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Delivering a new equestrian training experience

  • 6 Min Read

sportscotland provides easy access to equestrian coaching training through a new learning experience powered by D2L Brightspace.



  • D2L Brightspace
  • Multimedia including video and audio
  • Rubrics
  • Administrative task automation


  • Fiona Rawson, education and development manager, horsescotland
  • Richard Johnston-Smith, director of coaching, horsescotland


  • Flexible training access for a dispersed set of learners
  • Improved affordability by reducing the need to travel to training
  • Exciting new ways for learners to gather evidence for assessment
  • Administrators supported through task automation


sportscotland is the national agency for sport in Scotland, UK. As a partner of sportscotland, horsescotland is the governing body for equestrian sports, with coaching certification one of its primary activities. In 2021, horsescotland implemented D2L Brightspace to make learning more convenient for equestrian coaching candidates.

D2L’s Brightspace has totally modernised our approach to coaching qualifications. It has made our qualifications a lot more flexible, user-friendly and accessible.

Fiona Rawson, education and development manager, horsescotland 


To deliver flexible, affordable learning to geographically dispersed candidates

In 2021, sportscotland launched the Scotland Coaching Certificate. This replaced the UK Coaching Certificate which had been taught face to face and which was supported by a system learners used to upload evidence for assessment. sportscotland wanted courses for the new Certificate to address the challenges associated with teaching learners who are geographically widespread. It saw an opportunity to modernise the coaching qualification.  

“We wanted to make our coaching qualifications more accessible; to break down barriers, both in distance and accessibility,” explains Fiona Rawson, education and development manager at horsescotland. “We also wanted to take a more holistic approach so that candidates could, for example, upload evidence in whatever format suits them to present their evidence.”  

The equestrian and coaching certificate was an ideal place to start. The team recognised that facilitating learning and tuition through an online platform would increase affordability for candidates as face-to-face training involved travel and attending an equestrian centre for four days.  

“Equestrianism has always been quite expensive so anywhere we can reduce costs, whilst keeping standards high, is something we’ll look to do,” adds Fiona.  

COVID halted face to face course delivery for a time and gave the horsescotland team an insight into how online training could work. In 2021, the team would maintain the online learning momentum through the implementation of a cohesive digital learning environment. 


Feature-rich learning and convenient administration

horsescotland ran a pilot of its six-week level 1 (assistant coach) equestrian coaching course on Brightspace with five learners in 2021. In 2022, 46 candidates completed the course this way. In time, the team aims to support 100 candidates a year across levels 1 and 2.  

To get started, the team attended a webinar with its D2L customer success manager and practised designing the course in a ‘sandbox’ trial environment.  

From the outset, the team planned to add capabilities to the course as it gained more experience but nonetheless made impressive use of platform features early on to help meet learning goals.  

“The Brightspace platform offers so much,” says Richard Johnston-Smith, director of coaching at horsescotland. “We use flip cards, video and audio. From an accessibility point of view, it’s extremely helpful that candidates can upload pictures and video and voice files. We have also embedded video content, so we have demonstrations of a lead rein lesson and one on how to train someone to mount and dismount.”

Photos and videos taken on phones, uploaded via the app is massive for us. With the nature of our sport, being outside in a field or an arena, it is so much easier for candidates to gather evidence.

Fiona Rawson, education and development manager, horsescotland

Learners’ work is assessed against predefined rubrics, a framework of learning criteria for consistent marking and clear learning outcomes.  

Impressed with what the platform can do, and how it has helped the organisation meet learning challenges, the team has explored follow-on tuition to supplement its qualifications, including an introduction to coaching, managing a riding business and riding for the disabled.  

“Through the qualifications, we have the basics that candidates must do,” explains Fiona. “But we also try to whet their appetites to explore further for lifelong learning, so we give them other areas they could consider within coaching. It’s great that they can just go on and access those.”  

The team has benefited from task automation through the platform for these single-module courses, freeing up staff time to focus on other activities. “Once candidates are set up, they complete the courses, and get their certificates,” says Fiona. “It’s all automated on the singular modules. We’re a small governing body so that’s a massive benefit for us.” 

The team plans to evolve its courses and offerings through half-yearly and annual reviews designed to reveal opportunities to enhance and improve. In this, it values the capability to tweak and refine courses, as and when required, without disrupting candidates by copying the core course shells, adjusting and putting to live. When courses were paper based, the team had to keep a log of required changes and wait until course end to make the alterations.


Game-changing digital learning 

horsescotland successfully created a learning environment through Brightspace that can provide cost-effective, convenient training to dispersed learners. The team is now advising sportscotland and other organisations on how they too can benefit from an online learning environment.  

Delivering learning in this way has been a gamechanger for learners who often manage yards or stables and struggle to spend days away to attend face-to-face courses. It has also helped contain costs for both horsescotland and its learners as Fiona explains: “Our level 1 qualification involved four days, face to face, and we had to hire an equestrian centre. With online learning, we only pay for equestrian centres and our workforce to travel for two full day practicals, which is more sustainable for the environment and cuts costs for candidates as well.”  

The pilot course was deliberately tested with a range of candidates to get a broad spectrum of views. “All the feedback we had from the learners was very positive,” says Fiona.   

“Brightspace absolutely delivers everything we need it to,” Richard adds. “Walking around a centre or arena, I will say to candidates, ‘take a picture of the Fire Safety sign, take one of the fire extinguisher’. They can learn and record as they go.” 

Brightspace has revolutionised how we deliver courses, how learners are assessed and the ease with which they can access courses.

Richard Johnston-Smith, director of coaching

horsescotland wanted to improve course access for its geographically dispersed learners, some of whom would struggle to take days out of their schedule to attend face-to-face training. It succeeded in providing flexible, inclusive learning through the Brightspace-enabled online environment. The digital approach has opened up new and innovative ways for learners to learn and demonstrate their progress including through video and audio files.   

Discover Brightspace for member training, visit 

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