Coaching contribution of Cathy Inch officially recognized
by Randy Pascal
For more than three decades, Cathy Inch has touched the lives of young riders, sharing lessons that span far beyond the scope of the ring in which
they learn their equestrian skills.
So it might well come as a surprise to many that being honoured as the Ontario Equestrian Federation (OEF) Coach of the Year last fall was a first
in her long and illustrious career.
The nomination process required to start that ball rolling was, more often than not, simply lost within the countless demands of the sport which only a
handful truly understand.
But coming off far and away her most successful season as a rider, 14 year old Leah Blanchette felt compelled to add this process to her teenage
“to do” list, recognizing the contribution of the woman who allowed her to reach her goal of competing at the Royal Horse Show last November.
First introduced to horse riding and Inch at the tender age of seven, Blanchette began with “school horses”, eventually graduating to her very own pony.
“You want a more experienced horse for a younger rider,” Blanchette said.
“It’s a surprise how much work riding can be, especially looking after the horse. And you need lots of discipline – you can’t just ride once a week and
expect to be good.” Noted for her outstanding equitation skills, Blanchette remained within the top 12 on the “A” Circuit Shows, capping her run with a
strong showing in her inaugural visit to the Royal.
“I knew she could pull it off - I was really pleased with her results,” Inch said. “She was right there, basically, where she qualified.” Competing
against roughly 80 to 90 riders across the province for one of 12 spots available in Toronto, Blanchette and Inch teamed to perfection.
“Leah’s strength is also her weakness,” Inch said. “She’s a very soft rider, she never challenges the horse – she rides the horses that have a lot of
forward go quite well. She’s very calm and quiet on the morning before she shows, and it’s great – when everything is going well, she rides these horses
Yet those who know Cathy Inch quite well acknowledge her on-going push and determination to constantly take it to the next level, always looking to
improve her riders.
“Her problem becomes creating energy in the “dead heads” – she needs to learn the skill to create more horse underneath her. We are working with Leah
and her ability to create “impulsion”, which is really to focus the energy of her horse,” Inch said.
And with literally a lifetime spent in the horsing industry, as a rider, coach and countless other facets, Inch possesses the ability to provide valuable
input. In fact, she is one of the few Level 3 high-end jump coaches in the country.
“What’s different in this sport to other sports is that most of us, as riders and coaches, are still trying to make a living off all the other things you
have to do to keep your head above water,” said Inch. Yet the constant demands are shelved, at least temporarily, as Inch looks to help Blanchette and
others achieve their goals.
For the young rider, the summer of 2011 brings along a new horse, less experienced but with plenty of potential. “There’s lots for me to still learn, so
on a younger horse, it will still help me,” said Blanchette.
“I need to fix my positioning, make it better, and get a connection on the ride.” In this part of the province, with travel, accommodation and stable
costs to attend shows across Ontario being somewhat prohibitive, being a strong rider becomes paramount.
“Northern Ontario riders have to be good riders – because of the high costs to attend shows, many in the north will save money on cost of the horse,”
said Inch. “They do well because they are good riders on medium horses.”
Still active as a rider, Inch acknowledged the physical toll that accompanies trying to prepare young horses for new owners and riders in the Sudbury
area. “It would be nice to have a nice young junior coach, coming up underneath me who doesn’t just coach, but that’s a good rider,” she said.
“I could put them on all the tough horses and start them in the ring.” Still, even a short conversation with this passionate rider and coach leaves
little doubt that the positives far outweigh the negatives.
“My coaching milestones are moreso that every time a kid leaves here, that they are happy with what they’ve done.” And Cathy Inch didn’t need a “Coach
of the Year” award to let her know she has accomplished that ten-fold.