How do I find a coach or instructor?
I would like to start by explaining the difference between a coach and an instructor.
An instructor teaches specific skills; the art of riding. They still develop the rider but there is not the major emphasis on competition development. That’s not to say they are not capable of preparing a student for a show, but that is not the total focus. They are also more involved with developing the fundamentals of riding.
A coach is someone who expands an existing base of knowledge or helps the rider specialize in a specific field. They are involved in the athletes total development- they would consider the planning of their competitions, thetraining schedule to achieve competition goals, and competition psychology, for example.
Not all coaches make good instructors and visa versa, so a personal recommendation goes a long way. Don’t forget, it doesn’t mean if someone calls themselves an instructor they know less than a coach. It is concerning that we are losing quality instructors to specialization. All disciplines of riding, whether it’s dressage, jumping, eventing, or western disciplines, they all have the same issues. Quality instructors advance to become coaches and the grass roots riders are left with limited choices. People often think they will get a better lesson from a coach than an instructor, but this is simply not the case. My personal thoughts are that coaches and instructors have an obligation to nurture the grass roots riders. They are the sports future and very important. I often have experienced riders that come to work with me and I find it’s usually best to go back to fundamentals and fix issues that were overlooked earlier on and work toward the riders goals.
What else do I need to think about?
It is very important that you find someone who can teach you at the level you need. Make sure that they are comfortable teaching you at your level, so development of horse and rider can occur in a healthy arc for both parties. Coaches and instructors are professionals, so they will often see benefits and pitfalls you are not aware even exist, so try to go into discussions with your coach/instructor with an open mind. Remember that often what you want is not always in the best interest of you or your horse, so it is important to discuss exactly what your expectations are with your perspective instructor/coach.
If you would be travelling to their location, visit the coach/instructors place of work. Check out the condition of the horses they work with, they should be fit for the purpose/ job that they are asked to do. Even with an untrained eye, if you think it’s an uncomfortable situation for either the horse or rider, then it likely is.
Look for someone who is certified and insured. Those pieces of paper can become very important for many reasons, such as should an accident occur, or have they actually learned and do they really know how to help you and your horse? A certified instructor or coach should be following their obligations in ensuring healthy learning in a safe environment.
Look for someone you can feel comfortable with. Depending on your wants/needs, you could be spending many hours together!
Good luck in your search!