When Equestrian Canada announced that a long-awaited revamped coaching program would be slowly phased in starting next year, there was some concern regarding a possible new rule that all coaches at EC- and PTSO-sanctioned horse shows will be required to have a coaching licence which could require background screening, concussion training, insurance, and SafeSport education. Horse Sport spoke with EC CEO Richard Mongeau and Helen Richardson, Co-ordinator Technical Programs – Coaching & Education, about the planned changes and what they mean to equestrian sport in Canada.

How does certification and licensing differ?

H: A licence and certification are two different products. We still have our EC NCCP coaching certification; the licence is really a new program that works with coach certification that helps us confirm that all instructors and coaches are properly screened and appropriately trained.

R: Certification is the evaluation of your technical skills as a coach in equestrian sport, whereas a licence will include elements which are not part of the certification process – the background check, the SafeSport training, and other minimum standards of creating a safe environment to enjoy sport elements that are very necessary. It also verifies those elements to enable EC, the PTSOs, and especially the parents and athletes, to know that the coach is current.

How much will this cost?

R: We’re still in the analysis of the survey results, so we don’t have a plan as far as cost yet. Clearly, our frame of mind is to make sure that we have buy-in from coaches so we have to be cognizant of what the community sees as a cost/benefit relationship. All respondants, whether parents, coaches, or riders, had the opportunity to address that topic concerning fees and we had varied responses. I would suspect that we probably want to question specific groups about that down the road. I’m not saying that’s what we will do, but it’s a possible scenario. So the conversation was at least started as to what individuals that responded thought would be a fair and acceptable fee to pay.

Is there a grandfather clause?

H: The license is a new product to address the immediate core priorities for the delivery of a safe environment for participants to enjoy equestrian sports, without requiring full certification of coaching skills immediately, so there is no grandfathering in. It won’t affect certification, so if you’re already a certified coach, there are probably not many extra steps that would be required. But for new or uncertified coaches it will allow us to complete some screening and SafeSport training to make sure that every coach out there is supporting those athletes that are participating in EC- or PTSO-sanctioned competitions and delivering EC education programs at the same level.

Are there any insurance perks?

R: We’re looking into the possibility of offering liability insurance coverage to all instructors and coaches. It’s not clear yet if that will be part of the actual licence or not. This is a process over several years – we’re considering a variety of options to include in year one.

How will licenses be monitored at shows?

H: Every participant in equestrian sport deserves the opportunity to participate in a safe and inclusive environment. The coach licence is an opportunity for coaches to show parents, organizers and athletes a clear commitment to providing that safe environment through fulfilling the minimum requirements to “do no harm” on the field of play. We’re not going to monitor this at shows next year; we’re going to have to find innovative ways to implement it. You will not see policemen at competitions checking people, and we’re not going to have a gate with coach licence detectors! As more valuable training and tools are added to the EC coaching programs, the value of a licence to coaches, parents, athletes and the equestrian community in general will become paramount. Our community is going to start asking why coaches are not fulfilling those requirements.

What’s the timeline?

R: We have to give ourselves several months to finalize the design of coach licensing, then we have to make sure that we have the proper technological infrastructure in order to manage this correctly and not create a ton of work for everybody. And have accuracy, of course. We need to finalize the analysis of the survey results, and how we’re going to implement this and achieve a strong buy-in from the majority of the coaching community, whether they are certified or not. So the timeline is to have something in place in the spring of 2020.