By David Knopf, News Editor
It’s not unusual for 18-year-old Whitney Kincaid to show good posture in the saddle. But after some news she received earlier this month, she’s sitting even taller.
A homeschooled student who was given her first pony at 1, Whitney projects the image of an accomplished rider. She’s working with her sister Vivian, 11, in the family’s corral near Stet.
Nearby in a smaller pen, 4-year-old Ester, another sister, works with her miniature pony, using a training stick to teach it to obey her commands. The little horse follows, even walks backward. The preschooler seems in complete control.
“Even little Ester does the method,” said Amy, the girls’ mother. “She’ll go to Whitney and say, ‘Whitney what do I do?’ ”
“The method” is a training program marketed by Clinton Anderson, an Australian whose Down Under Horsemanship (www.downunderhorsemanship) is considered the bible among horse owners, riders and trainers. Janet Aldrich, a quarter-horse breeder and trainer in Elkhorn, introduced Whitney to Anderson after she observed the young rider leading an uncooperative horse into the ring.
“He was very difficult,” Whitney said.
Aldrich began working with her and, using Anderson’s method, developed her skills to the point that she’s about to become an Anderson protégé and pupil.
“She’s been my horsemanship leader for about nine years and introduced me to Clinton Anderson,” Whitney said of her local teacher. “She’s encouraged me to be the best horseman I can.”
In late April, Whitney traveled to Anderson’s ranch in Stephenville, Texas. She was one of 30 horsemen and women to attend a 10-day clinic. Of the participants, 12 had applied to become students and potential trainers for the acclaimed horseman.
Anderson explained that he only wanted the hardest-working, ambitious and most technically proficient apprentices in his program.
“ ‘Marines are great’,” Whitney recalled Anderson saying, “but he wants Navy Seals.”
Wearing a Clinton Anderson t-shirt, Whitney’s mom was impressed by the trainer’s no-nonsense, business-like approach to teaching and expanding his business.
“He told the applicants right before the clinic that he made $15 million last year and didn’t want anyone screwing it up,” Amy Kincaid said.
Both Amy and her husband David, a fuel driver for Ray-Carroll and owner of a cow-calf operation, have been around horses all their lives. Whitney’s other siblings, Philip, 15, and Olivia, 13, also ride, and all the children are homeschooled by their mother.
The family’s equine roots proved a sound foundation for Whitney, who learned on May 1 that she was one of just five applicants called back to Anderson’s ranch to begin a 14-week academy. The training begins June 1 with a “colt-starting” clinic in which Whitney and the others will be assigned a young male horse to train.
“She’ll be given a colt when she gets there and be riding it after 10 days,” Amy Kincaid said.
Aldrich, her local mentor, called her selection a great accomplishment since so few applicants are chosen.
After the clinic, Whitney will stay on for the rest of the summer, live in an apartment and hope to make the final cut to become an Anderson trainer.
Whitney said she felt comfortable during her first stay at the ranch. There were no nerves, she said, because she was among her peers.
“I felt like I fit in being around other horsemen,” she said.
Whitney had been accepted by Missouri State University, but has since relinquished her place in the fall class and returned her scholarship. Becoming a protégé of Anderson’s was “just living the dream,” she said, and something she’d worked too hard to turn down.
“I knew that I’d have to devote all my time to it,” Whitney said. “I’d have to eat it, breathe and sleep it. That’s the life, every waking moment.”
When she arrives in Stephenville, Whitney will begin a period in which Anderson will further observe her horsemanship skills, demeanor and work ethic.
“He said he’s going to keep looking for reasons to keep us on and look for that hard-working, ambitious person,” she said.
Anderson told her that if she’s accepted for employment, he’ll keep her in Stephenville for a year and then “turn her out” to lead and assist in clinics in the Anderson method. He estimated that she’d earn around $150,000 during her first year on the circuit, then return to the ranch for even more advanced training.
“She’s really on cloud nine,” her mother said, watching Whitney train Vivian, her sister. “It’s just amazing. It’s like a Disney World for horses down there.”