What Makes A Good Coach?
Updated: Jun 23
EC has determined all coaches at recognized shows need to be licensed. It’s a good move, but it still won’t assist in determining what makes a good coach. First of all, coach or trainer are interchangeable words for horse show mentor since most programs steer their clients towards showing. We like showing because it is a kind environment with a real metric of how we’re doing socially. So it is safe to say that if you think you’re doing well at horse shows then you think you have a good coach.
I wrote a blog a couple years ago about your trainer(‘s) profile making the distinction between rider, trainer, coach, and teacher. Each role has different attributes so when evaluating what you’re looking for, it is helpful to separate them.
Coach is the name EC has bestowed upon its licensees, so let’s separate the distinction in coaching knowledge into technical, tactical, and strategic. I venture to guess that few coaches take a granular stock of their skills since they are accustom to doing it all. But understanding skill requires drilling into what constitutes it.
There are some coaches who are excellent at technique. They teach the how and the why, and coach in technical detail like reminding you to use which aids at which moment in the test. Other coaches may have superior tactical skills, the what and when, like suggesting you ride forward to the five stride so you can shorten the last two strides and arrive deeper to the combination helping your horse back itself off so it is balanced for a shorter distance. The superior strategic coaches plan the where, and will make sure you’re set up to win the goal you prize the most.
Just like horses, no two coaches are the same. Every course or test should have goals, your coach will help you identify the best ones for you and your horse. Their strengths will structure their counsel to you. Your strengths will interpret them in your own way. Learning is about exploring what you don’t know, competing is about using what you do. Practice is refining skills of you and your horse.
One of the last century’s prolific educationalists Paulo Freire defined education as gaining freedom through problem solving. The teacher must learn from the student because without context of the student’s current understanding education cannot take place. Whatever skill combination your coach has, they must be educating you to become free by solving the problems you face. This also applies to how you educate your horses.
If you’re developing skills that make you better, you have a good coach. If you are developing skills that improve your horse, you have a good coach. If you or your horse are not improving, consider looking for a new one, coach not horse.