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The Equestrian Coach & Change

UK Coaching Week Day 2

"I think the person who can't change his or her mind is dangerous"

Catmull (2014)

In horse sports; dressage, eventing, and show jumping the layers of self interest oppose change for the welfare of the horse. The lack of self-awareness of our self interest, fuels it even more. Once a sport feels like it has mastered the system, the sport typically becomes blind to its flaws. In horse sports, many who see the opportunity for optimal welfare for horses fear it's far too complex or intertwined in self-interest to consider the change horses need. But to remain blind is to risk losing horse sports. Conversations discussing public acceptance of horses in sport is frequent and we refer to these discussions as a key process to horse sports earning our Social License to Operate or SLO - if we are to future proof horse sports.

Can equestrian coaches be change catalysts our horses need?

Steve Jobs was known for changing his mind instantly in the light of new facts.

I don't know anyone who thinks Steve Jobs was weak.

With the advent of Equitation Science, what we knew even 5 years ago has changed. So I invite equestrian coaches and horse lovers, as your pledge to UK Coaching Week to turn the mirror on ourselves. There is no growth in a sport, organisation or person, or success, without change.

Just because 'we've always done it like this' does not mean in 2020 we should continue. Seeking the truth about how horses actually learn, how they actually feel and how we can enrich horses through horses sports is being the change our horses need.

Doing what we've always done is our collective equestrian blindspot.

Perhaps fuelled by fear, coaches reach for certainty and stability, neither guarantee what they imply. I take a different approach. Having the courage to challenge equestrian norms, even if deep down you fear change (find your behaviour defensive, stubborn, resistant to reason) - change is going to happen, whether horse sports like it or not.

Rather than fear change, I believe we need to open our eyes to what our horses are actually feeling in sport, opening our ears to what the latest in Equitation Science is saying. By staying open to change we get to make choices about horses in sport. Instead of today's narrative; horses blamed for our training deficits, coaches can help sporting organisations, competitors, and horse lovers re-write the ending for horses in sport. By owning our horse training stories - not blaming the horse (lazy, naughty, stubborn) - we get to earn the privilege to ride horses through necessary changes needed to optimise welfare in horse sports.

Together, let's have the courage to do hard things, live into our values and safe guard our horses in the sports we all love.

We are all the change our horses need us to be.




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