When I accepted the fact that I was committing to the National Coaching Certification Program, I kept coming back to my fear of being tested (enter mental training component of coaching here.) Finding the time to study, in addition to having a full-time office job, working my own horses, coaching 30+ students a weekend and, oh yeah, writing a blog, was one thing. The thought of having to do a full-day of testing for my Rider Level 8 and my coach evaluation seemed to be the most intimidating part. It was at this time that I needed to have a come to Jesus moment … with myself. It’s a Rider Level 8 test, Brandon. Not Rider Level 10, not competing at a Provincial Championship or doing a live TV interview, but testing for my Rider Level 8. Putting things in perspective can often make you wake up and grow a pair (oh right, that’s where I left them). It’s amazing how the fear of putting yourself out there to be judged, and the potential of failing at something you’re so passionate about can paralyze you from taking a risk and move forward. *Takes a shot of Tequila and wipes forehead*

Well, I’m here to tell you that I took the test, survived and really enjoyed the experience. So, let’s start from the beginning (typically a good place to start) and I’ll share with you what made the test process so successful – for me.

As some of you know, I took a different approach to going through the coach certification process. I included friends of mine who also see the value in becoming certified. This approach ensures we motivate each other through the areas we might be nervous about, lack motivation in or require that fun friend to help you get through a day of in-class training that maybe isn’t as exciting as a riding more horses, having a day off or my favourite go-to, the lucrative afternoon nap. This team approach pushes you to get through the check-list of prerequisites, inspires you to have study sessions prior to your tests and if you’re of a competitive nature as I am, it drives you to want to be better than everyone else. Man, it’s a good thing I’m working towards my competition coach certification and not Instructor of Beginners #WinOrDontComeHome

If you haven’t been following this blog from the start, I’m disappointed, but the group of friends included in this journey are:

Ashley Sakaguchi | Owner/Trainer, Lake House Stables
Emily Yaghdjian | Trainer, Pickering Horse Centre
Kendal Lehari | Trainer/Eventer Extraordinaire, Kendal Lehari Eventing

Since this blog was launched, we have added two additional faces to the group:

Cameron Edwards | Trainer, Blue Star Farm
Nicole Parkin | Trainer/Owner, Four Leaf Stables

When looking at who is a part of this group and which levels of certification everyone is working towards, (competition coach vs. competition coach specialist) only three of us (myself, Emily and Cameron) had to do the Rider Level 8 testing as a prerequisite. As a group, we decided that we needed a full-day of in-class training to once again learn what will be asked of us during our evaluation and to touch on what is expected of those of us taking the Rider Level 8 test. Once a date was decided on, we all met at the Pickering Horse Centre and were mentored by Danielle Yaghdjian, Master Coach Developer. Danielle walked us through all the steps required for our respective certifications, what was required of us to complete leading up to the evaluation day (paper work and pre-requisites), deadlines and what to start working on NOW to ensure we’re not rushing prior to our evaluation date (lesson plans.) From Making Ethical Decisions (online training and test), Making Headway – Concussion and Return to Play (online training and test), getting a criminal background check *takes another shot of tequila* (just kidding, I passed), and having an up-to-date First Aid certification (I’m very good at “clearing the area” and mouth-to-mouth – so I’m told), we quickly realized that becoming certified has to be something you’re committed to. The time commitment alone requires you to add several hours to your already busy schedule to get through all components leading up to your evaluation date. Having a group of friends has really been the driving force which has kept us continuing our training towards coach certification.

From there, we learned about lesson plans, YTPs = Yearly Training Plans (for Comp. Coach Specialists) and how the evaluation day would run. After a morning filled with questions, growing anxiety and $80 worth of consumed Bulk Barn candy (motivation to get everyone to attend the session), we learned about the component of the coach evaluation with the highest fail rate – LUNGING. The afternoon went from in-class to “on the line” as we all demonstrated our own approaches to lunging. It took us all of … two minutes to realize we would have failed. Stunned at how the reins should be wrapped around the horse’s neck in an origami-type figure 8 pattern, that you can’t make a cracking noise with the lunge whip to get the horse to move forward and fun fact #347, you have to stay in place while lunging. As someone who really only works with young horses, walking with them to teach them to move forward and stay out isn’t the way to lunge when you have a more seasoned horse to work with, and, is quite frowned upon when in the evaluation phase of lunging a horse. The biggest lesson that we ALL walked away with was to study and come to the evaluation ready to demonstrate what is taught in the Equestrian Canada coaching manuals. This isn’t an evaluation based on how you CURRENTLY do things, it’s an evaluation on the best practices taught through the nationals learning materials. Your methods may work, and they could be great, but the evaluators want to see what is being taught from the book. My new mantra = become one with the book.

After a full day of learning with our new coaching guru, Danielle, the entire group felt slightly overwhelmed, but inspired to keep on schedule and to plan another study session to work on our lesson plans and ensure everyone finishes the online training modules. Another big factor that none of us had really taken into consideration was the cost to become certified. The paperwork that we all filled out at the end of the day showed the cost to book your evaluation. For the competition coach certification evaluation, you’re required to pay $508.50 and the competition coach specialist costs Stage 1 Paperwork Evaluation – $169.50, Stage 2 Practical Evaluation – $593.25 and Stage 3 In Competition Evaluation $226.00. *Starts accepting more horses for training*

If you’re interested in becoming certified or you have started the process and want to get back to it, start by contacting the Ontario Equestrian office. Their staff are committed to your success and have been a huge driving force for so many who have or are currently on the journey to coach certification: c.szafranski@ontarioequestrian.ca, 905-709-6545 Ext. 32.