In the latest edition of Track Up magazine, editor Susan McBane reviews The Power of Coaching

"ONE OF THE complaints from academics about the examination systems of our two main equestrian teaching organisations, the Association of British Riding Schools and the British Horse Society, is that they are not academically accredited. Even so, they are adopted by those of our colleges which offer ABRS and BHS qualifications as part of the academic training, certificates, diplomas and degrees offered by those colleges: in turn, the colleges are linked to universities, and so the qualifications have academic credibility because of that.

When the UK Coaching Certificate (UKCC) first appeared a few years ago in the equestrian world, many people were confused, some were afraid that the ‘traditional’ qualifications would be supplanted, and yet others were delighted to see an alternative to them that was in line with coaching standards in other sports. I belong to the latter group. When agricultural and technical colleges began offering equine qualifications of their own a few decades ago, they all missed a golden opportunity to create a quality, meaningful set of courses and examinations which would provide not necessarily a replacement of but a much-needed alternative to the traditional array.

When I attended one of those colleges as an undeniably mature student to work for a science-based equestrian qualification, I and my course-mates (all ‘mature students’ and very experienced in equestrianism) were soon struck by the failure of that college to carry through the science taught in the classrooms and laboratories to the practical stable management and riding. The stables were in the charge of traditionally-qualified managers and staff who doggedly continued with often inappropriate and out-dated methods, teaching them to the students, on the grounds that that was what employers wanted. So far as I know, this state of affairs continues in many colleges.

So far as teaching riding is concerned, the development of coaching qualifications as opposed to ‘instructor’ qualifications is most welcome because there is a world of difference between an instructor and a coach. Although the best instructors have always involved themselves with much more than the practicalities of riding, giving all-round advice on psychological aspects of riding, management, equine behaviour, tack, attitudes, even family issues, personal difficulties and so on, albeit in a haphazard way, very many do not, although it must be said that many of their clients do not want the wide-ranging and all-embracing approach involved in actual coaching. A good coach also will strive to understand his or her clients and their horses, and know when to praise, advise, criticise, push on and back off.

The Power of Coaching is highly-recommended reading for riders, trainers and those aspiring to teach and become much more than conventional instructors. Aimed primarily at the combination of equestrian sport with commercial business management and coaching, the book emphasises that learning and progress is a joint responsibility. It covers self-awareness, emotional resilience, mindset-affecting performance and self-reflection, all aimed as ensuring ‘a secure learning experience’. A particularly brave statement to make about the book appears on the inside cover: ‘Components are discussed that ensure facilitation and achievement of your goals – whatever they might be.’

I would say that there is an excellent chance of this claim being lived up to in this excellently thought-out, written and presented book, which sets out a clear structure to the coaching/learning process in a way that makes it easy to digest and put into practice. Whether or not readers are looking for a professional coaching qualification (and that is the way for would-be professionals to go in this 21st century), they will learn a very great deal about the equestrian learning process from its pages as a rider, trainer or teacher. As the sub-title says, you could surprise yourself.

Rightly, the book is not a manual on equestrian techniques; it concentrates on ‘coaching as a highly valuable competence in its own right’. It is much more wide-ranging and far-reaching than other coaching manuals, certainly in the equestrian world, and can be read to advantage in conjunction with them. Today, commercial backing is totally necessary for most riders at national and international levels, and to facilitate an understanding of this, the book offers a combination of both equestrian and commercial considerations.

The chapter titles give little away, but are An Introduction to Coaching; Core; Thinking; Emotional; Spiritual; Delivery and Where Next? There are appendixes, a Further Reading Section, Useful Contact Details, and a really comprehensive index.

The authors state: ‘We believe that the concepts and ideas in this book are relevant to both coaches and learners, as both parties will need to be open to learning in the pursuit of excellence.’ How very true."

This review was written by Susan McBane in the February 2017 edition of Tracking Up magazine which is available direct from their website.