Having been a rider the majority of my life, I have always thought of myself as just that, a rider. You get on a horse, you feel the good and the bad and use your skills and (try to) improve yourself and the animal each ride. To develop both feel and the knowledge to improve yourself, a coach plays the most significant role in your development. I have always appreciated and paid respect to those who have helped me become the rider I am today, but it wasn’t until recently that I started to appreciate and analyze the impact a coach has on a rider’s success.

I have been very fortunate to have a busy training business outside of my office job, which has given me different views on the sport that we all love. One of the biggest gaps that I have recently experienced is handing a young or green horse back to its owner after 30-60 days of training and the client not knowing what to do next. I started to see this trend when I’d receive calls months later from the client, learning that they didn’t have a coach to continue the new team’s training and they have hit a road block. Their young horse is acting up or a ‘young horse moment’ was had and the client is scared and looking for support.


Brandon with his young horse, IronClad’s Fairmont, two-time Royal Champion.

I have never considered myself a coach and have always been quick to say “no” when asked if I would teach lessons. Having worked for Ontario Equestrian for almost six years now, I have learned the importance and benefits of coach certification and at the very least, the legal risks associated with coaching without being certified, or even insured to coach. At the end of the day, you would never send your child to learn how to swim with someone who isn’t certified, yet we’ll allow kids to ride horses with someone who might not even have first aid training or a criminal background check? That doesn’t sound like a wise choice, especially since our sport is classified as high-risk. As I started to think about this new path toward coaching, I figured I should weigh out the pros and cons to determine if I should pursue the path of becoming a coach.

Cons of Becoming A Coach:

  • A lot of time and energy is required to get through the certification process
  • The general impression from higher level trainers is that it isn’t a respected program
  • It costs close to $1,000 from start to finish (Rider Levels, Training Manuals, Training Clinics, Memberships, Prep. Clinic, Evaluation Day)
  • You must have passion, drive and enjoy learning, or else you won’t see this process through
  • Must be confident to put yourself in front of your peers and potentially not pass the certification
  • Why should I become certified if Equestrian Canada isn’t making it mandatory?
  • As a competitor, I would lose my amateur status and have to compete against professionals who train and compete full-time

Pros of Becoming a Coach:

  • Coaching insurance is reduced by almost half
  • I would be recognized by the National Coach Certification Program (NCCP) and Equestrian Canada as having the education to coach
  • 65 different sports also train and certify their coaches in the NCCP, and the Canadian Coaching Association of Canada (CAC) currently works with 65 different National Sport Organizations across Canada
  • I will have access to continued education and learning opportunities
  • I will separate myself from those who aren’t certified
  • One day, there might be mandatory coach certification – and I want to be ahead of the curve
  • If a client I’m teaching gets injured and I get sued, it’s better to have gone through a recognized coach certification program, then to be uncertified
  • I want to be a leader in this sport. Although we’re not mandated to be certified, I want to be an advocate for a safe, progressive sport

It was easy for me to see why I should take on the added work and pull up my big-boy pants and start this journey. But I knew that I needed to make this experience more enjoyable to ensure I stuck with it. I also wanted to take the pressure off of it just being me going through the certification. So, I started contacting friends to see who else would be a key influencer and advocate for equestrian coach certification. I am so happy to announce that the following three lovely ladies (with huge personalities) will be joining me and going for their Competition Coach (Specialist) certification – of course they had to one-up me.

  • Ashley Sakaguchi | Owner/Trainer, Lake House Stables
  • Emily Yaghdjian | Trainer, Pickering Horse Centre
  • Kendal Lehari | Trainer/Eventer Extraordinaire, Kendal Lehari Eventing

I am really looking forward to the next steps in the process, first of which is to have a meeting with Ashley, Emily and Kendal to plan out our timeline and start working toward our respective certifications. I hope that anyone who is interested in coaching, the certification process or just wants a great laugh at our trials and tribulations will follow, share and ask questions that you might have as we start this new adventure.

Coaching Inquiries:
Charlayne Szafranski
Ontario Equestrian
[email protected]

Facebook: Ontario Equestrian | Brandon Hall
Instagram: @ONequestrian | @HallAndCoEquestrian

Tags: coach, coaching,