By Barbara Aitken Jenkins
Do you believe a true passion for horses is a heritable trait? Or is it a love that develops over years of learning and honing skills? Clay Arrington, a third-generation horseman, is a living example of both.
At 23 years old, Clay has “been in the business from the start.” His parents, Christie and Ricky Arrington, and his grandparents, Vickie and Ronnie Kent, are leaders in the Western Pleasure and All-Around industries with a multitude of wins, both in the amateur and professional ranks.
Vickie and her husband, Ronnie Kent, own and operate RV Quarter Horses in Graceville, Florida, where Christie and Ricky operate their training business as well. For the majority of his life, Clay has enjoyed being a Non-Pro exhibitor who trained and showed his own horses in the pen. However, starting in January 2022, Clay will hang his sign alongside his parents and grandparents as he transitions from amateur status to a professional Western Pleasure trainer.
“It was bound to happen eventually,” he says. “I just love riding horses, and I’ll do it until the day I die. I love training horses, and I want to train more than my own horses. I want to be able to train and have my own business and do it at a professional level. I want to be able to have goals like winning the biggest shows in the industry and be one of the best open riders.”
Clay grew up watching his parents compete at the highest level and learned what the life of a trainer was like firsthand. “I learned from a very young age that if I was going to ride the top-level horses, then I was going to have to learn how to make them myself,” he says.
With the help of his family and leading trainers who were willing to share their knowledge, Clay began breaking his own horses at the age of 14. To ensure he was training his horses the right way, he rode with some of the best trainers in the country–Gil Galyean, Casey Willis, and Robin Frid, to name a few. “I would haul my set of horses to their houses and ride with them to put myself in a professional atmosphere,” Clay explains.
Clay knew that to be competitive at the top level, he would need to do more than train his horses to go through the motions of being a show horse. He would need to train his horses to be excellent.
By the time he was 15 years old, Clay was riding his young horses in the show pen, while most of his fellow competitors were on older, more seasoned horses.