Kim Cox – Competition Coach Specialist Dressage

Kim Cox is awarded her Competition Coach Specialist Dressage through Equine Canada
Kim Cox is awarded her Competition Coach Specialist Dressage accreditation through Equine Canada

I am the first candidate in the province of Alberta, Canada to achieve my Competition Coach Specialist Dressage accreditation. This certification is backed by Equine Canada, the Coaching Association of Canada and administered by the Alberta Equestrian Federation.
The process involves reaching or exceeding all 7 certification outcomes to be mastered. Some of these outcomes are theory based and others are evaluated in person by expert evaluators chosen by Equine Canada. I was evaluated by Dale Irwin and Maureen Walters, both hailing from British Columbia.
My evaluators observed my preparation of a Fourth Level student at the recent CA/ADA Mardi Gras gold show to ride her test. The warm up evaluation includes both the horse and rider. The goal of the warm-up is to achieve suppleness and harmony in both. Some riders need to be pushed in the warm up and some need to be kept calm. Horses need to be ready and in a mind set to listen to the rider’s aids without distraction in a new and sometimes scary environment. The competition coach‘s job is to bring all the training and expertise together to maximize the performance. The coach takes care of all the logistics, making sure the rider is kept free of pre-test distractions and can offer 100% attention on the task at hand. Keeping tabs on contingencies, hydration breaks, medications (asthma), timing of the warm-up and checking with the ring-steward for the order of go are all part of the pre-performance requirements. This is all part of outcome 6, “Supporting the Competitive Experience”.
Hopefully all the pre-test warm-up and training has led to a successful test. I was so very pleased with my student and her horse. This was her debut at Fourth Level and as one of the evaluators exclaimed, “She has launched”. That being said, even a less stellar test has its merits from a learning perspective. This leads to the coach being able to logically debrief the athlete and comment knowledgeably and complete Outcome 3 – Analyze Performance.
After the competition piece of my evaluation, we reconvened the same evening at the facility where I coach. The evaluators were to view Outcome 2 – Support Athletes in Training. I prepared and taught 4 different lessons to 4 horse/rider combinations on topics chosen from the Competition Coach Specialist Dressage protocol. One lesson involves correctly and safely teaching a student to improve the horse through lunging. The other lessons topics I chose were improving the half halt, exercises to improve the half-pass and riding 10m circles.
The evaluators asked me to switch my lesson focus in situ, to improve a rider’s equitation. A good coach can think on her feet, and the evaluators were asking me to show adaptive management. This happens in training lessons frequently. A coach may have a plan, but a horse and rider can enter into a training session with some issue that needs to be addressed before moving forward.
Planning for all training of horses and riders in my care are part of Outcomes 4 and 5, Designing and Managing an Equestrian Sports Program. All equine and human athletes are on a time line of progress. The riders are classified as to their LTED (Long Term Equestrian Development) level and the horses are progressing along the Scale of Training. Improvement in dressage is not linear, nor constant. Coaching identifies areas in both athletes that need remediation and develops exercises that benefits both. YTP (Year Training Plan) is a flexible model that accommodates strengths and weaknesses in athletes. It also includes augmented training, such as weight training, Pilates, yoga and other modalities to improve rider fitness. Horses are also on a competition program of enhanced equine health, including dental and veterinary care, massage, chiropractic adjustments, saddle fit and farriery. The YTP is a time line divided into phases in the competition year, with attention to rest and recovery cycles for both horse and rider. The YTP is part of the written work submitted to the evaluators before the practical examination.
I feel my tenure as a Physical Education Teacher and High School Coach helped me formulate successful year training plans for riders. As an athlete, I can appreciate the importance of planning for progress, and as an equestrian I know what it takes to bring a horse along in training. The end result is a harmonious relationship between horse and rider. interview – Dressage in Australia, 2015

CalgaryDressage in Oz…

Dressage Down Under, an interview with Nicole Tough

CalgaryDressage, Kim Cox interview with Nicole Tough
Nicole Tough Dressage

Nicole Tough is one of Australia’s leading Dressage coaches, judge and competitor. Nicole is not only an elite rider, but also certified as a Level 2 Equestrian Australia NCAS Dressage specialist coach, National A Level Dressage Judge and a Judge Educator.


When I contacted Nicole, she was away, giving one of her regular clinics in Melbourne. I was fortunate that she could meet with me, upon her return, at her Queensland home near Advancetown, in the hinterland of the Gold Coast, outside of Brisbane.

Nicole and her mount Borsato, a grey KWPN gelding, were short listed to ride in the prestigious Equitana, held in Melbourne last August (2014), the draw of the 60 hour return trip from Advance town to Melbourne, was the opportunity to train with Olympic and World Dressage Champion Charlotte Dujardin and International 4* Judge Judy Harvey.

Nicole told me that, “The actual selection process was nerve-wracking because they (the organizers) told us that we weren’t guaranteed a spot.” Knowing that she may have to turn around and return home did not dissuade her. Nicole, husband Col and friend Stacey Schooth, with horse float in tow, began the long haul into Melbourne.

Equitana is an annual national equestrian trade event held in Melbourne. It is consummate and all encompassing.  Nicole says, “They even feature Jousting.  There are knights in shining armour and riders in Arabian costume. It is a very diverse event, quite different from the usual Dressage competition.

Nicole had confidence in Borsato, owned by Traci Bolt. She had entered Borsato as a candidate for the medium/advanced level of participation at Equitana. This is similar to Dressage Canada’s 3rd/4th level.  Nicole said, “There were three horse/rider combinations trying for one spot in our section of the clinic.”

Nicole and Borsato were a success.

Charlotte and Judy loved Borsato, and they were selected for a series of four rides during Equitana, while other horse/rider combinations were awarded one ride only.

“It was great. Charlotte was so down to earth. She was genuinely interested in helping.” Nicole added that Charlotte shared that she was initially uncomfortable with all the media attention after her epic wins in London and Normandy, but that disclosure just served to make her more of “a real person”.

I asked Nicole, “what essence of riding for Charlotte Dujardin stayed with her after her experience at Equitana?” She told me, “Charlotte has exceptional core strength as a rider and that is part of her success. “Also, she said, “Never stay in your comfort zone. If things are going well, say, in a half-pass, just go up a gear, and if that is comfortable, go up another gear and so on. Then if it is falling apart, take it back again.” Nicole continued, “Charlotte has that ability to ask for more with Valegro. She has confidence in Valegro to give it to her. That is the relationship she has with him.

Nicole Tough summed up something else she learned from Charlotte. In her own words

“You cannot be a winner and have a fear of losing. If you are afraid of breaking, and ending up with a 6, you can’t go for a 10.”

 Nicole has eyes set on one of the spots with the Australian WEG team for 2018, on Borsato, and would welcome the opportunity to train with Charlotte Dujardin at her yard in England, if financially possible.

Nicole and husband Col, have visited Canada’s west coast and enjoyed time in Whistler. They “love Canada” and would be thrilled to compete Borsato at WEG in Bromont/Montreal in 2018.

In addition to her role as elite competitor, judge and clinician, Nicole organizes a fund-raising effort annually for Queensland Dressage.  This year she has tentatively secured Adelinde Corneilssen (we have until February 28th, 2015 to confirm Adelinde, so this isn’t ‘official’ yet) for the September 19th, 2015 event. The one day Queensland Dressage Festival takes place at the Queensland State Equestrian Centre in Caboolture, Queensland. The festival features both local and international presenters, demonstration rides and practical seminars for all levels of Dressage enthusiasts. “It’s all about sharing knowledge.” said Nicole.

Nicole hopes to have the opportunity to judge several shows in Canada and the U.S.  She could then shadow judge with leading North American judges which is a requirement to take her judging to the international level.

I’m sure we would welcome Nicole Tough’s experience and expertise as a coach and judge, and hope that she can find time in her busy schedule to visit Canada soon. She is “fair dinkum’, as they say down under. Nicole Tough is the genuine article, for sure.

Thursday January 22, 2015

Kim Cox    B.P.E., B.Ed.
Cell: 403-968-5455