Tag Archives: coaching career

Introducing new Guest Blogger: Caitlin Thorpe

“You can do much better than that” – is what 15 year old Caitlin heard from one of her career tutors when she shared her ideas about “working with horses”and studying for a coaching degree…

Why is it that a dedicated, intelligent, clever and talented person should be discouraged from following a profession that can be incredibly fulfilling, challenging, interesting and – if done well – financially rewarding?

caitlin thorpe

I invited Caitlin, who has also been Aspire Equestrian Academy’s rider since April 2014 (you might remember her from some of my previous posts – HERE and HERE), to blog about her ups and downs as she follows her chosen career/life path.

It would be wonderful if we could all make this series into a dialogue between parents, other coaches, riders and other young people who are perhaps in similar situation as Caitlin and aren’t sure which way to go.

Ever since starting the Academy I wanted it to be a structure that facilitates goals and dreams of riders of all backgrounds, ambitions and abilities – from committed grassroots horse lovers to dedicated instructors-to-be. 

I would love to one day invite Caitlin to teach alongside me as Aspire’s coach or help her find the best other avenues for her chosen equestrian career.

In this series we will explore various options, opportunities and challenges, look at variety of equine colleges, courses, work experience and training placements. We will ask questions and mull over answers that maybe not everyone is preparing to discuss…We will share views and experiences from Caitlin’s point of view, her parents point of view as well as mine as her riding teacher.

We will also follow Caitlin’s adventures as a rider and horse owner as she trains, competes and strives to do the best she can at affiliated events in the future.

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Caitlin 

I hope to hear from many of you out there with your experiences too.

Stay tuned for Caitlin’s first post later this month!

Wiola

http://www.aspireequestrianacademy.com

 

Brand sponsorship for coaches?

I’ve just had this interesting chat on ‪#‎equestrianhour‬ on Twitter where I asked what people thought of the fact that there wasn’t much happening in terms of brands sponsoring freelance coaches/instructors. I am not necessarily talking about myself as I am just a little fish in a massive pond but I know of some wider-reach coaches who don’t compete often any more but see many clients and could potentially be fabulous brand ambassadors.

 I should add that I don't mean for coaches to become reps/sales people pushing certain brands onto clients.

Think about it – a little, smaller scale coach like me visits on average four different livery yards a week, two being rather large. They house a couple of hundred or more horses altogether. Most of these horses have owners who either have lessons with me or at least see me passing by.
Now, I don’t drive (driving coach is great too – think of racing cars…you can barely see the car for brands’ stickers 😉 ) so I also travel regularly on trains to London, Hampshire, Berkshire, Oxfordshire. Occasionally I also fly abroad to teach. Again – that’s some serious amount of people who see my breeches/jacket/backpack/thermos/boots etc etc on a daily basis.
The other day I was waiting for a train at a station (in my jods as usual 😉 when someone walked up to me and asked me if I rode (clue in clothing). We got chatting and it turned out she had two horses at advanced level and trained with Carl Hester (what are the chances of that by the way??).
The point is, people who ride notice other people who look remotely horsey whether they want to or not.
If a rider needs something in terms of clothing for themselves or for the horse, in terms of feeding or management – they will ask me for advice first. If I say, this and that is great, they will buy it 9 out of 10 times.
Now, let’s not forget that’s just a little me running my own little coaching programme. If you multiply this to match a situation of a much more accomplished trainer who perhaps doesn’t ride or compete that much any more but teaches many riders (who then go out and about) it seems obvious that she/he would potentially be a fabulous “sponsorship material”?

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Out and about teaching…pictures by Pure Essence Photography from one of my clinics in Yorkshire

If you are an instructor – have you ever been approached by a brand who wanted visibility via your coaching presence?
If you are a rider taking lessons, have you ever asked your coach what bit best to use or where they got their boots from or their breeches from?
There isn’t a day someone doesn’t ask me what best to buy for this or that, where I got this or that from. If I say buy xyz because I think it would suit them great, they buy it.
So, as a coach, what are your experiences? Would sponsorship of things like clothing/boots/venue sponsorship so you could run clinics etc etc helpful for you?
Or perhaps, as a rider, you think it isn’t a good idea? Perhaps you look up only to competition riders to see what they wear, what their horses wear, what they feed?
Perhaps you only look up to coaches/riders who actively compete at higher levels?
I am genuinely very curious about it and although of course I would love to be sponsored myself, I am realistic and try to look at this situation with as little bias as possible.
If I had a product for riders or horses, the right coach with values I would want to promote in my product, would be the first person to approach to see how they could represent me so it makes me wonder why are most brands so focused on such saturated field as rider sponsorship is?
Your thoughts would be much appreciated! 

Pressure to be successful in riding and coaching – thoughts on dealing with emotions

This post is inspired by one written over Christmas by The Working Equestrian and titled Removing Emotions from the Equation. In her post, Kate asks important questions that many young and not so young aspiring riders and coaches ask themselves every day.

She wants to make it as an event rider. Now, riding as a career might appear a frivolous hobby to some, no lives are saved in heroic Search & Rescue missions, no burning houses fought for, no big changes to suffering children where dirty water causes deaths every day etc etc

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And yet, it’s out there for climbing – the steep, dangerous, hard working and expensive career ladder for an equestrian. I believe we all have some form of a mission in life deep inside us. For some it might be to have a healthy, happy family, for others, perhaps a multi-million revenue business venture, yet for others the mission would be to create stunning paintings or sculptures etc The variety is a spice of life, right? So there, somewhat in the middle of it all we have sports, equestrian sports for the sake of our subject.

Although this blog is not aimed at professional but amateur riders (i.e. those who do not ride for a living), it is certainly addressed to aspiring coaches (who do teach and might ride for a living) who are under pressure to ride well and teach with results. Both those reader groups often put a lot of similar emotional pressures on themselves as described in Kate’s blog.

She says: […] Sometimes I’m overwhelmed by the feeling that this is it, this is all I have, this is make it or break it. I have no back-ups, no plan B, no other desires or aspirations. This. Is. It. If I can’t make it, what happens next? Where do I go? Do I try to be satisfied with being just another struggling coach giving 15 lessons a day to kids?”[…]

[…]sometimes the thought that this is the only thing I have that I really want makes me just want to break down and cry. And sometimes I do. And it usually happens at the least convenient time. Like when a horse is giving me problems in a busy warm-up at the show in front of other professionals with their clients, etc. etc.[…]

REMOVING EMOTIONS?

I tend to think that when I find myself caring about an outcome very much it is much harder to stay emotionally neutral. Who knows, perhaps such state is almost never possible (unless you are an advanced Yogi!). What has really helped me personally over the years is to be absolutely clear on what values to teach by and to ride by. There are riders out there who prefer quick solutions, short cuts, fixes and those will rarely be impressed with slow, methodical and patient approach. Then, there are horse people who think horses should not be trained for sport but rather played with and interacted with without training pressures. If as an instructor you try to become good teaching a group of riders with different motives and values to your own, you will likely often feel underachieving and frustrated.

My interest is ethical equestrian sport. I suppose any sport is a result driven activity and as such those who achieve that result faster, before the others do, are bound to be glorified. However, equestrian sports come with whole shabang of wellness, welfare and ethical issues. Having spent my late teens and early twenties around top show jumping horses and riders I have seen and learnt enough to know that if I was to sustain an ambition to get to that top it would have to be by means of a very different journey to the one I observed. I believe that saying “many roads lead to Rome” happily applies here.

It took me many years to be in peace with that realisation though and I must say that I agree with Kate’s guess that time/age helps enormously when it comes to dealing with pressures and emotions. The reason it helps though, I think, is because our knowledge and understanding of training processes increases. We know that pushing for quick fixes has a huge price – mostly paid by the horse.

KNOW WHOSE RESPECT YOU WANT and WHY YOU DO WHAT YOU DO

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If I was to advise my 20 year old self when I wanted my results fast and had similar thoughts to Kate in her post, I would say:

Look around you. How many people truly see what you so want your horse to move like/be like/perform like? Chances are that, if you are after wellness focused training, out of 500 people watching, there will be 15 who really can tell a happy athlete from a submitted machine. Ride and manage your horses to gain respect of those 15 people and don’t be obsessed with the rest.Yes, you will still make mistakes, you will lose to those who fast tracked, you will still kick yourself afterwards but the peace of mind and the feeling of being on the right journey is one that will keep you motivated, inspired and happy to push on with this career and lifestyle.

I would tell myself:

When you teach, don’t worry about how well the rider can perform in quickest time but instead, how well they understand how to make their performance better. When you hear: “don’t work the rider on the lunge for their seat for too long, they are sitting pretty but are ineffective”, let that statement pass…There are many kinds of effectiveness. Horses are very easily trained by fear and pain so many training methods rely on that whether we want it or not. Effectiveness that comes from harmony with movement and heightened body awareness takes much, much longer (years really) than a whack with a whip, tight noseband or pessoa system do…Decide which one you want your riders to develop and then teach those who share your values. This way, you won’t feel this suffocating frustration that makes you want to quit working in the horse industry.

Don’t be afraid to lose clients/owners who don’t value your training methods. They will be happier somewhere else and those who care WILL find you.

PRESSURE IS GOOD (SOMETIMES)

I would also say to my 20 year old self, don’t worry about pressure too much. Learn to live with it. Showing horses, competing, training others – all these have pressure in-built in them. If you decided that’s you career then you will need to find ways to tame that pressure and only allow it to have bearing on you if it comes from the right source i.e. from systems, from people and from results governed by the values you too respect.

What are your thoughts dear readers? Are you a rider who puts a lot of pressure on oneself to do well? Are you a coach wanting to make a decent living in horse industry? Leave a comment, share your view 🙂

All the best,

Wiola