It’s not often that people in the equestrian industry come to it later in life. Many catch the bug early as a child. But for Equestrian Canada (EC)’s Coaching Coordinator, Janelle Bruce, she found her passion for horses as an adult. She is now bringing that passion to help coaches obtain their EC coach statuses.

A Franco-Ontarian hailing from both Sudbury and Ottawa, Bruce was working full time back in 2010 as a health care staffing coordinator and was looking for an extra-curricular activity to provide some balance in her life. So, after some consideration, she thought she would try horseback riding. “I tried it, fell head over heels with it, and I dove right in!” she said enthusiastically.

Head over heels would not be an understatement. She rode regularly, competed, managed horse barns, built a small equine business, began coach training, and became certified as an equine massage therapist. “I am passionate about things, and when I engage, I give it my all,” Bruce explained when asked about how the extra-curricular activity became her career. “It was my love for horses, riding, everything about it, I just couldn’t get enough, and I really went all out.”

Then, not long after she had given birth to her second child, an acquaintance reached out with a suggestion. “She knew I was bilingual, had a solid management and insurance background, was training to coach and worked with horses,” Bruce described, “and she told me to apply to a job at EC!”

Desk of – Get to know EC’s Coaching Coordinator Janelle Bruce

Knowing how she approached her foray into the equestrian world, it isn’t surprisingly to learn that in April 2021, with a two-year-old and 16-week-old baby at home, she landed the job and took on the challenge of working on competitions and sports licences at EC with gusto. Then that October, she was offered the role of Coaching Coordinator on the new EC Coach Status program and has been blazing through the role ever since.

When asked about what she enjoys about managing Coach Status applications she again, not surprisingly, is keen on the challenge. “I really like the complexity. Not everything is straight forward, and I have to work to investigate some things. Each part of an individual coach’s story is a piece of the puzzle.”

As an analytical thinker, she likes to organize things and through the implementation of the program with coaches in Canada, it has given her the opportunity to problem solve. “Because it’s new, and in development, there are things that we didn’t have policies or processes for. We are building and having to adapt to things as we go, taking on each one as they are brought to our attention.”

Bruce also sees herself in connection with others. “I’m a people person, I love the interaction,” she explained. “And building the relationships with the coaches, working together with them is great. Many will ask for me by name now if they need help.” 

Desk of – Get to know EC’s Coaching Coordinator Janelle Bruce

She described times connecting with coaches who are frustrated with the program requirements or confused about what it means for them. “That’s when I reiterate that their certifications, NCCP (National Coaching Certification Program), other types of experience, or coaching recognition is different from Coach Status,” she explained. “Status is one piece of it, it’s the standard and together with everything else they have, it gives them the big picture.”

When asked for an example, she put it like this, “If a nurse goes to school and gets a degree, then after they’re qualified and have their licence to practice, they register with the college of nurses in their province to obtain their status as a nurse. This status as an RN, RPN, etcetera that the college provides makes sure they have what’s required to provide good care and they keep up with their requirements. You can’t have one thing without the other.”

EC Coach Status, therefore, she explained, is not the training but the confirmation of safe, knowledgeable, and ethical instruction in equestrian sports and activities. It is a standard that also ensures that coaches in positions of authority are appropriately screened, insured, have relevant experience, and are trained in safe sport and first aid. Up until now, equestrian has not had this type of standard, but it’s needed, and everyone benefits. 

Desk of – Get to know EC’s Coaching Coordinator Janelle Bruce

“A coach’s experience, training and certifications work together with status,” Bruce went on. “They are paired.” Together, the coaches background and status safeguard both participants and the coaches themselves and allows everyone to thrive and perform at their best without fear of undue injury, abuse, neglect, or other maltreatment.

In a typical day, Bruce multi-tasks to meet the individual needs of each coach that is working towards their status. “Insurance questions come up a lot, but that’s very situational and we work one-on-one to help them get the information they need,” she explained. “A lot of my time is spent in file management – going through the applications, verifying documents, providing follow ups and resources.”

As status is phasing into being mandatory at EC sanctioned shows this summer, many coaches are ready and keen to move forward with their application. So far this year, EC has received over 500 requests for status, and with that comes questions and needed support, which Bruce and her EC colleagues are providing in partnership. “We are busy working with PTSOs (Provincial and Territorial Sport Organizations) and other partners, answering questions, working through challenges, doing information sessions and presentations, and trying to alleviate some of the stress and clear up any misconceptions.”

Based on user experiences, improvements are being made to EC’s online systems in its ECampus to streamline some of the status application processes. “Just in the last few weeks we’ve implemented electronic form submissions,” Bruce explained. “Now for letters of reference, as an example, they can be done all electronically with the reference, no more printing and scanning. It is better for everyone!”

Desk of – Get to know EC’s Coaching Coordinator Janelle Bruce

For herself, Bruce will be moving forward with her own status application before too long. Given the demands of her job, young family, and wanting to constantly learn, it may have to wait a few months. “I am hoping to get back in the saddle this summer and finish up a few of my rider levels,” she relayed. “I need them because I am pursuing my NCCP coaching certification.”

This spring she is keeping busy studying in the evening on a certificate in risk management at Carleton University. “I have two more courses after this one to complete then after the series of exams, I can get my ‘risk manager’ designation. It will be helpful in the insurance part of my job.”

After learning more about the person behind the job, coaches ready to start their application can be assured it will be in good hands with Bruce as the coaching coordinator. With her commitment, personal experience, and unique skillset, she will be focused and on the task. “I love it that coaches feel comfortable calling EC now and simply asking for ‘Janelle,’ because they know I’m here to help.”

To learn more about coach status visit www.equestrian.ca/programs-services/coaches and to contact Janelle, email coaching@equestrian.ca

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