Jun 08, 2024

35 Years of Coaching, 35 Years of Learning with Janice Binkley

By Meagan DeLisle - USEA Staff
Janice Binkley has been coaching for 35 years now and is excited to pursue her ECP certification. Photo courtesy of Binkley.

Janice Binkley might have 35 years of coaching experience under her belt, but that hasn’t stopped her from working towards a new goal—becoming certified through the USEA Eventing Coaches Program (ECP). “I want to support the program,” said Binkley. “I believe in the program. I really feel like we need to be like the British Horse Society with their certification program, or like the Germans—they know how to do it right.”

Binkley started her journey to certification when the program first started in 2002, but life got in the way at the time.

“I was in the throes of high-level eventing; I had a bunch of medium-level students," she said. "I got all my paperwork together, and then kind of ran out of steam and started having children,” said the now 59-year-old mother of two. With her children now grown and her focus more on coaching, Binkley was excited to set her sights back on her original goal of certification.

“For me, it's about having another goal,” she noted. “I'm a goal-oriented rider and instructor. Not that I require my students to compete, per se, but I like them to have a goal to work towards. It might be a goal of ‘I want to learn how to do his shoulder-in’, which is great. But, for me, as a professional, it would be nice to have that certification on my CV.”

Binkley got her start in the sport at 7 years old before later joining the United States Pony Club (USPC). Her first big goal as a rider was earning her “A” certification through the USPC, which she accomplished. Her mother was the District Commissioner for USPC for many years, and Binkley took over the role as well, but motherhood and her urge to get back to competing herself led her down another path.

“After Pony Club, I decided I wanted to event for real, so I looked up Jimmy Wofford’s phone number in the phone book and cold called him in November of 1990 or 1991, and I rode with him for six years," she said.

She competed under the tutelage of the eventing legend and completed seven long-format events with Wofford’s guidance. She remembers her first lesson with him quite clearly.

“Because I was an ‘A’ Pony Clubber my boots had 10 layers of polish on them, and my horse was turned out impeccably. It was like I was going to a horse show for that first lesson,” she reflected. “I was so nervous because I was riding with Wofford! And he comes out and introduces himself and is admiring my horse. He rubs his forehead, walks around, and goes, ‘You missed a piece,’ and pulls one piece of hay out of my horse’s tail. He was joking, because I had gone totally overboard in my presentation, and he knew how much this meant to me. I will never forget him using that as his icebreaker!”

Being a student herself while also teaching her own students was great for Binkley, who has coached in the sport in some capacity since her now-grown children were in Pony Club. In 2019, Binkley had the opportunity to rent Dodon Farm in Davidsonville, Maryland, and Dovecote Equestrian was officially established after many years of coaching at the facilities of others.

With her personal riding accomplishments ticked off and her facility established, obtaining her ECP certification was next on Binkley’s list of personal endeavors. Receiving the Broussard Charitable Trust Foundation Going Forward Grant for USEA Eventing Coaches Program Certification in 2022 made that goal all the more possible.

“I appreciate its legitimacy and pretty rigorous standards,” she said of the ECP program. “I had to knock the dust off of all my books, but I am happy to say I had about 95 percent of them that were on the required reading list.”

Attending a USEA ECP Workshop was the first step. She attended both the Area II dressage and jumping workshop in 2023 but was unable to pursue certification that year, so she attended the Area II jumping workshop again this year at Destination Farm in Dickerson, Maryland.

“I was really excited for the opportunity to teach in front of my peers and then, of course, in front of [ECP Faculty member] Phyllis Dawson,” she said. “What was interesting is last year, the first lesson that I had to teach in front of everybody, I was ridiculously nervous. I felt like I was standing five feet away watching me teach. I was so shocked at how nervous I was because I was so used to being in my own world where it is just me and the student and my knowledge. But being in front of everyone and Phyllis was a bit daunting— which is wild because she is a very approachable person! It was just an awakening moment for me that I needed more practice in front of other people. So I got better that week, and then I came back more confident.”

Participants of the 2024 ECP Workshop at Destination Farm post for a photo. Photo courtesy of Destination Farm

The feedback received at the end of the workshop both years has been a huge benefit for Binkley.

“Phyllis has been so thorough with her feedback and her notes,” she said. “The feedback has been wonderful. You always have a chat at the end of the three days, and that is really informative. Going back again this year, I felt so much more confident because of last year’s workshops. It was such good practice to teach in front of everybody. And watching these other instructors was really fun and educational, because I either didn’t quite see what they were seeing or I saw it before they did, or we were all in agreement or I learned something new—which is always amazing!”

After years of coaching, one might think they don’t have anything new to learn, but as every eventer knows, the learning never truly stops. Binkley has enjoyed her experiences participating in the ECP Workshops so far and seeing how they positively influence her coaching at home.

“I think it’s easy for a coach to be stagnant, especially if you are a bit in a fishbowl—you can kind of get into a rut,” she noted. “Phyllis was pretty demanding in holding the rider accountable, and I realized that maybe I'd been a little slack or maybe even a little complacent, not in safety, but just like accepting something as good enough. At the workshop, if the rider was capable, Phyllis was encouraging us to ask our riders for more and holding them accountable. And I thought to myself, ‘You know what, she's right.’ I think it's really easy to become complacent, and these workshops really remind you to hold yourself and your students to a certain level.”

Binkley is looking forward to hopefully testing for her certification in October of this year. As she looks at her own students and thinks of their future, the ECP program is one she would definitely encourage them to pursue if a career in the industry was in their sights.

“If they were a student of mine, I would encourage them to the point of chucking them in the car and feeding them and putting them up so that they could attend a workshop,” said Binkley with a chuckle. “I would definitely talk this program up to anyone considering coaching full-time. It is not only an educational experience, but it lends credibility in our sport.”

Interested in attending an ECP Workshop? View the 2024 calendar here.

About the USEA
Eventing Coaches Program (ECP)

Coaches are essential to the training of riders and horses for safe and educated participation in the sport of eventing. The USEA Eventing Coaches Program (ECP), formerly known as the Instructors’ Certification Program (ICP), was initiated in 2002 to educate all levels of eventing coaches with crucial training principles upon which they can continue to build throughout their teaching careers. ECP offers educational workshops and assessments by which both regular coaches, Level I through Level V, Young Event Horse (YEH) coaches, and Young Event Horse professional horse trainers can become ECP certified. Additional information about ECP’s goals, benefits, workshops, and assessments as well as names and contact information for current ECP certified coaches, YEH coaches, and YEH professional horse trainers are available on the USEA website. Click here to learn more about the USEA Eventing Coaches Program.

The USEA would like to thank Parker Equine Insurance, the United States Pony Clubs, and Strider for their support of the Eventing Coaches Program.

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