Have you always been interested in horses and when did you start out in the industry? What is it exactly that you do?
My horse interest started at a very young age – like many young girls I always wanted a pony. After years of begging I was able to start having lessons and got my own pony when I was about 9. I then was very involved with Pony Club through to the age of 21.
After I finished school I did an Advanced Diploma of Applied Science (Horse Management) at Glenormiston College, which included a gap year out working on horse properties.
This was a time learning lots and growing up! I realised that although I loved working with horses, working for other people on horse properties (in groom/stablehand roles) didn’t pay particularly well and wasn’t what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I went on to complete an Agricultural Science degree and have worked in that field full time for the past 9 years. Having a good full time job has supported my hobby of eventing and enabled me to own my own small horse property.
It is only in recent times that I began equestrian coaching. It started with helping out at local Pony Clubs a few years ago and has grown from there!
I now instruct regularly at local Pony Clubs and Adult Riding Clubs and have a growing number of private clients ranging from beginners to those out competing at the lower levels.
I also offer lessons on my schoolmaster horses as well as coaching riders with their own horses.
How much of your day/week is related to horses?
At the moment, on weekdays I spend a couple of hours a day doing horse related work – either working my own horses or coaching before or after my day job. Some weekends I spend the whole time coaching. I estimate that I currently devote about 8 hours a week to coaching, however this changes from week to week. I am currently only coaching part time, as my business is still very new.
In this field of work, is it possible for someone to be a full time professional, earning a livable income?
Yes, it is! I know of several coaches (particularly higher level coaches) who do derive their income from coaching full time. It is common however, for a coach to have several streams of income – either employment in another job, or to have several horse enterprises (such as training, agistment, product sales) as well as coaching.
What are the general steps taken to be employed in such a role?
Lots of experience in riding and handling horses is a good starting point and although not essential, competition experience is very valuable.
Most coaches have some type of qualification. For example I have completed my EA NCAS Introductory Coach certificate and am working towards my Level 1 General Coach qualification.
These qualifications require knowledge of riding and horse management (both practical and theoretical) and also cover risk management, lesson planning and skills needed to deliver effective coaching. Obviously, it is a lot easier to complete these qualifications if you already have years of experience with horses.
Regardless of what type of qualification you complete, it is vital to have insurance cover for public liability and professional indemnity.
It is much easier to get access to comprehensive insurance for a competitive rate if you have an industry recognised qualification. Most coaches (like myself) tend to be self-employed, however it is possible to seek employment in a riding school/equestrian centre.
Any advice for those interested in pursuing this line of work?
Be open to any learning opportunity! Read lots, ride many different horses and also spend time watching other people riding, training and coaching.
Is there anything else with horses you’d love to learn about or try?
The nice thing about horses is that there is always something new to learn! I will always be striving to improve my own riding and to set goals. After many years focussed on eventing, it would be nice to have a go at something different – barrel racing looks like fun!
Favourite horse memory?
Cantering through the finish flags at Melbourne Three Day Event. It was a lifelong goal to get there – now of course I want to do it again! A close second would be spectating at the famous Badminton Horse Trials in England.
From a business perspective, I have a lot of work on my property to be done – fencing, development of an arena and change of layout to make it more suitable/better equipped. I also plan to expand my coaching and would like to reduce the hours I spend in my ‘day job’ – with a long term view to make the majority of my income from horse related work.
As far as goals for my own riding go, I would like to improve my dressage skills and of course, to do another three day event. At the moment, competing is somewhat on the backburner as I am focussing on developing and expanding my business.
Best thing about your sport/profession?
Developing a partnership with a horse – I really enjoy the day to day training and feeling the small improvements. I also find coaching really rewarding, particularly when someone has a “lightbulb” moment or a breakthrough with their confidence. There’s nothing better than seeing people enjoying their horses!
” Every time you ride, you’re either teaching or unteaching your horse.” – Gordon Wright