Alison Kenward, a BHS Stage 4 Senior Coach has the love of horses and dressage running through her veins. Her passion for coaching has helped all ages and abilities in the saddle with a positive mindset at the heart of her teaching.
Sam Hobden from Haynet recently caught up with Alison in this latest Chatting A Bit interview, to find out more about her life with her beloved horses:
Your passion for horses is incredibly strong! Were you both brought up in this environment as a child?
I remember being introduced to horses and knowing I wanted to spend my time with them. I have wonderful memories of going to ride at Tower Farm in Rugby when they still had a Riding School. It was a magical place. Later I went to a Riding School in Coventry and continued to plead for a pony of my own.
I remember the excitement too of reading Horse & Pony Magazine every fortnight. When I was 9 my first pony Toby made all of my dreams come true. He was kept at livery and my first competition was at Walsgrave Amateur RC, I hacked there!
What were your childhood ambitions? Was it to always work in the equestrian industry?
I desperately wanted to train my second pony to show jump and qualify for a second round. I knew I wanted horses in my life and to compete. There was little information available in the careers room, I could only find information about the BHS exam system so I made up my mind that would be the route I’d take.
I had no insight other than that they existed. I took a train with my Grandmother to a London Centre to take my Stage One and my eyes were opened to possibilities. I was very lucky to meet Michele Carman at Pony Club and to learn the craft of teaching at the Riding School she managed. This was before I passed my driving test and I hacked there too.
The equestrian industry can be tough. What would be your advice for a school leaver that wanted to work in equine business particularly in the area of coaching?
The BHS pathway is without a doubt the system that prepared me for the challenges I have faced in my career. I recommend connecting with a local Pony Club and attending young instructor courses. Practical experience is essential to thrive in the industry and I would suggest working at an Approved Yard whilst training.
Tell us about dressage career. What are you have been the challenges and triumphs when it comes to competing?
The wonder and challenge of Dressage is that as we grow as a rider and develop our partnership with our horses so the Art of Dressage captures our attention. I like the Quote “As a Rider, Dressage is what feelings look like” There is nothing to compare to the discovery of connection, balance and expression as we progress through test movements.
Challenges evolve too, in the beginning I was surprised by long arena letters and lateral work, the complexity of the patterns and the mystery of the next level. These days the challenges are more around presenting tests I’m proud of and training to be an Equestrian Athlete.
Happy moments for me with Jack were competing at the BD Winter National Championships and training with Emile Faurie. Riding for the Central England Team at the Amateur Home International with Sebastian holds incredible memories. My current partner Neptune is very exciting too. I have a particular fond memory of competing at Moulton to complete his Regional Qualification and achieving personal bests that cemented our partnership. That day I knew even without reading the test sheets that he and I had found each other.
Mindset and positiveness is a very key focus when it comes to your teaching. Do you feel that this approach is a pivotal change in equestrian training especially now we are in the 2020’s?
I have been aware of the role of positive psychology for a long time. When I heard about the Centre10 Applied Psychology Course for Equestrian Coaches with Charlie Unwin and Sarah Huntley I applied straight away and was delighted to be awarded a place with the first Cohort.
The insights, knowledge and experience gained through that training programme have enhanced my awareness and coaching practice. I am delighted that the BHS has recognised the importance of this CPD and highly recommend all Equestrian Coaches consider exploring the Centre10 courses.
Tell us about the horses that share your life? Who has been the “special one” during your riding career so far?
Roughway Jack defined my Dressage Career and Coach education. Jack came to me as a retired Advanced Eventer. I started my Dressage career at Prelim with him after previously competing in Polocrosse competitions and Hunting. Suddenly flat work made sense to me and we worked our way up to Advanced Medium during our 10 year partnership. Jack’s owner Rachel Crook also let me steal her ride Sebastian for the season Jack was injured and later found Neptune for me.
What are your future plans for your Alison Kenward Dressage?
I’m enjoying spending time with Neptune and I’m excited to see how far we can progress together. I would like to compete as soon as I am back to riding effectively- I’m so proud of his attitude and generous nature – my rider rehabilitation programme depends on him helping me. My Coaching gives me great pleasure, it’s rewarding to help horse and riders develop and form strong partnerships.
I especially enjoy competition coaching at all levels – nothing beats being part of a team that supports Equestrian Athletes.
On a day off, where would we find you?
Usually listening to music and reading a book though lately I have discovered Audible and there are great audiobooks and podcasts to explore.
Where do you hope to both be in ten years’ time?
On my wish list is a National Championship Title. I hope I’ll still be living in the UK in 10 years time probably still in Oxfordshire…
Against the Clock
Champagne or Gin: Champagne
Sunshine or Snow: Sunshine
Home Counties or Far Away Shores: Home Counties
Spend or Save: Save
Home Cooked or Eating Out: Eating Out
Music or Film: Music
Wellies or Heels: Wellies
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