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by Downunder Horsemanship

New Star-Rating System for Our Method Ambassadors

Clinton considers his team of Professional Clinicians and Method Ambassadors one of his greatest achievements and the legacy of Downunder Horsemanship. For good reason – the horsemen are well versed in the Method, are phenomenal teachers and are exemplary individuals.

While Professional Clinicians study for years at the ranch and are certified to teach all levels of the Method, Method Ambassadors complete the initial seven-week Academy course and focus on the Fundamentals level of the Method.

In an effort to encourage Method Ambassadors to continually gain experience and allow them room to grow within the Downunder Horsemanship team, we are introducing a new rating system. When ambassadors earn their colt starting certification, they’ll receive a star. For each Colt Starting Clinic they attend and meet the passing standard, they’ll receive an additional star.

“There’s no better way to finesse your skills or find little holes in your technique than by starting colts in a condensed amount of time like in a clinic. Clinton always tells us that you can’t have too much colt starting experience. The more horses I’ve worked and the more people I’ve taught, the more I see the truth in his words,” Professional Clinician Jeff Davis says.

While the star-rating system encourages personal growth for the ambassadors, it also ensures that horse owners are informed about an ambassador’s experience level and can make the best decisions concerning their horses. “The whole reason behind the Clinician Academy and training individuals to teach the Method is to ensure that my customers can get the help they need with their horses,” Clinton says. “When someone hires an ambassador, I want them to be confident that they’re getting a skilled trainer with the experience they need for their horse. There’s no better way to gain experience as a horse trainer than to start colts. The more colts you start, the better horseman you are.”

Above all else, colt starting drives home how important safety is during the training process. Clinton himself cut his teeth as a trainer by starting hundreds of wild brumbies while apprenticing with the late Gordon McKinlay. “That experience was invaluable to me as a trainer when I’d take in horses with dangerous, problem behavior and especially when I started my career as a clinician,” Clinton says.

How the Rating System Works
Each year, Downunder Horsemanship holds a Colt Starting Clinic for ambassadors to receive certification. Each ambassador brings two colts to the clinic to work with and they are graded and critiqued throughout the entire training process. At the end of the clinic, those receiving passing marks earn certification to start colts for the public.

For every clinic an ambassador attends and passes certification requirements, they receive a star. Each ambassador can receive up to five stars. “When you see an ambassador that’s colt starting certified with five stars behind their name, that means that we’ve watched them work with 10 colts and they did an outstanding job,” Clinton explains.

Receiving instruction as well as constructive criticism is important for professional development, no matter your field. “As a general rule, once an ambassador finishes the Academy, we don’t get to see them work with horses unless they have us out for a lesson or they do a clinic with us,” Professional Clinician Kristin Hamacher says. “We’re all humans and we all naturally get into bad habits. Sometimes you just need to get in front of someone more experienced than you to get back on track. When the ambassadors participate in the clinic, it gives us a chance to sharpen them up and help them continue to build their skill set.”

Colt starting certification was introduced to Method Ambassadors in 2020. Since then, 29 ambassadors have earned certification and have been grandfathered into the new star-rating system to have a star added to their title.

“Overall, the rating system raises the bar for our certified professionals, which is always my goal. If you can do better, get after it,” Clinton says. “Plus, it gives our customers even more confidence in knowing that the trainers they’re sending their horses to are dedicated to honing their experience and continually adding to their skill set. You’ve heard me say time and again that great horsemen share three things: feel, timing and experience. The only way to get better feel and timing is through experience. The more horses you work with, the better you are.”