Born into a family that operates a fourth generation dairy farm, Kristin is accustomed to getting up before daybreak to milk cows, working alongside her family in the heat of summer or the raw coldness of winter to care for their cattle and calving out heifers in the middle of the night. Long before she ever stepped foot on the Downunder Horsemanship Ranch, the McBain, Michigan native had a healthy understanding of the meaning behind the core values – loyal, hardworking, ambitious and personable – that Clinton runs his company by.
They weren´t just ideals to her, they were a lifestyle. So when she decided to pursue her dream of becoming a clinician and applied to the Academy, Kristin was certain she had what it took to succeed. “The workload did not scare me one bit; I knew I had the ambition and work ethic that it would take. Living on a family-run dairy farm will teach you everything you need to know about loyalty,” Kristin says.
Those core values, her horsemanship skills and her desire to teach the Method served her well during the Academy program to become a Professional Clinician. “Being in the Academy was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It´s just been a phenomenal experience,” she shares. “Now, I´m ready to go out there and help people learn the Method and achieve their horsemanship dreams.”
Although she was raised on a farm and loved horses from the moment she was born, it took Kristin 12 long years to convince her parents that she was capable of caring for a horse. When Annie, a little Quarter Horse mare, joined the family, she appeared to be a great confidence builder for Kristin. “She was easygoing and laidback, but after two weeks of owning her, I successfully had her rearing, jigging on the trail, spooking at everything and she was hard to catch,” Kristin says laughing at the memory.
Her younger sister, Beth, also rode horses, and together, the two girls spent their teenage years on horseback. Kristin took a few English and Western lessons and competed on her high school equestrian team and at local shows. She did everything from Western pleasure to trail to speed events and goat tying. “Looking back on how I used to interact with my horses, I was a huge Nagging Mother. I´d tip toe around them. If a horse didn’t like something, I’d avoid doing it,” Kristin explains. “Basically, I was taught to train my horse in the arena to look good during a class, get a ribbon and get out. But my horse just got stiffer and ring sour.”
That all changed when Kristin discovered the Method at the age of 17. She’d been having trouble with her mare and was looking for help, and when she took on Trace, an unstarted 6-year-old Paint gelding, she knew without a doubt that she needed more knowledge than she had. “Trace really got me started with Clinton,” Kristin says. “I was looking for help and stumbled on Clinton while watching TV. I saw that he had a colt starting method so I thought I’d give it a try.”
To Kristin, the other trainers on TV just didn’t offer in-depth information like Clinton did. “He makes everything step-by-step and idiot-proof, which is exactly how I needed the information to be broken down so I could learn,” Kristin says.
The more she used the Method on her horses, the more she fell in love with it, and soon, she was sharing her new knowledge. “After I really dove into the Method and started to get great results with my own horses, people would mention that they were having trouble with their horses. I’d offer to help them and bring the Arena Mates over to their house and show them how to apply the Method,” she says. “It sparked a desire in me to really want to help people.”
Kristin wondered if she could turn training horses and helping people into a career. When she discovered that Clinton had started the Academy, she was intrigued. There was no doubt in her mind that becoming a clinician would suit her perfectly, but she was heavily involved in her family’s dairy operation. As the herdswoman, Kristin helped her father with the care of the cattle, raised calves, cleaned barns, milked cows, trimmed hooves and treated sick animals. “As soon as I would think about leaving the farm to attend the Academy, I’d immediately feel guilty for putting more work on my family, so I pushed the idea of becoming a clinician aside,” Kristin says.
However, her family wouldn’t let her forget about her dream and encouraged her to follow her heart. “Thank you just doesn’t express my sincere gratitude for my family and all that they have done for me,” Kristin says. “They helped me realize that it would be OK to go to the Academy, and that if I really wanted it, I needed to try for it while I was young and before I got more involved in the management side of the farm.”
So she applied to the Academy and attended the November 2011 Fundamentals clinic with Trace. When Kristin came out of her meeting with Clinton at the end of the clinic, she was a mix of emotions. On one hand, she was elated she was selected to attend the Academy, but on the other, she wasn’t sure if she could move 1,300 miles away from her family.
Returning home to Michigan, Kristin thought hard and prayed on her decision and ultimately, with the support of her family, decided to chase down her dream of becoming a Clinton Anderson Clinician. “I didn’t have the money to pay for my tuition up front, so I worked hard to make it happen. I sold some of my personal cows and a four wheeler, and saved the rest to make payments along the way,” Kristin shares.
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.”