For any riding instructor, the idea of getting certified in your area of expertise no doubt crosses your mind now and then. But even for industry veterans—and certainly for new instructors—the virtual alphabet soup of certification options can be confusing.
Here’s a look at the details of eight instructor-certification programs.
American Association for Horsemanship Safety (AAHS)
Levels and requirements: Applicants undergo a five-day clinic with teaching, testing, riding, and education.
Assistant: “Assistant” preceding any category of AAHS certification indicates additional experience is needed before being completely responsible for mounted riders. Must score a minimum of 70 percent on the exam.
Equestrian Safety Supervisor: Non-riding supervisory certification designed for those wishing to be able to evaluate their programs or assist with non-mounted activities, such as camp directors and facility owners. Must be at least 21 years old and pass the exam with a 75 percent minimum score.
Safety Certified Trail Guide: Must be 18 years old and score 75 percent on the exam. Trail Guides are not certified to be responsible for lessons.
Safety Certified Head Wrangler: Must be 21 years old and score 75 percent on the exam, including 100 percent on the trail ride section. Applicants may take a two-day clinic that excludes material not related to trail riding, safety, barn management, and relevant liability issues.
Safety Certified Riding Instructor—Basic: Must be a minimum of 18 years old and score 80 percent on the exam, including 100 percent on the skills section.
Safety Certified Full Riding Instructor: Must be a minimum of 21 years old, score at least 80 percent on the exam, including 100 percent on the secure seat skills section, and have at least three years of professional teaching experience.
Cost: $450-$750, depending on the clinic location.
Recertification: every three years.
Contact: www.horsemanshipsafety.com, 1-866-485-6800.
American Riding Instructors Certification Program (ARICP)
Disciplines: Distance riding, endurance and competitive; dressage; driving; eventing; hunt seat; mounted patrol training officer; recreational riding; reining; riding to hounds; saddle seat; show jumping; side-saddle; stable management; western, pleasure and equitation
Levels and requirements: Applicants complete a questionnaire and take written and oral exams.
Level I, Instructor in Training: Minimum of 18 years old. Must pass all written tests with an average score of 80 or above.
Level II, Instructor of Beginner through Intermediate: Minimum of 21 years old with three years of teaching experience. Must pass all exams with an average overall score of 85 or above. Must pass video evaluation for Level II.
Level III, Instructor of Beginner through Advanced: Minimum of 25 years old with six years of teaching experience. Must pass all exams with scores of 90 or above and pass video evaluation for Level III.
Cost: $595 for testing; $200 to re-take the exams.
Recertification: Renewal of certification each year with a $95 fee or $750 for lifetime renewal. Recertification required every five years.
Contact: www.riding-instructor.com, (239) 948-3232.
British Horse Society
Disciplines: English riding, groom, and stable manager.
Locations: Delaware Valley College in Doylestown, Pa., and Grand Cypress Equestrian Center in Orlando, Fla., are the only approved exam centers in the U.S.
BHS Stages Examinations 1-4: Riding and horse care and management. Candidates may take riding and care portions separately.
BHS Grooms Certificate: Awarded to candidates passing the Stage 3 “Care” exam.
BHS Intermediate Stable Managers Certificate: Awarded to those passing the Stage 4 “Care” exam.
BHS Preliminary Teaching Test (PTT): Minimum of 18 years old and with BHS Stage 2 certification.
BHS Assistant Instructor Certificate: Awarded for completing the PTT, BHS Stage 3 exam, and requires teaching experience.
BHS Intermediate Teaching Test: Minimum of 20 years of age, with BHS Preliminary Teaching Test and first aid certification, and completion of required teaching experience.
BHS Intermediate Instructor (BHSII) Certificate: Awarded for completion of Intermediate Teaching Test and Stage 4 certificate.
BHS Instructor (BHSI) Certificate: Awarded when candidates pass the BHS Equitation and Teaching Exam and the BHS Stable Managers Exam. Must be at least 22 years old and hold the BHSII certificate.
Fellowship of the British Horse Society (FBHS): Must be at least 25 years old and hold the BHSI Certificate.
Cost: £244-£266 ($496-$540), depending on the level.
Contact: www.bhs.org.uk, 011-44-08701-202244.
Discipline: Centered Riding
Levels and requirements: Minimum of 18 years old is recommended. Applicants should have taught riding for a minimum of one year and have ridden in at least one Centered Riding Open Clinic as a student rider in a Centered Riding Instructors’ Course or Update Clinic, or have a recommendation from a Level III or IV Centered Riding Instructor.
Level I: Has completed the Centered Riding Instructor Course and demonstrates safe teaching practices.
Level II: Has been a Level I instructor for a minimum of two years, participated in a minimum of two Update Clinics, and received letters of recommendation from a minimum of two Level IV instructors.
Level III: Has been a Level II instructor for a minimum of two years, participated in a minimum of two Update Clinics, and received letters of recommendation from a minimum of two Level IV instructors.
Level IV Apprentice: Is a Level III instructor apprenticing with at least two Level IV instructors. Must assist at a minimum of 38 clinic days, which must include an Instructors’ Course and an Update Clinic. May take one to two years to complete the apprenticeship.
Level IV: Has successfully completed an apprenticeship with at least two Level IV instructors or with Sally Swift.
Cost: varies based on the clinician organizer and instructor.
Recertification: must maintain annual membership. Recertification requirements vary, based on how long the instructor has held a Centered Riding designation.
Contact: www.centeredriding.org, (610) 754-0633.
Certified Horsemanship Association (CHA)
Disciplines: English and western Standard Instructor Certification (80% of CHA certifications are in these areas), trail guide, riders with disabilities, seasonal equestrian staff, equine facility manager, and recreational vaulting.
Levels and requirements: Levels vary based on the discipline. An applicant’s performance is judged during a week-long certification clinic, including teaching group lessons, riding, workshop participation, and completing oral and written exams.
Assistant Instructor: Qualified to assist in a lesson or trail ride under the supervision of a certified instructor. Minimum of 16 years old.
Level One Instructor: Qualified to provide foundational instruction to beginners with emphasis on safety and group control. Minimum of 18 years old.
Level Two Instructor: Qualified to improve all aspects of the first level and progressing through canter/lope, including diagonals, balance of horse and rider, pre-jumping exercises, western patterns, and trail riding. Minimum of 18 years old.
Level Three Instructor: Qualified to coach students in improving form, style, and understanding of the natural aids, including basic jumping, school figures, and leads, with a greater emphasis on horsemanship theory and horse care. Minimum of 18 years old.
Level 4 Instructor: Qualified to improve the performance of advanced riders and their horses, including jumping courses, dressage movements, reining, and other performance events, advanced horse management, and horsemanship theory. Minimum of 18 years old.
Master Instructor: Qualified in Level 4, both English and Western.
Cost: $500-$750, depending on the certification clinic host. Cost includes CHA’s manuals.
Recertification: Certified instructors must maintain CHA membership and recertify every three years.
North American Riding for the Handicapped Association (NARHA)
Disciplines: Therapeutic riding and driving.
Levels and requirements: Minimum of 18 years old. Application includes documentation of teaching hours, first aid and CPR certification, and educational program progress.
Registered: Able to conduct a safe, effective lesson to individuals with disabilities. Instructors can be certified through a NARHA-approved training course or with a combination of online and on-site education and testing.
Advanced: Knowledgeable in horse mastership; understands disabilities and their relationships to therapeutic riding. Instructors can be certified via a NARHA-approved training course or through hands-on evaluation and written examinations at a NARHA Advanced On-Site Certification location.
Master: Has a strong background in horsemanship and thorough knowledge of disabilities and their relationship to therapeutic riding.
Driving Instructor, Level I or II: Instructors are certified at a four-day testing through hands-on evaluation in teaching and driving skills and written examinations based on the NARHA Driving Instructor Criteria.
Cost: $600 for Advanced and Driving levels; $55 plus educational and testing fees for Registered Level; contact NARHA for Master Level cost.
Recertification: Maintain annual membership and submit signed NARHA Instructor Code of Ethics, documentation of continuing education hours, and documentation of current Adult/Child CPR and First Aid certification.
Contact: www.narha.org, 1-800-369-7433.
United States Dressage Federation (USDF) Instructor/Trainer Certification Program
Levels and requirements: USDF recommends applicants complete the Instructor Workshop series first, followed by Pre-Certification. The application requires first-aid certification, submission of riding scores from both the rider and students, and letters of recommendation.
Associate Instructor: Completed the USDF workshop series, but has not yet been tested.
Recognized Teacher—Training through Second Level: Tested on information necessary to teach through Second Level, including teaching two private lessons and a group lesson, lungeing one horse and one rider, and written and oral exams. Must pass each section with a score of at least 80 percent.
Certified Instructor/Trainer—Training through Second Level: Tested on information necessary to teach and train through Second Level, including riding two horses, teaching two private lessons and a group lesson, lungeing one horse and one rider, and written and oral exams.
Recognized Teacher—Third through Fourth Level: Tested on information necessary to teach through Fourth Level, including teaching two private lessons and a group lesson, lungeing one horse and one rider, and written and oral exams. Must pass each section with a score of at least 80 percent.
Certified Instructor/Trainer—Third through Fourth Level: Tested on information necessary to teach and train through Fourth Level, including riding two horses, teaching two private lessons and a group lesson, lungeing one horse and one rider, and written and oral exams.
Cost: Average workshop cost is $350 per workshop and pre-certification. Test fees vary from $325 to $600, based on the level of certification and if they are re-testing sessions.
Recertification: No recertification. All certified instructors must maintain current USDF Participating Membership, be current on their annual fee, and provide information on continuing education.
Contact: www.usdf.org, (859) 971-2277.
United States Eventing Association (USEA) Instructor Certification Program
Levels and requirements: Those seeking certification must attend a USEA teaching workshop for their level and submit proof of CPR/first aid training and state child abuse clearance. They should have or have had at least three students competing at the high end of the level for which they seek certification. Certifications are awarded after an assessment of three lessons, a written exam, and a hands-on exam.
Level I, Novice: Instructors of riders through Novice.
Level I, Training: Instructors of riders through Training.
Level II: Instructors of riders through Preliminary, CIC*, Training Level Three-Day Event Test, CCI*.
Level III: Instructors of riders through Intermediate, CIC**, CCI**.
Level IV: Instructors of riders through Advanced, CIC***, CCI***.
Level V: Instructors of riders through CCI****.
Cost: Contact USEA.
Recertification: Contact USEA.
Contact: www.useventing.org, (703) 779-0440.