Last week I began to look at the special value of equestrian sports. Jessica Kuerton, in the picture above, is very sure about their special value....she simply loves her horses. What we also need to remember is their have huge added value in society and the workplace. This takes equestrian sports to a new dimension and a new worth that no other sport can match:
SPECIAL OLYMPICS, PARALYMPICS, OLYMPICS
With stories of drugs, cruelty and the ongoing Rollkur saga many now have a negative picture of horse sports but it is worth remembering that there is not even a whisper of removing equestrian sports from the Special Olympics and Paralympics. They are a core sport in these movements that bring huge benefits to some of the less fortunate in our society. But let’s not be led astray into thinking these are minor activities and occasions. They are in fact two of the biggest and most prestigious sporting gatherings on a global scale. The Paralympics has 19 sports and over 4,000 athletes from 146 countries, and the Special Olympics 18 sports, and over 7,000 athletes from 161 countries. Together they have an almost identical number of athletes as that going to a current Olympic Games, and together they provide one of the strongest reasons for leaving equestrian sports in the modern Olympics.
Equestrian sports are good sports, which is why they have been identified as one of ten priority sports by Sport England, and why there are 2.4m riders in the UK, 2.9m riders in Germany and over 7m riders in the USA. It is the second largest economic activity in the UK countryside after farming and the second most popular sport for German females and the fourth for French females.
These figures reflect what is happening in most equestrian countries, and taking all the activities together it is simply a huge sport. Most importantly it is both a sport for all and a sport for life….one of the very few true ‘family’ sports and sports in which men and women compete on equal terms.
EDUCATING - TRANSFERABLE SKILLS
There are a number of other unique benefits of equestrian sports that cannot be duplicated with other sports. The most important of these is the least mentioned…..it is the qualities and abilities
gained by riders that they can then use to empower themselves in all walks of life outside equestrianism. Many parents think of horse riding as just an activity that will keep their children of the streets, particularly at the time when teenage hormones can lead them astray! However what should be emphasised to them is that their children will learn important transferable skills.
As they work with horses they will learn for example about the need to have self control and be disciplined, the need to be trustworthy and humane, the need to simplify and be constructive, and the need to do things well from the start and be decisive. Why do horse sports require this? Firstly it is because we have to take responsibility for the care of our horse, and secondly and most importantly it is because of the fact that if you want to be a good rider you will also have to be a coach and a team player, because your horse is both your student and your partner. I have no doubt that riders become good coaches more quickly than participants in other sports because they already use coaching skills on a daily basis with their horses. A rider has to show patience, respect and generosity with their student and partner if they are to work in harmony. If they are to be
effective, they have to communicate clearly and simply and be positive, working from what their student and partner can do, not from what they can’t do. They also have to look for better ways to do things and be prepared for the challenges they face if they are to be
In business it has long been recognised that generally the ability to manage yourself and deal with other people is far more important than pure technical knowledge, and working with horses will develop these skills.yes""> So look again at the words in bold in the previous paragraph and think about how they are applicable to business and non-equestrian activities and the logic of what I am saying will be obvious. The positive effects of horse riding, including increased concentration and brain activity and improved social behaviour for young people, should not be underestimated.
COACHING SKILLS IN THE WORKPLACE
The fact that every rider has to be a coach to their horse, with these skills and qualities, highlights both the breadth of education a rider requires and the connection to the workplace. Peter Sutherland (Chairman of the London School of Economics, ex Director General of World Trade Organisation etc), in his recent launch speech for the Irish undergraduate awards said..."It is essential for Ireland that we achieve general excellence in education if we are to compete. There is no doubt about the quality of the raw material: Young people make a profound impression abroad with their particular qualities. There are many reasons for this, but they have little or no bearing on an allegedly superior school or third-level education system. Personality, gregariousness and the lack of a class mentality are among the reasons. An ability to communicate and a constructive attitude are two others.” He
could have been talking about equestrian coaches and he was certainly talking about what I see as essential coaching skills.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Many of us are going through tough economic times, so families and individuals in all equestrian countries are questioning the cost of involvement in horse sports. Before decisions are made we should recognise the value of horse sports as a healthy, inspiring, enabling activity with huge added value for both individuals and the wider community. We should win hearts and minds and bring equestrian sports to a wider not smaller audience, and we should realise the truth in the statement that we are indeed part of something very special." So those who care about the horse must work together in selling this message or together choose to be ineffective. Onwards! William
NEXT TIME....FEARS CAN BE CONQUERED