By Rick Pusiak
Northern Life's Coach of the Year for 2001 is a 19-year-old commerce and administration student at Laurentian University who enjoys the competitive thrill of horseback riding and mentoring young riders.
Ingrid Mackin got the riding bug when her mother enrolled her in lessons at Wagon Wheel Ranch in Hanmer when she was just seven.
It wasn't too long before she got into competition and focused on English riding.
That particular side of the sport involves not only running and jumping over a set course but "flat riding" where a judge examines the movement of the horse and position of the rider.
Like other young riders, Mackin started at local shows, then rose up through the ranks to novice and intermediate events where the jumps got higher, the competition tougher?and the judges pickier.
As her own skills were developing, Mackin took great pleasure in sharing her knowledge as a coach.
"I just started with the younger kids," says the coach of the year.
"They'd ask me "do you have any pointers" or "can you give any tips". I had a really nice quiet horse, so I'd put them on my horse and show them a few things, and it just led from that."
When parents started to ask Mackin to give their children lessons, she figured it would be a good idea to get certified by the Canadian Equestrian Federation.
Coaches have to perform at a certain level. Mackin was evaluated by federation officials at a farm in Newmarket this past September. The actual testing followed in October and lasted a full weekend.
"When I went for my Level 1 test I had to jump a course and I had to ride a dressage test - walk, trot, canter - all three paces," says Mackin.
"Then (officials) watched me teach a lesson, they had to see me bandage the horses legs. They have to make sure your safety is good around the horses."
Federation officials know certified coaches will be training other people and they want to make sure everything is done to the letter.
General Level 1 English Coach status means Mackin can teach beginners and novice riders. She's thinking about working toward Level 2.
Mackin was nominated for Coach of the Year by one of her students, Kacee Courchesne. The 17-year-old has been riding under Mackin's mentorship for more than five years.
"At the horse shows that Ingrid attends along with her students, she takes time from her own preparations to coach and thoroughly prepare us for each class," says Courchesne.
"Altogether, Ingrid and her students, including myself, won high-point year-end awards in 11 classes on our local summer show circuit. She helped me in achieving my personal goal of winning all four show-jumping classes.
"Although winning is fun, she instills in us a firm belief in sportsmanship and humane treatment of our equine partners. Ingrid believes that winning is not everything, that it is the effort that you put into your performance that should make you proud."
She also noted Mackin volunteers countless hours to the Valleyview Pony Club where she lectures on a variety of horse-related topics.
"Ingrid has guided me and helped shape me into the horsewoman I am today," says Courchesne.
"(She) will always be by my side to encourage and support me in my endeavours. I believe she has proved herself worthy as Coach of the Year, and I hope you see this too."
While Courchesne wrote the nomination letter, she probably got a nod of approval from Cheyenne, Rascal and Dream. They're Mackin's three horses and three good pals. Mackin explained that when you're horseriding you're working with another living athlete.
"You really have to be a team," says Mackin.
"You're not working by yourself and it's not your own goal. It's the goal of you and the other athlete, your horse.
"It's a lot of practice, you have to come to an understanding with your horse. You have to understand his limits and you can't expect too much...you really have to work together and figure each other out, then go out and just perform your heart out."
The Coach of the Year receives a $200 gift certificate from Play It Again Sports, a plaque and a pizza party.
Northern Life will publish Coach of the Year nomination letters in Friday's issue.