How to chose a horse Coach

Horse coaches are everywhere, and there has been a real invasion since covid 19. That is a good thing, because the growing online offer makes it easier for people to choose what suits them.

As far as I am concerned, there are too many coaches who call themselves horse coaches without having the experience, not only in the area of horses but also in the area of coaching people. Besides that, there are many horse coaches who have only learned a step-by-step plan from another trainer and then repeat it, regardless of the horse they have in front of them.

There are many different coaching routes, some with a higher price tag and some with a lower one. I would like to share my views on this with you because I am often asked: "How do I actually choose the coach I need?”

Item 1
What do you want to learn, what are you struggling with?

Sometimes you read messages or articles that appeal to you, sometimes you completely agree with what one person says and sometimes you click with another person. The most important thing is that you know for yourself what you want to learn, what you need, and what problem you have with your horse.

Also be clear about whether you are doing this for yourself or for your horse. Would you like to use your horse for something that makes you happy or better yourself or are you looking for help to make your horse healthier, stronger, more balanced, and therefore happier so that you can enjoy yourselves together?

There is a big difference between coaches who concentrate on the horse and those who concentrate on the rider.
I am convinced that we humans are responsible for the physical and mental state our horse is in. So, I focus on you and your horse. I do not believe in dominating our horse, instead I believe in leading our horse and in 'sharing our energy together'.

Over the years, I have had several instructors and horse coaches and each time I asked myself 'what do I want to learn now?'.

●     With Marji Armstrong (classical Horsemastership) I learned to work from the ground and to be clear and consistent in ‘asking my horse questions’.

●     With Paul Belasik (PennsylvaniaRiding Academy) I learned how to 'use' my own body when riding classical dressage exercises.

●     With Kaley Krickenberg (Balanced Horse Training) I learned how to prepare and educate my young horse from the age of 6 months to 5 years old.

●     With Marijke de Jong(Straightness Training) I learned how to offer a horse gymnastic exercise to balance his asymmetric body and how to improve the mental state of the horse from unruly to super keen to cooperate.

I always like to learn from someone who is more advanced than I am and thus deepen my knowledge. Something you might recognise yourself is that you often see very well what someone else is doing wrong or should change, but for yourself it is very good to be held up to a mirror.

So, with every trainer or coach I asked myself 'what do I want to learn, who can help me best with that and do I feel a connection with that person?'.

Item 2

Sometimes you click with someone

and sometimes you feel that they trigger something in you that is not always pleasant. However, in order to grow, you have to be willing to step out of your comfort zone, otherwise you will remain standing still.

Simply because if you keep doing what you always did, you will get what you always got.

As you grow and change, there will come a time when you may need someone else to continue teaching you. When that is, is very personal. Sometimes you even grow towards someone you did not feel a connection or a challenge before.

Item 3

Always check someone's background

Does this person have real experience in working with horses?

You see a lot of horse coaches who do not have much experience, have not had a successful personal development, or have not had a successful development with their horse.

This means you should ask about work experience, education, which customers they were able to help, and so on.It also helps to ask what studies they have done and how much experience they have, with whom and for how long.

What works for me may not work for you and vice versa. There is such a huge range of horse coaches and online programmes plus there are 1001 ways to train a horse and you must choose who and what suits you and meets your needs.

Item 4

What is someone's experience with coaching?

Can that person pass on the knowledge to me, does he or she have experience with groups or one-to-one coaching, what is the education and experience?

People and characters are so different, even as a coach you must be able to recognise whether a client is a good match for you or not.

For example, if I feel in a first conversation that someone is not coachable to me, I know we are not a match and this client is much better off with someone else, who they do match with. That is better for the customer and better for me.

Item 5

Check the reviews

What reviews do people leave, what is the common denominator in those reviews, is this what you are looking for, is that what is important to you?

Item 6

Check what's in the program

When you buy an online programme, what is in it?

Is it all self-study or does it include feedback? What does coaching on location look like, in terms of time, content, homework, theory, and space for asking questions? Do you work in groups or privately?

Personally, I find it very inspiring to receive feedback and to have someone hold up a mirror to me. I am pretty good at studying, but when I start to apply my knowledge, I like to know whetherI am doing the right thing, and whether what I am doing is right, so I can then go deeper and broaden my horizons.

So which programme do you buy? Is it only online, or also on location, are there videos, how long do they take, is it a step-by-step plan, how much text do you have to read, how many assignments are included and are they negotiable, how many hours of training do you have to plan, how much feedback do you get, etc.

Personally, I find it very important to connect with people, which means I like Q&As in a group. I think the group is important, as by being in the Q&A together you learn a lot from each other.  For example, because others ask the coach questions that you may not have thought of, or that you may also have in mind but have not yet fully understood, or what you may still find difficult to ask, you can learn a lot.

I always do the one-on-one kick-off at the beginning of a programme so that you immediately have a good start, the right focus and clarity about what you can get out of this programme, and about what your final goal with your horse can be.

And ... ask yourself: what is your personal learning style, how do you best absorb information, how do you process it? According to Kolb (source: Behind and Beyond Kolb’s learning cycle, by Russ Vince) learning means converting experiences into knowledge, skills, and behaviour.

These are the three building blocks for achieving competence.

Kolb distinguishes four forms of learning:

  1. Doing (active learning)
  2. Feeling     (concrete learning)
  3. Looking     (reflective learning)
  4. Thinking (abstract learning)

Your learning style is ultimately the result of two preferences for ways of learning that you (unconsciously) have when you enter a learning situation. For example, a doer prefers doing and feeling, whereas the thinker is more attracted to the combination of thinking and looking.

If you know how you learn, you can better determine whether a coach and his or her programme suit you.

Item 7

What investment do you have to make, in time but also in money?

There are horse coaches who sell their programme on DVD, in the form of a monthly membership, in various successive modules, a 4 or 12-month programme, on-site coaching, etc. The investment varies from €45 per hour to as much as €12,000 for a year programme but is difficult to compare because of all these different forms.

The question for you is: What will I gain? Will I be able to save, for example, on frequent visits to an osteopath, or the vet, or the saddler? Or will it make me less dependent on an instructor? Will I be able goon a hack in a relaxed way?

What will your choice of coach bring you and, what do you expect from it?

I deliberately talk about an investment and not about costs, because I still often hear "what a lot of money". What surprises me is that we want the best for our horse: we pay the physiotherapist, the osteopath, the vet, the horse whisperer and the saddler to expose, solve or treat all kinds of pains, and we pay an instructor to help us as well.

But we are not used to investing in ways to prevent those pains and learning how our horse's body works, how you can help your horse by offering gymnastic exercises (which anyone can learn), or how to solve muscle problems yourself instead of paying someone else to do it.

It is a real shortcoming in our horse education that we do not lear anything about the Natural Asymmetry in a horse, the importance of well-developed muscles in our horse, and understanding the signals and communication of our horse.

Horse education should in my opinion start with this.

Also check how much time you have to invest to do justice to the programme/lesson/coaching. Realise that you must take action yourself, and go all the way in, so know what is expected of you and what you have to do or not do.

You have to feel intrinsically that you want this coach and this programme. And even if this feels good, it can still be difficult because you have to invest time and money, that applies to all of us.

If you have been following someone for a while and have already made the decision deep in your heart, you should eventually take the plunge. If you feel too much resistance, it might not be your time yet, and it is always scary to invest.

Postural Gymnastics:
Horse training should start here