CHA Award Winners Recognized at International Conference

Deserving award winners were honored at the 2019 Certified Horsemanship Association International Conference in New York.

Certified Horsemanship Association (CHA) members, instructors and speakers gathered in Houghton, New York, October 24-27, to participate in the yearly CHA International Conference. During the three days attendees engaged in networking, expanded their knowledge over a variety of equine topics, and honored the highly anticipated award winners.

The first award recipient to be honored during Friday night’s banquet was the 2019 CHA Volunteer of the Year. The coveted award that recognizes the countless hours and dedication CHA volunteers spend changing lives through safe experiences with horses went to Aimee Edwards from Waco, Texas. Amy has been a member since 1996, was certified in 1997, became a standard English/Western Clinician in 2011 and an Equine Facilities Manager in 2017. Those nominating Aimee for this award described her as “a dedicated professional” and that “She runs a wonderful facility and is liked as well as respected by her staff.” Others went on to say, “This person goes above and beyond to help CHA not only as a host site coordinator, an instructor, and a clinician for us, but also putting our monthly eblast together and sending it out each month.”

CHA Certifiers are vital in order to continue growing the association and accomplishing our mission. The CHA Certifier of the Year Award is reserved for someone who has shown outstanding service to CHA by conducting meaningful certifications and influencing the careers of equine professionals over many years. This year’s award was given to Andrea Richardson from Brantford, Ontario. Andrea became a CHA member and certified instructor in 2004 and later became a certifier in 2006. Described as “a strong advocate for training staff and running safe programs” and “she is very invested in setting people up for success and encouraging confidence in certification participants” it is easy to see how she was chosen as the award recipient.

Often described as the life blood of the association, individual certified instructors undoubtedly play a key role in the success of the association and its mission. Earning the title of 2019 CHA Instructor of the Year was Celia Bunge from the Miami International Riding Club in Miami, Florida. Nominated by her students and recognized by her peers this year’s winner was described as fair, consistent, hard-working, and empathetic. Other descriptions included things such as, “what makes her stand out is her amazing ability to adapt to each rider’s needs, while processing the gift to read and anticipate each horse’s behavior” and “She loves the horse first and the sport second. She is a confidence builder in us all.”

After receiving her award Celia had this to say, “I would not have ever imagined that I could be the recipient of such extraordinary recognition. I promise to keep on going, striving for excellence and safety in our sport. Working hard to make horses a part of more and more people, because horses truly transform lives. They have transformed our lives, and they have introduced us to so many amazing and good people like yourself, and to groups and organizations that exemplify what service to others really looks like.”

The CHA Distinguished Service Award is a lifetime achievement award for an individual who has gone above and beyond through the years promoting and upholding the mission of the association. Throughout the years the 2019 recipient, Susanne Valla from Mocksville, North Carolina, has worked tirelessly on a wide variety of CHA projects including serving on the board, committees, and in executive offices for many years. Described as a mentor for many new board members and clinic staff over the years her leadership abilities are undeniable. She also used her artistic talents to designs many of CHA’s manuals and our logo and is known for her knowledge of the association and its history.

Susanne, a CHA Life Member, has been involved with CHA since 1978. A past president of the board, she served on the board of directors through 2011. She has been a clinician since 2011 and has conducted 31 certifications as of this year.

For a complete list of past award winners, visit . For more information about the next CHA International Conference, please visit .

CHA Equine Professionals Change Lives Through Safe Experiences with Horses. The purpose of CHA is to promote excellence in safety and education for the benefit of the equine industry. CHA certifies equine professionals, accredits equestrian facilities, publishes educational manuals, produces educational horsemanship DVDs, webinars and video horsemanship safety shorts, and hosts regional and international conferences. For more information on the largest certifying body of riding instructors and barn managers in North America, Certified Horsemanship Association, please visit or call 859-259-3399. To find a certified equine professional or accredited equine facility near you, visit






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