Training Bursaries

My poor bank account has taken a bit of a beating this month. As well as paying HMRC my tax bill, I`ve also just paid for my exam fee and training. Which means I`ve done quite a lot of maths.

As a BHS AI (Assistant Instructor) I`m at the second level of instructor. To get here I had to sit my BHS stages 1-3, PTT exam and then complete a portfolio. After qualifying and having a time in a riding school I went self-employed. Like numerous other instructors.

So when I started looking at taking my next exam, improving my knowledge and qualifications, I had a bit of a shock. I`m not surprised there are so many BHS AIs around, and comparatively few Intermediate Instructors (IIs), because training is out of reach for so many of us.

This exam costs £300, plus £300 if you need to take your stage 4, to complete the II qualification. Then if you look at training with Fellows of the BHS for these exams you are looking at a rate of £45 per hour. Now, if you are a freelance instructor, perhaps working at a riding school, you are looking at an hourly rate of £15 per hour. So for one hour of training you need to teach for three hours. For private lessons, you are looking at £20-25 an hour once you have taken out the expenses of traveling and insurance. Which means you need to teach two private lessons to pay for one hour of training. Never mind the fact that while you are engaged in training you cannot earn any money – either from the riding school or from private clients – is it really surprising that so many capable instructors don`t bother to further their education?

Whilst doing a bit of research, I came across a training bursary offered by the BHS – click here to read. However, in order to qualify you must be associated with, and teach a minimum of 20 hours a month at a BHS approved riding centre. Working at such a centre means that you will already have a network of support and the ability to be trained for a reduced rate (If you are training for your Stage 4 riding exam you can often be a guinea pig for ITT training days or join in with client group lessons of a similar standard). Some centres may even let you attend clinics and lectures on site for free, or to pay for you to attend others at different centres.

The BHS is trying to promote the development of coaches, and to motivate instructors to further their education, but in doing so I feel they isolate the self-employed. The self-employed have to fund their own learning, motivate themselves and have limited contacts within the BHS network to gain support.

I thought I was the only one who thought of this bursary as flawed, and feel that many freelancers would benefit from a similar training grant, but I have just read a paper by Jo Winfield, FBHS – you can read it here – which states that as a freelance instructor she felt “very isolated once I achieved my professional coaching qualifications and had no further opportunity to advance my skills and competency as a self employed coach. The equine industry lacked any support for my own career development.”

Jo Winfield discusses in her article how important self-reflection is for coaches, and I admit that that is my main method of self-training. Teach a lesson, reflect on it, and make notes about how to improve my performance. I hope that this means that I can do the majority of the learning by myself and then use any formal training hours effectively.

Perhaps I have shot myself in the foot by not being associated with a BHS approved riding school? Riding schools usually provide a reliable source of income, but as the rate of pay is substantially lower than private clients surely if you can build a business on purely private clients you are showing better business sense? I`m sure there are also other freelancers who either teach at an unapproved riding school (perhaps an ABRS approved school) or do not teach at a riding school, preferring to work more closely with a Pony Club or their private clients.

With so many freelance instructors, and the BHS Register of Instructors, I would have thought that the BHS could run a similar training bursary for the self-employed. Especially if training can only take place at approved BHS training centres, then they are putting money back into their society. Perhaps I will have to petition it to them!

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