Coaching Tips

How to Effectively Reflect on a Coaching Session

Table of Contents

  • Practise Alone Won’t Make Us Perfect
  • The Value of Reflection
  • Recording Self-Reflection
  • Tips For Successfully Reflecting On Sessions
  • Summary

Practice Alone Won’t Make Us Perfect

“Practice alone won’t make us perfect. Progress happens when we make time for thinking as well as doing.”

Bernadette Jiwa

Progress occurs when we combine practice with reflection. But how do we find time to properly reflect in this time-compressed world?

I can’t emphasize enough the value in setting aside time to think about how a coaching session went. What worked? What didn’t? What did you learn?

The Value of Reflection

Coaching lists self-reflection as one of The Top Ten Qualities You Need To Be A Coach.

Self-reflection helps you to:

  • Grow and develop as a coach
  • Learn from the past
  • Not repeat mistakes
  • Find ways to tweak and tune your delivery and your sessions
  • Better understand yourself
  • Consistently improve

Recording Self-Reflection

  • Any type of reflection is better than none, but to be effective, self-reflection has to be more than just a few random thoughts on the way home.
  • Ideally you want to go deeper than this and have some type of record of your musings that you can later return to.
  • The real power comes from formally recording your thoughts and using them to drive action for your next coaching effort.
  • Without recording your thoughts, examining them, and formulating a response, it is unlikely that any real change for the better will occur.
  • Such records are also a marvelous resource to keep and fascinating to look back over.
  • In saying this, and despite being completely sold on the idea, I have struggled with being consistent with this process.
  • For me, it certainly doesn’t happen perfectly every time. It is sometimes rushed, it is sometimes done days later, it sometimes doesn’t happen at all.
  • A couple of years ago, I started photographing my lesson plans using the Day One journal app, then adding a text-based review following the session. This actually worked OK, but it still meant that I was scribbling a lesson plan on a piece of paper and then had to remember to photograph it. It was also difficult to keep all of the entries together.
  • It is only very recently that I have started to piece together a procedure that is showing real promise.

Links: Day One Journal App

Tips For Successfully Reflecting On Sessions

Ultimately, you need to find a method that works best for you.

Here are three key tips that worked for me.

Tip 1: Use an Online Notebook

For me, planning my sessions in an online notebook has huge advantages when it comes to accessing and retrieving notes.

I use Evernote. I love its accessibility (the premium plan – which I have – allows you to create and modify notes on an unlimited number of devices; the fee plan currently allows two devices per account). I find my records are easy to enter, store, manage, search and retrieve. I love how all of my session plans and reviews can be kept together in an online folder – no searching desperately for, or through, paper notebooks.

I haven’t tried it yet, but there is also the option to record audio notes, audio to text and images as part of the review. I am also interested in using the “Reminder” function in Evernote as prompts to ensure I plan and review my sessions in a timely manner – anything that helps!

Links: Evernote

Tip 2: Create a Template

I’ve created and customised a template in Evernote. The template is a table into which I write and review my session plans. The template gives my plans and reviews a consistent structure, helping to prompt the type of information that I need to record.

It simplifies the whole process, making it more likely I will follow through with it. It is easy to enter, alter, update and add to the information that the template contains.

Pictured (below) is the template that I am currently using to plan and review my coaching sessions. It isn’t perfect and is still a work in progress, but it may help you create your own.

Links: Evernote

Tip 3: Record Your Learnings & What To Focus On Next

The final item in the above template are “Session Reflection / Learnings”. This is important to complete for future sessions. If you reflect deeply enough, you will discover something you have learned (or had reinforced) from every session. Without being prompted to formally record something you have learned, you may miss it or forget about it.

Having to determine a focus for your next session will force you to prioritise your learnings and ensure that action from them is planned into the next session. In other words, you will find yourself starting to plan your next session while you are reflecting on the one just completed.


You want the self-reflection process to be as easy as possible, while being as effective as possible. To give yourself the best chance of consistently and effectively reflecting on your sessions:

  • Choose an easily accessible medium where your records simple to capture, store, manage, search and retrieve.
  • Use a template for your session plans and reviews.
  • Ensure you record what you have learned and what actions will result from your learnings.

Over To You!

If you are not formally reflecting on your coaching sessions, I highly recommend that you start doing so. If you are looking for ideas about how to do it, try creating a template in an online notebook.


Content by:
Michael Carlson
State Chief Instructor
Pony Club Queensland

T 07 3216 1255  |  M +61 4 177 464 36
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A PO Box 293, Northgate Q 4013 | Unit 3/14 Ashtan Pl, Banyo Q 4014.

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State Chief Instructor: Michael Carlson - Ph. 07 3216 1255
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Members: Stephanie Commens
Jan Morland
Raymond Stacey
Grace Brodie
Di Elder
Carol Paterson
Sarah Standen
Sue Bondfield
Beryl Burkhardt
Jenny Murphy
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Danae O'Keeffe
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The Pony Club Australia Proficiency Certificate structure encourages Riding Members to prepare for and take tests which enables them to learn progressively about horse and pony care and riding (horsemanship).

D Certificate 

Recommended Age of Candidate: 7 years
Prerequisites: No Prerequisites


Candidates must have reasonable control of their ponies. Some help may be given, such as allowing ponies to work in company. Many games are suitable for teaching if taken at an appropriate pace.


  • To gain confidence in riding, handling and caring for a pony.
  • To be keen to learn and improve.

D* Certificate

Recommended age of Candidate: 9 years
Prerequisites: D Certificate


Candidates must have a control of their ponies and show a more secure and correct position for flatwork and jumping.

This certificate is an extra activity for any clubs wishing to include it in their curriculum, and fill in the years between 9 and 12. The D* Certificate is not a prerequisite for any subsequent Certificates.


  • To work towards a balanced seat independent of the reins.
  • To improve the rider’s control of the pony.
  • To have an elementary knowledge of the handling and care of the pony.

C Certificate 

Recommended Age of Candidate: 11 years
Prerequisites: D Certificate


Candidates should be encouraged to ride in snaffle bits where ever possible. If another bit is used, the candidate should know the name and understand its action. The rider should be able to maintain consistent contact through the reins.

In checking diagonals or leading leg, the candidate may drop the eyes to look at the shoulders but may not drop the head or lean forward.  Ideally the concept of feel; through the seat should be introduced here.

The forward jumping position/s with the steady lower leg should be established by the time of the test. Candidates may have to hold onto the mane or a correctly fitting neck strap over the jump.


  • To attain a balanced seat, independent of the reins on the flat and over small fences.
  • To show control of the pony at all paces.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of horse handling and horse care as outlined in the syllabus.

C* Certificate

This is an alternative to the K certificate which bridges the gab between the C and B Certificates. Its purpose is to provide an incentive for members who, having achieved their C Certificate, would value an interim test to check progress and maintain interest.

Recommended Age of Candidate: 14 years
Prerequisites: C Certificate

Candidate should be:

  • Encouraged to ride in a snaffle bit where ever possible. If another bit is used, the candidate must know the name of the bit and understand its action.
  • Able to demonstrate active riding at a fast pace.
  • Developing a correct and more effective seat, independent of the hands and reins when views from the front back and sides.
  • Riding the pony to into a light, steady and even contact working towards accepting the bridle.
  • Developing feels through the seat and should not have to look when checking diagonals or leading leg.
  • Well established in the forward jumping position with a steady leg position and correct rein contact.


  • To become an active rider with the knowledge of the aids and how to apply them correctly and effectively.
  • To ride simple cross country and showjumping fences.
  • To gain practical experience and knowledge of the care and conditioning of the horse in preparation for a strenuous event.
  • To have a thorough knowledge of the road rules for horses. to ride safely and sensibly on the roads and in the country.

K Certificate

Recommended Age of Candidate: 13 years
Prerequisites: C Certificate


This is an alternative to the C* Certificate, between C and B. It is designed for the active rider, and covers many equestrian aspects not included in other certificates. The K comprises of a compulsory section and a wide variety of optional subjects.


  • To widen the candidates experience in various aspects of horsemastership.
  • To become an active and efficient rider who is thoughtful for the horse.
  • To improve skills in horsemastership and other horse related activities.

B Certificate

Recommended Age of Candidate: Horsecare – 15 years, Riding – 16 years
Prerequisites: D, C* or K Certificate


This certificate may be taken in two sections. the first section, Horsecare, can be done from the age of 15, prior to the practical riding, lungeing and jumping section.

Instructors and candidates must understand that there is a marked change of approach to instructing B Standard and what they endeavor to achieve by schooling the horse.

The assessor should not expect perfection at this standard, however a candidate should understand what is being attempted. The candidate should have sufficient ‘feel’ to realise what is and is not being achieved, and have an idea of how to set about improving the work.

The candidate must appreciate that the improvement of the horses balance and performance is entirely dependent on the improvement of the riders seat and the coordination of the aids. Automatically, with the strengthening of the riders seat, will come an increase in the riders ability to ride the horse up to stead contact to the bit. Through this the rider will come to influence the quality of the horses movements. The ability to do this, even to a degree, is a basic requirement for this standard.

The candidate should be able to work and care for a fully stabled horse, and maintain its standard of training and health ie. for approximately one month period.

If the candidate was asked to look after a horse belonging to someone else, they would be expected to maintain the horses standard of stable management, lunge the horse and ride the horses on the flat to maintain its level of fitness.


  • To gain practical experience and knowledge of the care and conditioning of horses and be able to look after a stabled horse.
  • To become a competent, all-round rider, who knows the reasons for what he/she is doing and is able to assess results.
  • The candidate should be reasonably proficient at the sitting trot. The candidate must appreciate what effect the sitting trot has on the movement of the horse. It is permissible to hold the pommel to correct the position in the trot. The riders position at sitting trot must not adversely affect the horses balance, rhythm, tempo and acceptance of contact.
  • To rider over different types of fences at specified paces.
  • To be capable of riding and jumping their own horse, and assessing its performance.
  • To be capable of joining in any suitable Pony Club activities of interest to the rider, for example, eventing, hunting, trekking, gymkhanas. etc. and looking after the horse before, during and after the event.
  • To ride intelligently and with due regard for others on the roads.

A Certificate

Recommended Age of Candidate: 17 years
Prerequisites: D, C, C* or K and B Certificates

The candidate should:

  • Apply the knowledge, both in the stables and on the horse.
    Knowledge alone is not enough. The assessor must be satisfied that the candidate has had practical experience in the given tasks.
  • Have a genuine quest for knowledge and a desire to understand the reasons behind what they do.
  • Have a well established, balanced riding position.
  • Apply correct aids in a precise way.
  • Develop the ability to put actions into words, thereby possessing the ability for self assessment.


  • To become an educated horse person, able to ride with confidence and style on the flat and over fences.
  • To understand the principles of training, including young horses, and to be able to put these principles into practice.
  • To be capable of riding and jumping horses of all temperaments and stages of training and assessing the horse’s potential and how it could be schooled to improve ride and performance.
  • To gain wide knowledge of the care and conditioning of horses.
  • To have a sound knowledge of the organisation and running of pony club Australia and the candidates own state association.
  • To have knowledge of other societies and organisations connected with horses.

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