A new initiative from British Equestrian aims to help those who work and volunteer at urban riding schools to develop their skills so that in the future they can inspire and coach young people, and to put them on a pathway to a career in the equestrian industry.
Funded by Sport England to support their vision to transform lives and communities through sport, and run in partnership with the Pony Club, Equi-Youth Coaching offers an 18-month, fully funded programme.
Candidates are given a complete coaching education, as well as being mentored towards achieving the Pony Club’s Level 1 Award in Equestrian Coaching. During their time on the programme, candidates will receive guidance on building skills in teaching equitation, getting the best out of pupils, working with young people and providing a safe coaching environment. The opportunity to take qualifications in emergency first aid and safeguarding are also offered as part of the training.
“Great coaches produce great athletes and British Equestrian (BE) has a commitment to work with our member bodies and the wider industry to ensure everyone has access to qualified coaching,” British Equestrian said.
To be considered, applicants had to be at least 18 years old, with knowledge of horse care, and ride competently at each pace and over poles.
Applications for the programme opened in May this year and the first cohort is from a range of urban centres, including the Ebony Horse Club in Brixton, Park Palace Ponies in Liverpool, St James City Farm in Gloucester and the Urban Equestrian Academy in Leicester.
Head of Performance Pathways for British Equestrian, David Hamer said that interviewing for the first cohort was a very rewarding experience.
“We were blown away by the enthusiasm, passion for the sport, and love of horses that each candidate shared. They all had a compelling narrative as to how they go into equestrian and how much they’ve gained from being able to ride.
“They also expressed so much gratitude for this opportunity, but we are genuinely grateful to them for coming forward. Already, I’m enjoying following their journeys and can’t wait to see how they progress,” Hamer said.
Lead mentors for the Equi-Youth Coaching initiative are Darrell Scaife FBHS and Sarah MacDonald FBHS. Both have decades of experience as coaches and coach educators across the levels, from grassroots riders to the elite. After delivering a detailed induction and a series of online sessions, they have recently started the in-person practical element of the programme.
Following a session at Park Palace Ponies in Toxteth, Liverpool, Scaife said: “It’s been a great experience so far and the candidates are incredibly engaged, despite having to fit the programme in around busy lives and work commitments. We’ve been working on all elements of coaching – lesson plans, risks assessments and technical training skills, and each candidate has a portfolio to track and log their progress. All the coaches involved have the ability to go on and inspire so many young people and get them enjoying riding, and it’s really exciting to be a part of it.”
Clare Chapman is a member of the first cohort of Equi-Youth Coaching. She brought her daughters for a taster session at Park Place Ponies three years ago and they loved the experience. She started to volunteer at the centre, which then turned into an employed role. She helps with lessons, teaches pony care and assists at the yard. After hearing about the Equi-Youth Coaching programme from a director at Park Palace Ponies, she jumped at the chance to apply.
“The opportunity to gain a coaching qualification in something I love is fantastic. You have help on hand from fully qualified people who want to push you through and help you gain the qualification at the end. I started with some coaching skills, although my technical expertise was lacking, but I’m picking up more and more with every session we do,” Chapman said.
“I hope to gain confidence as a coach, gain technical skills and knowledge and some qualifications – anything else is a fantastic bonus. Eventually, I’d like to be a fully qualified riding coach and this programme has given me a great start towards that goal.”
Mum-of-three Shantelle Griffith worked for the NHS for 15 years before stopping for health reasons. Having ridden as a child, she wanted to get back into horses and stumbled upon the Urban Equestrian Academy, where she now volunteers. Joining the first Equi-Youth Coaching cohort has given her the opportunity to inspire a new generation of young equestrians in the Leicester area.
“I jumped at the chance to take part in the programme. It’s really interesting – Sarah and Darrell are guiding us in the right direction, making us feel really comfortable and welcome, and it’s really exciting,” she explained at her first in-person session, held at Brampton Stables in Northamptonshire.
“I feel as though I’ve gone full circle – the course is building my confidence and confirming that I’m doing the right thing. I’m able to apply what I learn to the kids back to Urban Equestrian Academy, who inspire me as much as I’d like to inspire them.
“Horses have always been my passion and it’s a dream for me to be able to be a coach and mentor to the young kids. It’s everything, and I feel proud to be picked to be on the programme.”