Developing your riding skills can be difficult; you may not know where to begin and what your best course of action is. It’s important to remember that there are people there to help you along your equine journey and nurture you as a rider to achieve all your goals, as well as to help you overcome the challenges and difficulties you may face along the way.
In this article, we, The British Horse Society (BHS), share our top tips on finding the right coach for you, how they can help you and the importance of using the right coach to suit your needs.
What is a horse riding coach?
A coach will help a rider or a horse/rider partnership to develop and improve. They offer support and motivation via different approaches to coaching, a variety of exercises, and additional guidance to ensure your sessions are safe, and ultimately, appropriate for the rider and horse they are coaching.
A coach may work at a centre, such as a riding school, or they may be a freelance coach who travels to different yards and facilities to offer lessons. Depending on the goals and context of the lesson, the coach may focus on developing the skills of the rider and/or the horse during a coaching session. However, a coach should always prioritise the health, safety and welfare of riders and horses in all activities they do. A coach may also collaborate with or signpost to other professionals, such as saddle fitters and vets to support a horse’s training.
A reputable and professional coach will have credentials that qualify them to teach. There are many different qualifications they can attain in order to do this, with the BHS Coaching Pathway being a globally recognised professional set of standards. You must also ensure your coach is insured, has necessary first aid and safeguarding training, is DBS checked and is committed to their own professional development. BHS Accredited Professional Coaches and BHS Approved Riding Schools maintain these standards for your reassurance.
Why do you need a horse riding coach?
The first priority for a coach is to help keep you and your horse safe. You are not going to walk onto a yard and start galloping around an arena on your first day. It takes time, knowledge and dedication to develop riding skills, and that is why having a good coach is essential to your journey.
A rider’s progression is reliant on their coach. They are a beginner’s first introduction to equestrianism and it is vital that you listen to your coach and follow their guidance. A good coach can provide you with an array of different exercises, suited to how you like to learn, so your lessons do not feel repetitive or stagnant. Choosing a coach to help you start your journey will enable you to build a level of trust and comfort to ensure you progress successfully.
Critically, working with a coach will be the best way to ensure you are enjoying getting in the saddle and making the most of your journey with horse.
How do you find the best horse riding coach for you?
There is no surefire method of finding the right coach, however, there are several methods and tips to ensure you have the best start possible.
If you do not have your own horse, the first step is to familiarise yourself with the BHS Approved Riding Schools
in your local area. Many of these centres offer free taster sessions throughout the year, where you can go along and get a feel for the centre as well as meet the coaches they have. You can also decide to go along to some preliminary lessons and get stuck in with riding. Many centres offer early lessons for beginners to see if they would like to continue; these are a great opportunity to connect with your coach and see if their style is the right one for you. There is no pressure to continue if you feel a particular coach/centre is not the right fit for you.
If you do own a horse, you can research freelance BHS Accredited Professional Coaches
that will come and visit you at your yard or meet you at an equestrian centre for a lesson if you're within their travel radius. When making enquiries about the right coach for you, there are three questions you should ask yourself first. "What are my current capabilities as a rider?", "How well are my horse and I doing as a combination?", and "Where do I want us to get to?". Reflecting honestly will give you the best chance of matching with the right coach.
Either way, your coach will also want to understand more about you, whether you carry any injuries and how to best communicate with you and engage with you in your learning. The important thing to remember is to take your time. You can go at your own pace and progress in your own way.
The BHS’s Accredited Professional Coaches and BHS Approved Riding Schools must meet and maintain the highest professional standards within the industry to make sure you remain safe when on a horse. Through the BHS website, you can search for Approved Riding Schools and Accredited Professional Coaches, with information on their qualifications and the services they offer. By researching and trialling different centres and coaches, you can get a good idea of the best course of action for you.