California Riding Magazine • June, 2011

Clay Jackson Stables
Teaching students to understand their horses brings success and satisfaction.

Learning why a horse does what it does is one of the greatest routes to good riding. It's not the quickest route, mind you, but it's the only one show jumping trainer and coach Clay Jackson cares to take. An old school horseman who counts George Morris, Bert DeNemethy, Gordon Wright and Rich Fellers among his inspirations, Clay is in the process of establishing Clay Jackson Show Jumping in Santa Rosa. He's based at a 100-horse facility that is currently being renovated and Clay hopes to build a clientele of 25 or so horses there.

Born into a Northern California family of Quarter Horse breeders, Clay has shared his entire life with horses. He switched to show jumpers during his thrill-seeking 20s and has never looked back. For many years, Clay focused on sales and imports. He has a knack and passion for bringing out the best in all kinds of horses and a soft spot for those with issues. Several horses he started or turned around are now succeeding in various divisions for amateur and professional riders alike. He takes pride in building confidence in both horses and riders.

In shifting his focus to teaching, Clay hopes to fill what he sees as a void of coaches who teach from a horse trainer's perspective. "I think a lot of people who call themselves trainers do not understand the principles of training a horse," he says. "Understanding what makes the horse tick and the mechanics of how a horse moves makes you a better rider. That applies to a green horse and to a made horse that you can help go even further."

Instead, too often, an owner gives up on a good horse when they run into trouble. Working through such problems, Clay notes, is not only cheaper, it gives the rider a priceless education in horsemanship and a great deal of satisfaction. And that's what Clay seeks to provide his students. "I recently had a family who brought their daughter and her horse to me. The horse had been on the circuit for some time, but they were ready to sell him because he wasn't working out. The horse had some holes in his training, but the main thing was that the girl had not been taught how to handle a horse when it misbehaves. She's now ecstatic that she's learning how to ride her own horse."
"Teaching the horse teaches the person," Clay emphasizes. "If you understand how it operates, then you become an operator."

Clay may train himself right out of a job. "A good trainer can get on any horse and make them look good," he says. "My goal is to get my students to that point." Of course, that's all within the bounds of what's reasonable, safe and in the best interests of his clients. The process starts in the stable, not the arena. Clay incorporates all aspects of basic horse care and health into his coaching.

The results are good. "I always come away from a lesson feeling elated, confident and with a sense of accomplishment," says student Mimi O'Connor. "It's rare to find a good horse trainer that's also a good people person. He looks at both you and your horse, then structures the lesson according to what you most need to work on. There's no cookie cutter teaching!"

As he builds his California clientele after moving from his previous base in Oregon, Clay looks forward to taking juniors and amateurs to A circuit shows to compete in the hunter, jumper and equitation divisions. He won't hit the schedule as hard as some others because his old school approach includes working hard at home, and using competitions to show off progress.

Clay earns high recommendations from past clients, the owners of stables where he's worked and fellow professionals. Honesty, integrity and a hard work ethic are among recurring themes in
their assessments.

For information on Clay Jackson Stables, visit or call Clay Jackson at 877-747-2486.