What is Continued Professional Development (CPD)?

There is often confusion about what constitutes CPD and what professional bodies will recognise as CPD. The following guidance will not focus on specific organisational requirements, but aim to clarify the range of CPD open to coaches and hopefully provide a clear framework for planning and selecting appropriate CPD.

If we start with the basic premise that the aim of CPD is to ensure professional development and professional competence is fit for purpose in a constantly evolving work place. The understanding is that once qualified, there is a need to ensure coaches have the skills, knowledge and behaviours that are appropriate and capable of meeting the demands of the workplace and will contribute to coaches thriving in their professional role. By engaging in CPD, coaches can ensure that existing qualifications don’t become obsolete. 

One of the challenges in selecting CPD is identifying what’s relevant and what will be most helpful, given the work environment and needs of clients. Like any industry, equine coaching is constantly evolving and unveiling new learning and understanding. It can be a struggle to find out what you don’t know and compounded by finding time to search for training and learning options that may be relevant to specific coaching contexts.

What makes effective CPD?

Rather than being passive and reactive, CPD requires coaches to take an active and conscious decision about what they need and want, to maintain professionalism and potentially progress their career. Actively seeking out and selecting learning opportunities shows a commitment to self-development and professionalism.  

CPD can include a range of formats; on-line learning, attendance at conferences, training sessions, seminars, qualifications, reading a book, listening to a podcast having a professional discussion, receiving mentoring and so on. The critical requirements for effectiveness of CPD is that it:

  • Has clear learning outcomes ie. you will be clear about what you will know/be able to do at the end of the learning.
  • The coach is able to identify the learning they have taken from being engaged in the CPD
  • The coach can identify how the learning will impact on their professional practice.


The power of any CPD is the impact that it will have on practice, the format of how learning is delivered is not a guide for being more or less impactful.

What CPD should coaches be required to achieve over a period of time?

CPD should build a portfolio that covers all areas identified as important to coaching effectiveness. This has been defined by Cote J and Gilbert W (2013) as being the integration of coaches’ knowledge and athlete outcomes in different coaching contexts. The knowledge areas have been defined as; professional knowledge, inter-personal knowledge and intra-personal knowledge. The British Equestrian Federation have taken this work and use it as a framework, for guiding the selection of CPD. In the BEF model, the ‘professional knowledge’ has been broken down to knowledge of the; equine and knowledge of the sport and rider.

The table below, identifies and describes the four key knowledge areas that support on-going coach development and gives an example of the associated topics and subjects.

 Over a period of time coaches should strive to have a balance of CPD across all four areas, this is also something supported in the BEF coaching strategy which confirms; “We believe that to develop well- balanced coaches, CPD should cover four key areas”.  

CPD stages

The CPD stages are a simple set of logical and systematic steps to follow. There are five key stages that are important when planning your professional development for the year or three years.

The CPD Cycle stages are:

Stage 1 - Identifying Your Needs - The first CPD step relates to the process of identifying the skills and knowledge needed to help meet your goals or aspirations. Completing a simple self-assessment or needs analysis can help you identify areas that you are interested in pursuing, gaps between where you are now and where you might want to be operating as a coach.  This is often a good exercise to conduct with a colleague or mentor.

Stage 2 - Planning - Once you have identified areas that want to develop, the next steps are to create a set of specific objectives that help you breakdown and decide which activities and subjects would support your overall development objectives. Then you will need to look at how you will source the knowledge or skills, this might be through a course, finding appropriate resources or literature, hooking up with another professional that has the expertise you are seeking, employing a mentor etc.

Stage 3 - Acting/Doing – Clearly the next step is to engage in learning activities and maximise your exposure to the learning by; staying focussed, ensuring you are prepared and ready to learn, leaving things that might get in the way at the door to learning.

Stage 4 - Reflecting on your learning - Once any learning has been completed, it is important to reflect on the impact and your learning.

The reflection stage should help to highlight 

“What did I learn?

How has my knowledge/skills/behaviours changed or improved?

How does this learning relate to my coaching context and the participants I work with?

What can I put into practice?

Reflection like this can really help to make the most of any learning activity.

Stage 5 - Implement your new learning - The final stages of the CPD Cycle is to apply new knowledge/skills/behaviours to your existing workplace and reflect once more on How is this working in practice? 



Gilbert W, Cote J (2013) Defining Coaching Effectiveness. Routledge Handbook of Sports Coaching. ISBN: 9780415782227 

British Equestrian Federation (2019) Equestrian Coaching; Culture, Clarity, Profile and Value 2020-2025.