THE STRUCTURE OF COACH CERTIFICATION
Levels of certification
Level 1. Student Coach
COMPETENCE: To demonstrate competence, coaches need to be able to assess basic biomechanical patterns, to gain rapport with pupils, to set realistic goals for them, and to teach the mechanics of:
-Supporting their own body weight
-‘Plugging in’ in walk
-Using the lower leg
-Rising trot mechanism
This enables the novice rider to become a ‘benign passenger’, and the more experienced rider to undo negative patterns and establish correct basics. The coach must promote a philosophy in which the rider is perceived as cause and the horse as effect.
MASTERY: To demonstrate mastery, coaches need to have experience at this level, and to perform the above showing an astute ‘eye’ and extremely good communication skills. They need to impart information with conviction and clarity, remaining flexible, and demonstrating the ability to work with the difficult rider and/or horse.
Level 2. Affiliated Coach
COMPETENCE: To demonstrate competence coaches need to be able to assess how the rider is affecting the horse and how the horse is affecting the rider, finding interventions which take the rider from being ‘part of the problem’ to being ‘part of the solution’.
They must have the observational skills to diagnose weak fronts, weak backs, weak thighs and weak calves, bringing tone and strength into the rider’s alignment, whilst ensuring that her joints remain free. Coaches must be able to determine the precise positioning and attitude of the rider which will bring the horse into carriage. Coaches must return to basic biomechanics as necessary, and promote a classical philosophy of training.
In addition to the biomechanical issues addressed at student coach level, coaches must also demonstrate competence in teaching the biomechanics of:
-Sitting trot and canter, basic rider asymmetry
-Steering on the circle
MASTERY: To demonstrate mastery, coaches need to have experience at this level, and to perform the above showing an astute ‘eye’ and extremely good communication skills. They need to impart information with conviction and clarity, remaining flexible, and demonstrating the ability to work with the difficult rider and/or horse. They need to demonstrate that they can teach the concepts of ‘boards’ and ‘rebars’
Level 3. Core Coach
COMPETENCE: To demonstrate competence, coaches need to be able to improve the performance of any rider and horse, working with the appropriate biomechanical issues, and working when relevant within the context of the school movements. They need to demonstrate a willingness to address any basic biomechanical issues which arise within the more advanced work, and not to gloss over faults.
In addition to the biomechanical issues addressed at the previous levels they need to demonstrate competence in working with:
-In depth work on rider and horse asymmetry
-Teaching and improving lateral work
MASTERY: to demonstrate mastery, coaches need to have experience at this level, and to perform the above showing an astute ‘eye’ and extremely good communication skills. They need to impart information with conviction and clarity, remaining flexible, and demonstrating the ability to work with the difficult rider and/or horse.
At this level, core coaches need to show evidence that they have also pursued learning in related fields. This could include:
-A short training in communication skills
-Training in the martial arts or other relevant Eastern disciplines
-Attendance at basic and advanced courses hosted by Sport England.
-Competitive success in dressage or eventing
Level 4. Master Coach
Master coaches are contributors to the field who have repeatedly demonstrated their understanding of biomechanical patterns, their ability to think innovatively, work creatively, and gain rapport with pupils at different levels and from different backgrounds.
They have studied at least one related field in depth as part of a personal development program.
This could include:
-A bodywork training, e.g. as an Alexander teacher or physical therapist
-Acommunication skills training e.g. in counselling, Neuro-Linguistic Programming to Master Practitioner level
-A degree in Applied Sports Coaching (or similar)
-Significant competitive success in dressage or eventing
Certification takes place through assisting Mary Wanless in coaching courses over a two-day period, and will involve self-assessment of strengths and weaknesses as well as a written assessment of strengths and weaknesses by the assessor.
Candidates must demonstrate their riding skills on at least two horses, again showing the ability to perform self-assessment and to assess the horses whilst influencing them positively. They must also demonstrate a commitment to and an understanding of their own learning process.
Coaches will be required to update at least every two years by attending a three-day coach education course.
The criteria which establish competence at each level are very clearly defined as set out above.
Mastery is a discretionary award, requiring at least one year’s experience at the competence level and the submission of videotapes and a portfolio of two case histories.
It is undoubtedly true that nothing inhibits future success like making procedures to formalise what generated a previous success. Thus coaches are given a large amount of freedom in the way they interpret the fundamental principles of the RIDE WITH YOUR MIND approach. This honours the fact that each coach’s work will be coloured by the stage she has reached within her own learning process. The determining factors are what she is currently discovering, what still lies to be discovered, and perhaps (although we take steps to avoid this) what has been subsumed into ‘unconscious competence’ and forgotten, lost to the conscious mind as a stage that needs to be taught and made explicit.
With so much groundwork already done in making the biomechanics of the rider/horse interaction explicit ( i.e. seeable, understandable, learnable and doable) there is no need for coaches to re-invent the wheel. But paradoxically they have to be able to re-invent the wheel, thinking on their feet, working creatively, and discovering for themselves and alongside their pupils what really works.
Coaches are trained to communicate in ways which enhance learning, making change easy and fun. They also have the skills to work with people whose riding experience and/or skills may be greater than their own. They have a strong commitment to teaching and will not ‘go through the motions’ of giving commands and moving the horse around the school. They have sophisticated tools to generate change, and they do not give up easily! They work respectfully with each individual, honouring her integrity regardless of her age, talent, experience, and type of horse.
Whilst every person is unique, and each lesson is an original experience, any coach’s work should be recognisable within the theory that is presented in books and videotapes by Mary Wanless.