinicians, Clinton has them work with horses the public sends to the ranch for training. The program attracts a wide variety of horses from all breeds and disciplines. Some horses come just needing started under saddle while others have severe problems and have been to multiple trainers and are deemed lost causes. The students train the horses for six weeks, teaching them the Fundamentals level of the Method. At the end of the horses´ training sessions, the students spend a day with the horses´ owners, showing them everything their horses have been taught and teaching them how to work with their horses.
Initially, students in Mitch´s class trained two horses each. As their skills improved, they gained more horses until they were training four horses a day. The biggest challenge Mitch overcame was gaining experience. “Because I was relatively new to horses, I just needed more experience. Before coming to the ranch, I had never had any real instruction, I´d just watch the DVDs, so everything I learned was new to me,” Mitch explains.
A busy-minded gaited horse taught Mitch his most valuable lesson as a horseman. “That horse was the first to teach me how to think my way through a problem and learn how to read a situation. He was always thinking, ´forward, forward, forward´ and was focusing on everything around him but me. I learned how to stay ahead of him and keep his mind focused on me.
“Clinton helped me with that a lot. He taught me to step back and read the situation and figure out why a horse is doing what he is. You have to get in the horse´s mind. Clinton can sit there and watch you work with a horse and say, ´You need to do this.´ You try it, and sure enough it works,” Mitch says. “He speaks their language and is very good at reading a situation. His ability to do that is one thing that still amazes me.”