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Posted by Equestrian Australia on 03/04/2024.
Photo Credit: James Abernathy

Coach of the Month - March 2024

Jennifer Wood is a Level 2 Equestrian Australia Jumping Coach and she was recently named the EA Coach of the Month for March 2024.

Jen grew up on her family’s farm in Cudal, NSW, a country town 300 km west of Sydney. It is clear that her career started to take shape when she was around five years old and got the chance to put her love of horses and pony club experience into practise at competitions that took place at local Agricultural Shows.

EA caught up with Jen and asked about her life with horses and horse people and how she manages her professional involvement in the sport and the coaching activities that led to this award. We asked this amazing equestrienne if we could share her story.

Jen agreed and explained, “Growing up on the family farm, mum had working horses and ponies and I rode from an early age. I spent a lot of hours attached to the lead next to mum and her horse on various rides around our property. Mum didn’t take me to pony club until I could ride on my own.

“Throughout my childhood, I rode whenever the opportunity came my way. I clearly remember asking my dad to wake me up early so I could ride one of the horses before school, and I rode the other horse when I got home off the school bus. I rode all over our property jumping any logs I could find.

“We had neighbours who lived a few kms down the road and we would all meet up and go for rides together. My childhood allowed me to learn to have fun with horses outside the competition ring.

“I have had a number of horses that have helped me to reach my current stage, but I must acknowledge the influence of my first pony Skye, a Welsh mountain pony bred by my grandparents. If I didn’t have her as a first pony I wouldn’t understand resilience, perseverance and commitment, because Skye was a little beast when she wanted to be.

“I’ve been very fortunate to have had some incredible horses in my life and my current stallion Cocaine Ego Z (Leroy) is, without a doubt, a horse that I have developed a special partnership with, this relationship is what all equestrians work to achieve. I also mention Sweetshot aka Canooge, a grey Warmblood mare I had several years ago. She was also very dear to me, and is now buried under a tree on our farm.

“I never really set out to be a coach, however, my love of horses and horse people took me down this pathway and the title “coach” just developed. I have always loved kids and helping them came very naturally. When I married, we moved back to Cudal, this was about 12 years ago, I didn’t get a job and stepped in to help my dad on the farm. I started teaching beginners how to ride on a couple of our old ponies. I already had my level 1 coaching certificate, thanks to my mum who pushed me to get it, and the rest has just evolved from there.

I owe a debt of gratitude to my original students and the parents who committed to me in the early days as I established my coaching career. I now mostly coach on my arena at home in Cudal and also help students who are taking part in jumping events at shows. I do a lot of clinics at DESA (Dubbo Eventing Show Jumping Association) and this club has been very supportive and loyal to me and my coaching.

The most important lesson I have for my students is to be kind but firm with their horse/s and remember that a good workman never blames his tools. Horses are herd animals and therefore need the rider/leader to be confident, yet rewarding. I love nothing more than seeing my clients achieve their dreams, their goals and their aspirations. It doesn’t change the feeling of satisfaction whether it’s their first 140 track, or their first cross rail, it is a major milestone.

“I recognise that as a coach I have to work to help my students and their horses be the best they can. I don’t really have a defined philosophy as such, but when I teach, I try really hard to read how the person is feeling. Many riders lack confidence about their ability and It’s my job to encourage students to believe in themselves and recognise that they are good enough and can do it. Riders that grow in confidence make me the happiest, because they are finally proud of themselves and this is the basis of progress.

“My biggest challenge is one shared by many coaches. Quite often the child on the arena does not have the same ambition as the parent beside them. It can be difficult to mediate in this situation and find a happy balance, keeping it safe and fun for the student.

“Coaching is a wonderful career for riders who love seeing people strive for success and can give them the tools to reach their goals. As a coach, you will never stop learning!!! Ever!!!

The Australian equine industry is vast and will continue to present opportunities to work with horses and develop the skills and knowledge that go with this career choice.

“I wish all trainee coaches the very best for their future in the sport, and thank Equestrian Australia for acknowledging my role as a coach and sharing my story with members and friends.

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