Monday 19 November 2018

Deemed "Certifiable"

This weekend I participated in the final phase of achieving my Instructor of Beginners - Jump certification through Equestrian Canada. It was stressful, and I definitely screwed up some things, but I guess the good outweighed the bad, as I managed a passing score.

There is a process to becoming an NCCP Certified Coach in Canada (NCCP means National Coaching Certification Program). You can apply to become an Instructor of Beginners (with or without Jump), which means that you have been found to be qualified to teach riders to an intermediate level. The next level is a Competition Coach, which means that you are qualified to teach riders to a local show level. Then it's Competition Coach Specialist, where you are qualified to teach riders at the national show level, which leads to High Performance 1, who could coach at the National Championship/entry International level. (If you want more information click here.)

First, you must have achieved a specific Rider Level. Equestrian Canada has a program that has progressive Rider Levels from 1-10 (9 & 10 are quite new). You get tested and get a certificate to hang on your wall stating your achievement.
I had to practice bandaging this week - it's probably been a decade since I've wrapped a horse all round. 
The good thing is, once you have achieved this certificate, it doesn't expire. Thus, the certificate I received way back in 1999 is still valid, so I didn't have to redo any of the Rider Levels. Thankfully, because I haven't jumped a 3' course in almost 20 years. The other nice thing about doing my testing so long ago is that the program was changed a few years back - when I did it there were only 3 levels. Thus my old level 3 is considered equivalent to the current level 8. To qualify for the Instructor of Beginners I only need the current level 6. So no issues there. (Except that they didn't have the information on file that I had my Level 3 - but I surprisingly managed to find my certificate as proof!)

You have to have a criminal check done. Always a little worried that something unknown pops up, but nope - I am arrest record free.

You have to have a valid First Aid certificate. No problems there, my workplace requires me to have it so they pay for it.

You have to be a member of the Provincial and National Equestrian Federations. I always do the provincial membership as my insurance depends on it. So I had to pay for a Silver Sport Licence from Equestrian Canada, and I'll have to pay it again in a couple months for the new year.
Polos did not go well - I couldn't get the damn "v" centered, and my velcro kept ending on the inside. Grrr.
Then the fun stuff.

You have to submit a mounted lesson plan, an unmounted lesson plan, and an Emergency Action Plan. And if you are doing the Jump portion, an additional mounted plan with jumping.

There is a specific formula for the lesson plans that you have to follow. And it's not just a description of the exercises you are going to use. No no. You have to record what the goal for the ride is, what the key elements are going to be, what equipment you will be using, a diagram showing the layout of the arena (including placement of horses and coach for the demo), how you will demo the exercise,what safety considerations might be, your introduction (including asking about any medical or physical issues and doing a tack check), the warm up, the explanation of the activity, three successive activities, the cool down, and a conclusion. And you have about 20 minutes on the day to teach your lesson plan.

So I had to write up three of these from a list of topics.

The Emergency Action Plan (EAP) applies to the facility you work out of. You have to have a diagram of the facility with muster points, fire extinguishers, horse and human first aid kits listed. Directions to and from the nearest human and horse hospitals. Directions to be able to give to emergency responders. A whole bunch of phone numbers for emergency personnel. And what to do in case of a fire or flood.

These are all scored before the actual testing day. If they are not up to par they could be sent back to you and you get a chance to make changes and resubmit.

Since the certification wasn't happening until November 17th, I figured I would likely have until November 2nd or 3rd to get these done. I was busy until October 14th, and actually looked at the email after that weekend. To discover that these were all due by the end of the week. The day after I had the original biopsy done on my neck.

I had a couple of late nights that week. Thankfully the deadline was extended to the next Monday. Of course I procrastinated and ended up staying up until 1:30 on Monday morning to get them done. (About 7.5 hours of work that night on them, mostly spent on formatting the diagrams.)

I didn't hear anything back on them so I assume they were deemed acceptable.

Once you have submitted your lesson plans and EAP and have sent in your $400 you are given a profile on the NCCP website. Then you have to complete a Making Ethical Decisions online module (you have two chances to pass) and a Making Headway in Sports module (about returning to sport after a concussion). These took about 4-5 hours to complete.

It is also strongly recommended that you either work with an approved mentor, or take one of a couple NCCP classes. I took the NCCP Equestrian Theory class at the end of September, and it definitely helped with the lesson plans, EAP, and the Ethics module. The person who was running the class was also one of the testers for this weekend, and she had mentioned some things to do for the certification at the September class that I tried to remember.

All of this has to be done before your day of testing.

There were three people being tested this weekend - two of us for the Instructor of Beginners, and one Competition Coach. None of us really knew what to expect.
The facility that we were at was amazing. The wall behind the carousel horse contains the Euro-walker, and that's a treadmill you see. There was also a solarium and a huge lounge. And some very fancy horses.
We all went in knowing that we had to lunge a rider on a horse with side reins. For the Instructors, we needed to show stable bandages, polo bandages and a boot of any style on a horse (one leg each). There was a written test - turns out it wasn't multiple choice. And of course, we had to teach our lesson plans.

We all made plenty of mistakes. They give you a chance to recognize if you made a mistake, and acknowledge what you should have done differently. And then there are the questions about why you did something and what you wanted to achieve - those put you on the spot!

There were three ladies who were judging our abilities. All rather daunting. Two were local, so I had met them before, but do not know them, and the other is well known from another part of the province. They all know their stuff and you cannot BS them. And you get very little indication through the day as to how you are doing.

The woman who was doing the Competition Coach didn't have to do the stable management stuff, so she was done early. She left right away and we don't know how she did.

The other lady who was doing the Instructor certification sort of passed - she has been asked to redo just the lunging portion. We both screwed up the same way with lunging, but maybe I was able to vocalize what I did wrong better, as I was not required to redo it.

There was a couple of things that I should have done differently, which were partly related to nerves, and partly trying to keep to my time limit. But I guess they liked enough that they saw that they had no problem recommending me for certification.

Provided that I keep up with the required professional development over the next 5 years, I won't have to go through the retesting again. You can bet I will do the PD instead!

Being certified isn't required for teaching lessons. The main reason I decided to get my certification? If I'm certified, the cost of my insurance drops. Significantly. So that very much makes it worthwhile.

If anyone in Canada is considering going through the testing process in the near future, let me know and I will let you learn from my mistakes!


  1. Isn't that barn dreamy?

    Good job getting your certification!