Apr 20 2020

Whether you have been a Coach for 25 years or more, or just beginning the journey to becoming a Coach, there are key elements to creating a successful Coaching Career and ensuring you have a ready answer for that inevitable moment where you wonder why, how, or whether you should be in the Game of Coaching! Here are some insights into the journey to becoming a Coach, and 3 key strategies that can be used by any Equestrian Coach.


Often the journey to becoming a Coach happens one of two ways. 

The first happens as a natural progression from being immersed in the world of competition riding.  Logic dictates that Coaching allows you to do what you love and what you’re already good at, and turn that into a Profession.  Plus, riding & competing is an expensive habit, so it makes sense to turn it into an income stream and enjoy the tax-deductible benefits.  It also provides you with a great means for justifying to your parents and friends the amount of time and money you spend on your sport!

The arena becomes your workplace, the stables your office.

Problem is, no one ever hands you the How-To Manual for running a successful Coaching business.  In fact, in the early stages your measure for success is simply whether you’ve managed to cover your expenses for the year, competed at all of the events you needed to, and kept your horses in the manner they are accustomed.  Little matter you don’t know the meaning of an ‘average’ working week, didn’t draw a wage for yourself, and had to rely on keen and willing students to help you with the ‘dirty’ end of the business.

The second reason someone often decides to become a Coach is because they once rode, or have been involved at some level with horses and riders, and enjoy the process of learning and skill acquisition. This evolves into a ‘part-time career’, or a volunteer position within the equine community, and at the same time creates pressures and demands.

Parents of horse-mad children often fall under this category, with the catchcry “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em!”.  This, together with the connections and life long friendships established whilst watching countless jumping rounds and 20m circles, selling raffle tickets and sleeping in horse trailers, provides the impetus  to become an Equestrian Coach. Knowing why is one of the great keys to ongoing success as a Coach…variety, connection and a sense of belonging are fabulous drivers.

Knowing why is one of the great keys to ongoing success as a Coach…variety, connection and a sense of belonging are fabulous drivers.

3 Success Strategies for Coaches

1. Know for what reason you are in the Business of being a Coach

Riders & Coaches are generally a passionate, driven, hard-working bunch.  Problem is, somewhere along the line reality sets in and begins to stifle the passion.  Those lost entry fees and unexpected vet bills add up, the replacement truck or trailer are big ticket items, and on-going property repairs begin to eat in to time and budget.  That’s if you even have a budget…usually that rates along with tax returns in order of importance!

So the panic builds, overwhelm sets in, and you begin to question your sanity and your choices.  Ugly.

This is the time to remind yourself of the bigger “WHY”. How else will you know when you have achieved success if you never decide what success should look like for you.

Ask yourself this right now.  “Why, or for what greater outcome, am I in this Business”

If you have been in the game for a while, your reasons may have shifted from what your original motivators were.  This is often a good thing as responsibilities change and your measure for success evolves.

The WHY question really gives you the opportunity to ask yourself whether your passion remains and is being adequately refuelled.  It can provide the impetus for change and identify whether you’re fulfilling your outcomes and desires.  Perhaps it even raises the question of whether you check-in often enough with those key drivers to guide you through those inevitable tough times, and to guide your choices around how to move forward.  It’s worth remembering you’re either green and growing, or ripe and rotting.  There’s no room for laurels, but resting with the WHY question allows for introspection and clarity.  Whether you are just setting out or even considering becoming a Coach, asking WHY in an in-depth manner will allow to stay committed to and grow your passion. There is an forwards inertia created around this exercise. Everyone’s ‘drivers’ will be a little different.  For you, the driver may be to share your knowledge with others and in so doing earn enough to own your own property, create the lifestyle you desire, or to travel the world and train with other inspirational Coaches.  It may be community and connection.  It could be to gain freedom and fulfilment.  You choose…it’s your life, your dream, your BETTER.

2. Identify your niche or specialty

Whatever your drivers, you need a niche, speciality, or point of difference for the marketplace to identify what you have to offer. 

Don’t know what you stand for?  Don’t have a training philosophy?  Haven’t identified what you’re good at? Do that NOW.

You could solve it this way.  Grab a good old fashioned pen & paper.  Ask yourself what your strengths are.  Write them down.  Then note what you are not so good at.  From here, decide what opportunities exist in the market to deliver a solution to peoples problems or needs, and fill the gaps.  Allocate those things in your list to YOU or OTHER and populate the OTHER from there.  Spend your time on what your BEST at, and get even BETTER.

The greatest threat to you or your business is being a jack-of-all-trades, master of none. 

Even as a ‘Generalist’, you might be the master of building confidence in the nervous rider, or developing excellent Ring-craft. You may hold the key to building an Olympic mindset, or making the experience of riding out in the bush a life-changing experience.  More than likely you will have a broad repertoire of skills if you are an experienced Coach, and choosing a niche doesn’t limit you, it merely provides a hinge to open a bigger door.  Clients need to connect with what you stand for; they don’t need to know everything you know, all at once.  Whatever your thing is, own it and deliver.

3. Work On your Business

Most Coaches will spend 99% of their countless working hours in their business.  Coaching, training, horse management, competitions, property maintenance, administrative duties, taking calls, organising bookings, rescheduling, placing adverts, invoicing, pre-tax time cramming, and numerous other tasks.

Ask yourself this.  How much time do I allocate to working ON my business. Then go a step further and really find out where you could be more ON than IN.

A few other things you could ask –

  • How do I master my time, and where could I outsource more effectively
  • Do I have my Team on-side and have a systems in place to allow them to be efficient and grow
  • Do I know what others are doing well, or what I should be doing better
  • Is there time allocated in my week to creating new ideas and bringing them to fruition
  • Do I take time to develop marketing ideas so the market knows what I have to offer
  • What am I doing to evolve as a business owner, both personally and professionally
  • Do I seek expert help and mentoring
  • What can I outsource so I can spend more time doing what I’m best at

The prospect of stepping out of the day to day running often frightens Coaches and Business owners.  There are bills to pay, lessons to give, horses to feed…and so the list goes on.  Mostly, it comes from being so accustomed to doing it all yourself all the time, that taking time out seems like you’ll lose control of the minutiae.   You know the old cliché about Roses?  Really it’s about differentiating between spending time and taking time.

These strategies are simple but not easy

Your mind will cleverly trick you into finding something – anything – else to do than sit with the challenge of WHY, the brain strain of finding NICHE, and the frustration of ON instead of IN. Give this time and space to yourself.  The inertia you are capable of creating can carry you for years.  Let go of what you think is control. The response is in the release…and freedom is created when you give.

Jacqui van Montfrans is an EA accredited Level 2 Dressage Specialist, Level 1 General Coach, Coach Educator, Performance & Business Coach, and business owner at Forward Coaching.

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