Drawing a deep breath as we watched the results of so many coaching innovations across a galaxy of sports at the Rio Olympics, we might be forgiven for thinking that our current equestrian coaching could be in need of some refurbishment. It has, after all, been around a very long time in its present form and is largely based upon, and influenced by
- classical equestrian training, which we certainly need, (but it’s clear that there’s a whole lot more to present-day competition success than that)
- traditional but now outdated models of instruction, which we certainly don’t need
- coaching regimes that have evolved in a different historical context and do not sit well with the demands of today’s recreational or competitive equestrian environment.
Our traditional coaching model has stood us in good stead in the past, but it’s time to move on.
Coaching has long been known to sit somewhere between being an art and a science. We’ve got more art than most sports, but a good deal less science than some. For instance, most of our current coach education includes
- few resources from the sports sciences, because it is not easy to apply this to equestrian activities without some translation of the scienceSpeak into equiSpeak
- practically no educational theory because, again, it’s all in academicSpeak, not equiSpeak. This material could prove invaluable for teaching both horse and rider, if we could just access it
- The same goes for motor learning principles and practices, all of which we need in our coaching, but as yet cannot easily access, learn, or apply.
Broadening and updating our equestrian coach education
Including the sports sciences, embracing educational theory and putting motor learning principles into practice would enable us, as coaches, to
- achieve better quality results
- achieve more consistent results
- achieve faster results without confusing the horse or bemusing the rider
- reduce/remove the risks associated with some outdated traditional practices
- increase the experiences of success for horse, rider and coach, and
- ADD a whole lot more fun to our coaching day.
Remembering the horse ...
As our demands on him become ever more complicated both at home and in competition, so our education as coaches becomes of increasing importance if we are to remain a kind and understandable presence in his life. We surely have a responsibility to teach him effectively and this rests on us understanding his learning process. Our preoccupation with what he learns, has until the emergence of Equitation Science, sadly overshadowed our understanding of how he learns. This has indeed put the educational cart before the horse. But we now have the opportunity to change this situation and ECEi gladly embraces Equitation Science as part of its educational ethos.
And what of our riders ...
Sad to say, we are doing exactly the same thing to them as we are to their horses! Most coaches know what to coach. But to maximise our results, we need to know how best to coach! We also need to know when not to coach at all. Or when to teach instead.
This is pedagogy. This is the future of high quality equestrian coaching, which will include all the educational goodies that other top sports are currently enjoying. We don’t have to re-invent the coaching wheel – we just have to bring in tools that are already being successfully used in other sports. To do this, we’ll have to nudge a little of our rich history to one side to make room for twenty-first century thinking and practices. We’re doing this right now in using the Net, for I see this as the most wonderful tool for future equestrian coach education.
I hope you’ll join me and ECEi friends around the world, for what promises to be a wonderful ride.