Whether you consider yourself a top-level equine professional or you are just getting started teaching riding lessons, there is one organization that can do so much for you and your business, while helping keep your students safer. That organization is the Certified Horsemanship Association (CHA). As the largest certifying organization in North America, CHA has certified over 28,000 individuals since its beginning 49 years ago.
The organization currently serves around 3,500 active members, which includes individual members and equine program members such as universities, colleges, trail ride operations, breed and discipline barns, non-profits, equine businesses, associations, and others in the horse industry. Its Why Statement sums up what makes the organization great—“CHA changes lives through safe experiences with horses.” It does this by promoting excellent horsemanship through safety and education, which benefits the horse industry as a whole.
One of the 28,000 certified instructors and a CHA advocate is Carla Wennberg, who is an instructor and IHSA equestrian team coach at St. Andrews University in Laurinburg, North Carolina. Already an accomplished and credentialed equine professional, Wennberg was named the 2008 AQHA Professional Horsewoman of the Year and the 2012 IHSA Sportsmanship Coach of the Year. She has been a judge for the American Quarter Horse Association, National Reining Horse Association, and National Snaffle Bit Association and an FEI steward for reining at the 2010 World Equestrian Games. Currently a reining and dressage competitor, Wennberg has earned her USDF Bronze medal.
So why would someone with so many credentials feel the need to also become CHA Certified? According to Wennberg, she was initially inspired by CHA’s CEO Christy Landwehr, CHA Vice President Anne Brzezicki, and CHA Past President Ward Stutz and others at AQHA. “The more I read and learned from CHA, I knew being the structured person I try to be, that it fit my personality and beliefs,” says Wennberg. “I have been giving lessons for over 25 years in college programs and have been taking lessons ALL my life from so many great horsemen. CHA has added more of the structure and safety to my lesson program.”
Instructors certified through CHA must attend an intensive multi-day certification clinic at a CHA-approved host site, where they must pass written tests, undergo a mounted riding evaluation, attend in-depth workshops, and teach at least four practice lessons with horses provided by the host site. They are then evaluated by two CHA clinic instructors and other attendees in five areas: safety, horsemanship knowledge and ability, teaching techniques, group control, and responsibility and professionalism.
Only if they meet CHA’s Certification Competency Guidelines are they given a certification at the discretion of the two CHA clinic instructors leading the clinic, who also determine at what level that instructor should teach. There are four levels that instructors can achieve in flatwork in English and/or Western and in jumping.
Wennberg says that she was very impressed with the certification process. “I LOVED it and found it challenging!” she says. “I loved role playing and especially loved analyzing the lessons and having feedback from head clinicians.”
St. Andrews also supported her and helped with the costs of becoming certified. “Our dean loved the idea of being certified as an instructor,” she continues. “It makes sense for so many reasons.”
Wennberg is now a CHA Master Instructor and a CHA Assistant Clinic Instructor, which means she can help certify others at CHA certification clinics. Wennberg shares her experience from hosting a clinic at St. Andrews. “As a clinician I loved it and loved evaluating and having the people in the clinic evaluate themselves,” she shares. “What a great tool. Let me tell you, not only do we work all day, but half the night! Very full week. You definitely get your money’s worth!”
Wennberg is now an advocate for CHA certification for instructors. “My advice is DO IT! If you teach, you need more of this process,” she says. “Structure and information is great. Safety thought process is invaluable. It has made me better, and I hope my students benefit.”
She finds it especially important for those teaching in college programs. “It has helped me be more organized and safer,” she shares. “Like I said, the information is there. It will help you be better than you are. Don’t we want to give our students more?”
Wennberg’s enthusiasm for CHA is obvious if you ask her about her experience. “It has been great for me, and I am so happy I took a chance and stepped into the water!”
To find a CHA instructor, visit www.CHAInstructors.com. For more information about CHA Certification, visit http://cha-ahse.org/store/pages/30/Certifications.html and http://cha-ahse.org/store/blog/What_to_Expect_During_a_CHA_Certification_Clinic.html.
Author Bio: Equestrian journalist and digital marketer Sarah Evers Conrad recently combined her love of horses and her experience in writing, editing, digital marketing, and PR when she founded All In Stride Marketing. In addition to being published in horse magazines, she is now the editor of The Instructor magazine and the official blogger for the Certified Horsemanship Association. Conrad’s career includes stints at The Horse magazine, Equestrian magazine, and as the Director of E-Communications for the United States Equestrian Federation. After three years of travel writing, she returned to the horse industry that she loves as an entrepreneur.