This topic has been playing on my mind for a while, and sending my insurance renewal off last week helped drive it home.
I spent years training to work in the equine industry, and passed several exams. I am by no means near the top of the qualification ladder, but I intend to climb a couple more rungs when life has stopped being so demanding. However, my qualifications mean that I can get a straightforward, comprehensive insurance for being an instructor and groom and so feel safe in the knowledge that my back is covered. However, I am hearing about an increasing number of uninsured and unqualified instructors.
Surely, as professionals, we want to make sure horse riding is seen to be doing its best to be safe. In a world of health and safety, it wouldn’t take much for an injured client to sue you. If you have no insurance then potentially this could ruin your life. You would lose your reputation, livelihood, and be in serious financial trouble. For the relatively small annual cost, your back is covered in a coat and jacket, as well as providing legal advice.
Wow, I sound like the sales person for Instructor Insurance dot com.
If I was looking for an instructor to teach me I think the statement “fully insured” would give me confidence in them and their ability to act to the best of their knowledge. Additionally, the requirements of renewing your insurance ensures that instructors remain DBS certified, first aid qualified, and up to date with child protection. Honestly, we jump through hoops to get insurance! Having these little extras also gives the client peace of mind in terms of their or their child’s safety.
The other requirement of getting insurance, with the BHS particularly, is that you have a minimum qualification. I think this helps standardise the “learning to ride” process, and in theory means that clients can move between riding schools or instructors quite smoothly. It also sets nationwide standards so theoretically a client could go to any riding school in the UK and expect the same lesrning-to-ride journey.
On the flip side to qualifications, is the idea that people are “qualified by experience”. I get this. If you are Charlotte Dujardin or Scott Brash. But at what point and to what level does your experience qualify you too? And can you prove what experience you have? I think the BHS sometimes gives famous riders honour art qualifications, or fellowships; but if you take it to the bottom of the ladder, can you really say that the girl who’s hacked her friend’s horse for ten years is qualified to teach another friend’s child to ride?
Not really. By all means, you can plop them on and see if they enjoy walking around and holding the reins currently, but I don’t think you can really accept payment or major it a regular fixture.
There is also the fact that horse riding evolves with new equipment and technology, so instructors should move with the times and undertake regular training sessions. This is actually a requirement of the Pony Club for instructors on their database.
This thought led me on to the path of the self-learning instructor. The one who has monthly training days but is otherwise on their own. How do you practise teaching without the necessary insurance? This catch-22 puts a lot of adults off taking their exams. After all, you need to practise teaching, verbalising your observations, yet you cannot get insurance, which I believe means you can’t accept payment for any lessons you do teach. This means that you have to practise with friends – which can be limiting.
For me to learn to teach I had to get out there and do it. My Mum was a guinea pig, until I got fed up of correcting her diagonal only for her to ignore me! I was the guinea pig for a lot of other college students, which was really helpful as I’d been on the receiving end of botched explanations. It’s also very difficult to teach your peers. At the riding school I trained at I was allowed to teach some of the kids lesson, under the supervision of another instructor. This covered the insurance aspect; but I made the instructor hide in the back of the viewing gallery as I got stage fright when she watched me!
I guess to train with insurance you need a supervisor, or mentor, but they can be difficult to find. Or you practise on friends, and their friends, with the disclaimer that you are a trainee, and they must have the necessary insurance.
It shouldn’t be underestimated though, that insurance is your safety net in the world of health and safety, and those who neglect to insure themselves make my policies increase, and jeopardise the businesses of those who have jumped through the hoops because you can afford to give cheaper lessons than those who need to consider the costs of insurance, and training days.