Are you looking for an Equestrian Coach here are some top tips!
After watching numerous Riding lessons and after having years of experience with World Class Gymnastic Coaching I am shocked at some of the things I see happening within the equestrian industry. I originally trained as a gymnast (national level and traveled to Bulgaria as a 9 yo with the Lancashire Squad and was part of the National Squads) one of the most physical and mentally demanding sports there is, the hours we trained were phenomenal and the coaching was intense however there were very few drop outs or leavers and I feel I had some of the best coaching techniques used on me in my career , after a recent visit to a British Showjumping Convention where Mia Palles Clarke along with a lot of other showjumping coaches attended I found it very interesting that they had a talk from the British Mens Gymnastics Coach and how as coaches we should be applying the techniques they use. There is a clear difference between coaches and instructors and depending on your level of ability one of them will suit you more than the other. The amount of times I see individuals having lessons and the coaches/instructors looked disinterested is incredible and they just keep taking the money and the rider doesn’t improve , in this day and age this should not be happening!! More recently it has been drawn to my attention how trainers are destroying rider confidence: we as equestrians seek to improve and the only way to improve is to have positive criticism and reward. This is not to let a rider jump fence after fence and rip them to pieces and tell them all their faults but more to let them know what they did right and how they can improve and then discuss what they need to do to improve. The skills need to be broken down into basics for the riders to fully understand: too many times the basic principles are missed as people are too keen to get out and compete before they learn how to ride. As Riders we tend to know when things are not going right and if most equestrians are like me then i am my own worst critique and we need to feel good about the way we ride in order to listen and take on board what our coaches are telling us because if the coach slates a rider too much (especially one that lacks self confidence ) then the trust between coach and rider will disappear as the rider will feel that the trainer doesn’t even believe in them. The trust between coach and pupil has to be there in order to improve and learn.
It is for this reason why it is so important that we choose the right coach. I asked Mia to give us some important points to consider when looking for a coach:
Make sure you chose the right specialist (sounds basic but you’d be surprised how many people make this error and then feel over or underwhelmed!)
Do you want dressage/sj/xc/or a generic coach. One that specialises in children or confidence issues, adults, etc?
Ensure your coach has relevant qualifications, is insured, has first aid and safeguarding qualifications and is affiliated to the relevant governing body. This is an important point in my opinion as it shows professionalism and an ability to work with ever changing ideas and be up to date and constantly assessed reviewed in coaching practice. You also have a fail-safe guide to level of knowledge.
Experienced, successful competition rider vs young fresh graduate full.of enthusiasm and the full time coach all have lots to offer and it’s the client’s (Your) responsibility to assess which ingredients are most important to you.
Of course this may seem obvious, how far are you prepared to travel to your coach of choice? Is it regular training or the facilities at a certain venue which are important or less frequent training so the distance is less of an issue? Weigh up your priorities and be realistic.
Is it the coach or the facilities in which they work which is important to you or a combination of both? Some coaches have a variety of facilities that will appeal to you and some work in very simple surroundings but it’s that person and their way of working which appeal. Again be realistic and assess which is most important so you can make informed decisions.
‘Goes before you’ have an open mind (and ears) but find out all you can.
Do your research before chosing your coach. Some are tough, others softer, some better in certain surroundings some cope in any environment. Watch your coach ride if appropriate and through the powers of social media do your homework to find out who they are what their philosophy is and who they work with (as well as seeing any comments from other customers!)
Affordable for the value of the training (most governing bodies encourage coaches to use a uniform fee in order to keep it all fair)
Anything between £20 and £120 per hour would fall into ‘normal’ parameters. Find out before your lesson to make sure you’re not surprised and to have if possible the right money with you.
You and your coach will develop a relationship so it’s important to assess that your personalities work together. Give it a chance to develop, but you know if you get on with someone or not so be honest with yourself in reflection of your training sessions. You may like laughs, discipline, tough talk, or soft cajoling methods.
How contactable is the coach? Will they be able to be at the end of the phone, text or fb message? Or do you have to go through their PA? Will they talk to you at a show or not recognise you? Or at the other end of the scale be all over you in the collecting ring or give you too many opinions when walking the course?! Think about what will work for you.
Can you maintain regular training sessions or is your coach difficult to book or away for long periods of time? Or are they very available and maybe not busy enough?
You can take comfort if your coach needs a few weeks notice to find you a lesson slot (they’re nicely in demand) but make sure they can get you in when you need it with enough notice from you of course.