It’s a long ride to the top

DREAM CAREER: Australian-born horse trainer Clinton Anderson has been working with horses professionally since he was 15.
DREAM CAREER: Australian-born horse trainer Clinton Anderson has been working with horses professionally since he was 15. Contributed

TODAY he is supervising the training of more than 60 horses, has his own TV show and is regarded as one of the best trainers in the lucrative US horse industry.

But it wasn’t that long ago Clinton Anderson was a fresh-faced horse trainer enticing people to come to his clinics in Australia with free beer and food.

It’s a long journey from North Queensland to being a big name in Texas, but Clinton has made the transition look easy. This week the trainer took time to reflect on his journey with the Rural Weekly.

Growing up in Cairns, Clinton was introduced to the horse world by his farming grandparents Thelma and Fred Piercy. Clinton spent weekends on their farm and when he was nine they bought him his first horse, Casey.

“Casey, to this day remains one of the pushiest, most disrespectful horses I’ve ever known,” Clinton said.

“When my grandparents gave her to me, I was the happiest boy in the world. I looked past all of Casey’s bad habits and was just content to have a horse to call mine.”

Clinton had a competitive nature and performed well at polocrosse events, even being named in the junior Queensland team when he was 12, but after completing a clinic with the late Gordon McKinlay his thirst for knowledge about training horses grew.

“I did my first horsemanship clinic with Gordon when I was 13, and it changed my life,” Clinton said.

“Until I met Gordon, I didn’t realise I could gain a horse’s respect, control a horse’s body under saddle or even have a career working with horses. Gordon opened up the world of horsemanship to me; something I never knew existed before.

“He was the only guy I had met up to that point in my life who took the time to answer my questions like I was an adult.

“Up until then, any time I’d get around horsemen, I’d always ask them questions, but they’d just brush me off. They’d talk down to me and do whatever they could to quickly get rid of me.

“They didn’t give me any credibility because I was a kid. Gordon took the time to not only listen to my questions, but answer them. He treated me like a 35-year-old man rather than a 13-year-old kid and answered my questions in front of everybody in the clinic.”

Gordon noticed something in Clinton, and asked him if he wanted to spend time on his property during the school holidays.

When Clinton was 15 he was offered an apprenticeship with Gordon.

“Everybody thought that when I left school at 15 I was making the biggest mistake of my life,” he said.

Clinton completed his apprenticeship, had gained more skills and experience but struggled to make a name for himself.

“Looking younger than my actual age was the biggest roadblock I faced in the early days of my career,” he said.

“In Australia, my age really hurt my horse training career because Australians are a little bit backwards in the fact that they think you have to have a head full of grey hair and one foot in the grave before you could possibly ever know anything about training horses.

“In order to get business in Australia, I used to put on a lot of free seminars.

“I put ads in the paper saying: ‘If you’ve got a problem horse that wants to buck or rear or bolt, bring him to the local showgrounds and I’ll train him for free for one day’.

“My thought process was that I would never get anybody to spend money with me if I couldn’t get them to see what I could do.

“The only way I could get people to trust me and send their horses to me for training was to put on free demonstrations.

“Heck, sometimes I would have to offer free food and free beer just to get people to want to show up. I knew that if I could get somebody to sit still long enough to watch me that I could ultimately impress them. If I couldn’t get them to stand still, they would just look at my age and keep walking.”

Clinton moved to the States when he was 21, for a stint of working with different trainers like Sam Smith and Al Dunning.

By the time he was 23 he had moved abroad permanently to establish his Downunder Horsemanship.

The facility now has16 full time employees and has anywhere from 60–70 horses at the ranch.

Clinton said learning to train people was a learning curve.

“Without a doubt, teaching people is much harder than training horses,” he said.

“Like anything, the more you practise something, the better you get at it. I’m certainly better at teaching people now than I was 25 years ago when I first got started.”

Despite his success, Clinton is modest in nature.

“As far as I’m concerned, I don’t do anything special. I just teach the information the way I understand it.

“I struggled learning horsemanship, and I pieced what I learned together the only way it made sense to me.

“That’s the exact way I teach the method to people because I don’t know any other way.

“I’m somebody who dedicated himself to learning everything possible about horses, and I firmly believe that if you’re passionate about something and you love what you do, over time you’ll eventually excel at it.”

Australian-born horse trainer Clinton Anderson brought his TV show to the outback.
Australian-born horse trainer Clinton Anderson brought his TV show to the outback. Contributed

TV show hit with world-wide audience

THEY are the worst kind of horses – the ones that buck, bite, kick, strike and even attack.

But these are the types of animals Clinton Anderson is asked to fix on his TV show, Downunder Horsemanship.

While the ‘bad’ horses make for a lively TV show, Clinton said working with rebellious animals wasn’t his preference.

“When I was first getting started, I loved working with those horses,” he said.

“It was a challenge and fun for me. But now that I’m a little older, it’s not a challenge anymore or something I look forward to doing.

“Rather than fixing bad-minded horses, what I prefer to do now is work with young horses that are very talented, have big huge hearts and willing attitudes, and are bred to excel in the reining pen or at reined cow horse competitions.”

Clinton said teaching people how to stay safe when they were working with dangerous horses was essential.

“I’d say the most important thing (Gordon McKinlay) taught me was how to stay safe while working with a horse,” he said.

“Safety is a huge factor for me and a focus while I’m teaching. You can’t train a horse if you’re dead. You’ve got to take care of yourself and your horse.”

In America, Clinton’s TV show is on Tuesday and Sunday, but the videos are now being shared on YouTube to a global audience.

Last year, Clinton decided to film a segment of his series in the Australian outback. The crew travelled to the Northern Territory and Clinton caught and broke in a brumby stallion.

“It was the wildest, craziest filming adventure my team has ever taken on,” he said.

“It was a phenomenal success for us and drummed up a lot of positive feedback for the company. While the entire adventure was one of the most fun things I’ve done in my life, it was also the toughest challenge I’ve ever undertaken.”

Topics:  horse trainer outback australia

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