Safety in the Saddle: Learning to Ride
Written by Cheryl Johns, Owner & Founder of LiveryList
Safety when learning to ride a horse extends beyond wearing a riding hat that fits, alongside the correct footwear. Insurance, qualifications and regulations should also be considered when choosing a suitable riding establishment, instructor or coach for you or your child. Taking all of this for granted may mean the difference between discovering the pleasure of riding to being put off, or even bucked off! Equally, those who provide an honest and reputable service have worked hard to acquire the necessary qualifications, and for riding centres, regulations required to operate safely and under guidance.
Within a professional working environment, time and money is invested in providing a safe service, alongside being adequately equipped to deal with problems appropriately should they arise. Therefore, it is in the best interests of everyone to take the necessary steps to make sure all is as it should be before embarking on time in the saddle.
In this article, LiveryList founder and ABRS+ representative Cheryl Johns takes us back to basics to explain what newcomers should be looking for when selecting an establishment, what the horse owner can do when looking for a suitable coach, and what we can all be doing concerning safety, for equine, rider, coach and business.
Whether you are looking to start riding, to get back in the saddle after a break, to improve confidence or train further in a particular discipline, it is important to make sure you find a competent coach or instructor who has the knowledge, experience, and skills to ensure you stay safe, confident and on the right path to achieve your goals.
There are lots of options for settings in which you can receive coaching; You can find a riding school or equestrian centre whereby you hire a horse from the centre for your lesson, or if you have your own horse you can find a livery yard with a suitable coach on site, you can travel for regular training either with a coach privately or at a clinic- perhaps as part of a riding club- or you can have a coach visit your yard. Whichever option suits you best, it is important to make sure the coach is providing a professional service and the right ‘fit’ for your needs. Who is deemed the “best” riding instructor will be very different from rider to rider.
Riding schools are specifically designed to provide well behaved, well-schooled horses and ponies for their lessons, and are usually geared up to the beginner, or certainly the more novice, rider. These days, many also have specialist advanced schoolmasters available for more experienced riders or those wishing to train in a particular discipline such as show jumping or dressage. Riding schools should be able to welcome pupils of any age and/or experience and be able to instruct them accordingly. Such establishments will require a licence to permit them to hire out horses. They should also willingly display or give details of their paperwork which is issued by a local authority. The focus of the licence is to assess health and welfare of the equines on the premises, alongside the competence of staff, rather than quality of instruction. It is also worth checking the qualifications of those responsible for coaching and teaching.
In addition to council licensing, some riding establishments will be ‘approved’ by other professional bodies, such as the ABRS+ (The Association of British Riding Schools). Whereby to gain Approved status, additional documentation and criteria will need to be met. On the basis that these centres have a duty of care towards young people and vulnerable adults, safeguarding training is required to ensure a full understanding of the risks and actions that can be taken if such issues arise. British Equestrian (BEF) recommends that every equestrian professional working with children or adults at risk – even those who instruct on a freelance basis- have an up-to-date safeguarding training certificate. All riding establishments are also required to have up to date Criminal Record checks on their coaches, assistants, and volunteers.
It is also required that appropriate Health and Safety measures are taken to ensure all on the yard remain safe, whether horse riding or not, and that certain procedures are in place – such as risk assessments- to prevent risk or injury, as well as the necessary professional insurance in place for the establishment and the services it offers. The clients can then be assured not only of the welfare of the equines, but also that they offer the highest standards of instruction, and that the health and safety of their clients is also a priority. To have an Approved status also means there is the specialist industry support and guidance in place to ensure such establishments continue offering instruction and coaching at the highest professional standards.
Riding Instructors and Coaching
Of course, if you have your own horse there is no need to hire one, so you will have several options to choose from depending on your situation, whether you train at your own yard or are willing to travel externally. There is an age-old debate about the qualification status of riding instructors. There is no necessity to have an instructor’s qualification to offer riding lessons, and many coaches- particularly those with vast competitive experience at a high level- do so without being qualified. However, coaching qualifications such as the Certificates in Equestrian Coaching (CIEC) offered by the ABRS+ not only assess the level of riding skill and experience of the coach, but also their ability to effectively communicate these skills to their pupils by way of competent and effective teaching methods and the use of structured lesson planning.
British Equestrian (BEF) recommends that every equestrian professional working with children or adults at risk – even those who instruct on a freelance basis- have an up-to-date safeguarding training certificate.
In addition, there can be a vast range of teaching styles for horse riding, from the more classical to more modern techniques. Whilst not necessarily a formal coaching qualification, those that have trained in a specific coaching style may have a different approach to their lessons, so it is important to find a coaching style and a coach that you work well with and that can share the same ideals for your training and goals.
Regardless of how an instructor is sourced, it is important to ensure that they are operating professionally. They should hold the necessary insurance for offering instruction on a professional basis and, depending on the amount of interaction offered- i.e. if they ride or handle your horse as well, should extend to Care, Custody and Control (CCC) insurance too. You should request a copy of this certificate for peace of mind to ensure that appropriate cover is in place in the event of an accident or injury to yourself or your horse during a lesson. If you are planning to invite your coach to your livery yard to teach, it’s important to check with the yard owner this is permitted, and they too may request to see the documentation mentioned above to make sure the coach is suitably covered to offer their services on the premises.
Joining a riding club or attending group clinics can also be a great way to find a coach or to have a varied coaching regime. Many riding clubs and training venues hold events year-round. They will often have several instructors for varying levels and disciplines, and it gives you the opportunity to train with several good-quality coaches. This can also be a cost-effective way to obtain coaching because group lessons are often cheaper, and many riding club clinics are subsidised for their members.
It is important to find a coach who understands your needs and teaches at a suitable level for your skills. You can also benefit from watching others receive lessons to see how a coach interacts with pupils or horses, and even watching them ride themselves. This will allow you to get a feel for different riding and coaching styles. Your final decision will depend entirely upon whether you want to improve your riding all-round, build your confidence and learn with your horse, or find a more specialist coach who can advance you up the levels in your chosen discipline. Ultimately, you will want coaching because you want to improve, and your chosen coach should give you a feeling of reassurance that you can work together to produce results.
The ABRS+ has over 130 approved riding establishments across the UK enabling you to find a suitable riding centre close to you. In addition, the ABRS+ offer CIEC (Certificate in Equestrian Coaching) courses, as well as safeguarding training and support in the necessary paperwork for those who would like to take the pathway of becoming a qualified riding coach.
More details are available on the website: www.abrs-info.org
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