Wednesday 12 February 2020

Proof Or It Didn't Happen - Coaching Edition

There are some people who are great riders, but terrible teachers.

There are some great teachers who are okayish riders. Maybe they are older and their bodies don't work as well as they used to. They can't get on a horse anymore and show you that they know what they are doing.

There's nothing wrong with that. They often will have a long list of credentials that are easily verified and are probably well known in your area.

But let's say that you are meeting someone new that you are considering taking lessons with or sending a horse to. Maybe they even have a website and a short bio of what they've done in the horse world.

Do you take the information that they present to you at face value without question? Or do you do some research?

The horse industry is largely unregulated. Anyone can hang a shingle and claim that they are a horse trainer or riding instructor. There are no tests that one has to take, no piece of paper that they have to frame and display on the wall to show that they have found to be knowledgable in the field of which they practice. And no penalty for claiming credentials that aren't true.

If someone says that they rode Grand Prix or are a Certified Coach (in Canada), here are some ways to get confirmation.

Coaching Credentials

I believe that there are two organizations that are recognized for certifying coaches (again, just in Canada).

Equestrian Canada has paired with the NCCP (National Coaching Certification Program) to certify coaches from Instructor of Beginners through High Performance levels. A master list of coaches can be found here on the Equestrian Canada website.

If you don't find a person who claims that they are a certified coach on the list, contact your provincial federation and ask to confirm if this person does indeed have the stated credentials and they will be happy to assist you. (Coaches files are managed by the individual provinces.)

The second organization that certifies coaches is the Certified Horsemanship Association, or CHA. They are more US based, but are recognized by Canadian insurance companies (or at least the one I use). Find a list of certified coaches here.

Does your coach or trainer have to be certified? Absolutely not. There are many fantastic coaches and trainers who have never bothered to seek certification. Certified means that they have put time, effort and money into their craft and found to have acceptable skills. They could still be crappy business people, terrible teachers, or burned out with no desire to do this anymore.

However, should someone say that they are certified and their name does not appear on one of the lists above, that should be a red flag.

Somebody wasn't telling the truth.

Riding Results

Someone doesn't have to have gone to the Olympics to be a great teacher. Too bad, because those results would be easy to find. What if you are looking into someone who's Facebook page has them bragging about that jumper class they won last weekend - do you feel the same when you discover that they were the only person in the class?

Here are some sites that you can check. I am sure there are more.

Equestrian Canada - keeps a record of recognized shows for all disciplines. It looks like a lot of the results from older shows have been lost, so depending on how far back you want to search, you may or may not be lucky. - has some smaller local shows submit results. The nice thing about this site is that you can search by trainer and get an idea of how their students did. - some of the larger hunter/jumper venues in my neck of the woods post results to this site.

Fox Village - seems to be the go-to for dressage scores. Records go back to about 2011.

Startbox - for eventing scores.

Also, you could check with your local organizations to see if they keep annual results.

If someone is making claims about what they did in their youth before everything got put on the internet, there might still be hope! I was recently talking with a Pony Club leader who told me that you can confirm if someone was on the Young Riders team for up to 25 years. She often had to do so in confirming the credentials of prospective Pony Club coaches.

Again, champion show results don't mean someone can take your riding to the next level or have your steed doing tempe changes within a month. Many trainers have no desire to show. But if they say that they've jumped big, and all you can find are 4th place finishes in a 2'6" class at a schooling show, make sure you are going into the relationship with open eyes.

Another question that I doubt many people have ever asked of their potential trainer, is are they insured? With a coaching insurance policy? And if they said yes, have you ever followed up to verify? I know I sure haven't.

However, in my neck of the woods, insurance went up quite a bit this year. I have my NCCP certification and first aid (thank you real job), so my coaching insurance only went up by $5 to cost me $230 for the year. Someone I know contacted me to ask me how much I pay as she was quoted quite a high number. Sure enough, when I looked to see what getting insured without certification or first aid, it was $1100 for the year. That's a lot of money for someone who does this on a part-time basis.

If I knew that someone wasn't certified and had to pay this much to get insurance, would I check up on them? I'd be tempted. I might be reluctant to leave a horse in their care otherwise.

These things are all easy to check out. There's a good chance a quick phone call, email or internet search will confirm or dispute someone's claims of their accomplishments.

Should you care?

It's up to you.

You may know someone through somebody else and have a good sense going in as to what you are going to get. If I have a friend who is riding with someone and her riding has improved by leaps and bounds and she and her horse are happy with the training they are getting, I wouldn't care if that coach has sought certification. I have seen some results and they'll speak louder than anything else.

If I've discovered that they aren't certified as they say, and haven't ridden to the level that they claim, I would question their ethics and business practices. There are many other trainers out there. It might be a better idea to use one of them.


  1. I always side with effectiveness as a coach/trainer/rider over anything else!

    1. Absolutely! However, if I discover that they are not telling the truth publicly, I would very much question what they are saying or doing privately.

  2. AEF used to have a list too, but its hard to find apparently because I could not find it !

    1. For coaches? It took me to the list on the Equestrian Canada site. It was missing for a while when the changed their website but the link can now be found under Directories.

  3. we're starting to see more coaching certification programs in the US, but they're still sorta limited and quite a bit uneven in application compared to programs i see in other countries (esp like in the UK!). i love the idea but the reality just isn't quite there yet. (at their worst, some of the certification programs i've seen in my area are worthless money pits that graduate grossly inexperienced and un-knowledgeable horse people as "instructors". CHA in particular comes to mind....)

    for my own purposes, i've relied almost exclusively on word of mouth recommendations and observations i've made at shows etc. then it boils down to how effective i feel the coaching is for me, personally. some of my most successful training relationships have been with coaches who don't really have anything in the way of an impressive resume, but are great horse people and teachers.

    likewise, most of my riding life i did not have my own horse, so i relied on lesson ponies. observing how these horses are kept and maintained, the facilities and overall look and feel of the place, will also go a long way into recommending whether someone might be worth learning from haha.

    1. Our certified coaching system has a fairly long history in Canada - for more than the 30+ years that I've been riding. It's not hard to find a certified coach throughout most of the country, with many big names on the list (including longtime team members Ian Millar, Jill Henselwood and Tom Dvorak). But yes, certification doesn't mean that they share your ideas on horsemanship or work in a teaching style that works for you.
      By all means, word of mouth from a trusted acquaintance is probably the best way to find a coach or trainer. The "well I saw them at a show and they seemed nice" type of recommendation wouldn't be enough for me, I would want to hear about some actual experience with that person, especially before sending a horse away.
      Canada is actually going to a coach licencing system sometime this year. Coaches will need to be licenced to coach at recognized shows. This will be different from certification as there will be no testing to determine if you are able to coach the material. It will still require a background check, a concussion awareness course, a first aid course, and references. The biggest advantage to the coach is that coaching insurance is built into the annual fee, and it isn't an outrageous cost. Again, it is cheaper for certified coaches versus non-certified, but not significantly.
      Equestrian Canada is phasing the licencing requirement in over the next few years. This year it will be required for specific shows, next year all Equestrian Canada sanctioned shows, and the following year for all provincially sanctioned shows, with the goal being that all coaches are certified and licensed by 2025. They haven't said how they are going to get everyone certified by that date though.