Now that you have learned about who I am and why I’ve decided to start my journey toward coach certification, the next discussion is, why is certification important to the sport and what is the process? For this, I turn to my partner-in-crime (not actual crime – neither of us would stand a chance), but someone who is a mentor of mine and already a certified competition coach. Pam Coburn is the Director of Sport for Ontario Equestrian and a true advocate for becoming certified. So, without further ado, here’s Pam Coburn!

Pam, Brandon and Ben at Stonewood Equestrian, practicing for Rider Level 8 Test.

Pam, Brandon and Ben at Stonewood Equestrian, practicing for Rider Level 8 Test.

Hey there. My name’s Pam Coburn and I’m the Director of Sport for Ontario Equestrian and have been on a mission, encouraging Brandon (and everyone else I know who coaches and isn’t certified) to become certified.

When I read his first submission, it rings true to so many conversations I have with coaches – “Why should I do it?”, “What’s the benefit?”, and “OMG the process looks terrifying!”

So, let’s break it down – Why should a coach become certified?

You’d be surprised how many experienced coaches have gone through the process and come through with new knowledge that they hadn’t expected to learn. I think we all can identify with the concept that riding involves “lifelong learning,” so we shouldn’t be surprised that coaching is the same.

Next, identifying yourself as a Certified Coach tells the world that you are a professional, that you have committed to working at a national standard.

At Ontario Equestrian, we spend a lot of time encouraging new people to get involved in the sport and parents to return; take their kids to camp, go to an Accredited Facility for their first riding lesson or take a Rookie Rider lesson! Younger professionals and parents are much more likely to look for credentials for the people they’re leaving their kids with, and certification can make the difference as to whether they choose your facility over another.

When people ask about the difference between a certified and uncertified coach we tell them:

  • We don’t know anything about uncertified coaches;
  • Being a good rider doesn’t mean they’re a good coach;
  • Certified Coaches make a huge commitment to become certified – the mandatory requirements are – complete a riding test, first aid training, complete a screening assessment that involves a criminal background check, sign a code of ethics and a code of conduct, complete concussion and ethics training and then complete a series of written and coaching tasks during a day long evaluation;
  • Certified coaches continue to maintain their credentials through ongoing professional development; and
  • We involve certified coaches in the delivery of new programs, like Rookie Rider.

Hopefully you’re at least a bit persuaded to consider certification now, so let’s go onto the next step – How do I become certified?

As an equestrian coach you take on many responsibilities for your students’ safety and learning. The prerequisites and evaluation steps are all directed at ensuring that you have the skills and knowledge you need to meet all of those responsibilities, including:


  • Complete a first aid course including CPR training
  • Complete a personal screening including a criminal check
  • Complete an emergency action plan that you can execute in the event of an equine or human accident or injury
  • Understand basic equine behaviour, anatomy and certain basic health conditions and know how to respond
  • Complete Concussion Training
  • Ethics and Code of Conduct training and commitments
  • Understanding Helmet Safety requirements

Sport Knowledge and Skills

  • Complete the Learn to Ride program requirements (stable management, riding, lunging, etc.)
  • Plan a lesson that is age and stage appropriate, and includes progressions to guide students to learn and master their riding skills
  • Analyzing the student’s skills to identify the root to any difficulties and then master those skills so they can continue to progress

Additional Requirements for Competition Coaches include:

  • Preparing a Yearly training and competition plan
  • Supporting their athlete in competition

Once coaches become certified, an entire world of education opportunities opens up. The Coaches Association of Ontario (CAO) and Canada (CAC) both provide educational opportunities, often at subsidized rates, including Nutrition, Mental preparation for Competition, Developing Athletic Abilities, and many more.

Quest for Gold is an Ontario Government program that provides resources to athletes and coaches including mentoring, education subsidies, and athlete bursaries, and is also available to certified coaches and their athletes.

At the end of the day, if you’re coaching, you can become better at what you do through this program. If you’re one of those coaches who are already brilliant, by becoming certified you will lead for those who are learning.

We are currently working with some of Canada’s top equestrians to create an Athlete Development Pathway – building programs based on the training methods of the best in our sport. These programs will be made available to certified coaches.

I was at a meeting of a top Sport Psychologist a few days ago and she commented that one of the important traits of successful high-performance athletes is optimism!

If you need support, contact us at Ontario Equestrian, or reach out to another Certified Coach. Most certified coaches are proud to share what they know and will support you on your journey.

Just do this – set your own schedule – start now and don’t stop until you’re done.