Riding in a Program, Part 2

Last week, we looked at the basics of riding in a program. This week I’d like to discuss riding to a curriculum. Generally, students riding to a curriculum are riding in a national-level program that will either result in an association certification or help them level up in a standardized lesson program. Both are generally very detailed and specific in the skills you must master, and for this reason demand a high level of dedication and practice to pass the tests associated with the curriculum.

Some examples of national-level programs using standardized curriculum include:

  • Certified Horsemanship Association (CHA)
  • American Riding Instructions Association (ARIA)
  • British Horse Society (BHS)
  • United States Hunter/Jumper Association Trainer Certification Program (USHJA TCP)
  • United States Eventing Association Instructor Certification Program (USEA ICP)
  • United States Dressage Federation Instructor/Trainer Program (USDF ITP)
  • Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship, International (PATH, International)
  • Pony Club
  • 4-H
  • Parelli Natural Horsemanship
  • Monty Roberts International Learning Center
  • Lyons Certification Program

So why would anyone want to participate in a national-level program? The reasons can vary from personal aspirations and goals to professional certifications and accolades. Whatever the reason, before signing up for a national-level program, there are some things you need to consider.


A national-level program will be an investment. You will need to take lessons from either a certified instructor or someone you trust to be able to interpret and teach the curriculum well. You will also need to invest in the association providing the curriculum, as well as the clinics and tests required to pass the associations skill sets. It is not a small investment, so you will need to decide if the monetary commitment is worth the outcome.


Certification programs and standardized lesson programs are also come with a time commitment. You may spend months or even years working your way through the program. Some programs may require that you spend some time on site with your horse, which means taking time away from your family, job, and regular life. Certain tests may only be available a few times each year, and so scheduling for those tests must be considered in your long-term planning.


Certifications will usually require that you ride and demonstrate your skills in front of a judge or panel.

Personal Commitment

It is no small thing to commit to getting a professional certification or passing skills test on an amateur level. You will need to invest a great deal of energy and effort into learning the skills as the association wants you to, practicing those skills, and applying them practically to your everyday interactions with your horse. Other casual plans may have to go on hold in order to focus on following the curriculum and complete the course in a timely manner.


Despite the level of commitment required to complete a national-level program, those that sign up for them believe they are worth it. Certainly, this kind of dedication and discipline is not for everyone, but for those that enjoy having structure or believe that they could benefit from a professional certification will find a national-level program worth the investment. Following a national-level curriculum should mean that you will be following tried and trusted course material that will clearly lay out the skills you need to learn. It will also provide a logical system for progressing your education, expanding your skill sets, and stringing all the skills together. You should be able to feel confident in your instruction and your growing ability to work with your horse.

For professionals, certifications can mean increased business, increased income, and increased recognition. A professional certification should indicate to clients that you have invested time into learning certain skills and safety protocols that will benefit them. It should also indicate that your chosen association has recognized your efforts and mastery of skills to a professional standard. Keeping these certifications current means that you value ongoing education and are aware of current issues and events within the broader equine industry.


Many people consider earning ribbons at shows an acceptable replacement for investing in certification. However, the money invested in horse shows could be redirected at certifications. What do you think?

In the United States, professional certification are not required. Many certification programs are very expensive and may require professionals to put their work on hold. For these reasons, many professionals in this country do not seek out certification, myself included. Certification programs are also not widely advertized or represented to young potential professionals as a means to improve their skills and marketability. I would like to see more emphasis placed on educating the public about certification options, and ways to fund the certification process. Scholarships and apprenticeships would be a good step. I did not know anything about certification options when I began working professionally in the equine industry. Now, many organizations offer quality certification programs and I intend to invest in at least one of those programs. It is one of my long-range goals in a five year plan. You may wonder why I am not committing to one today. The answer is time and money. I will need to build savings in order to invest in even one of these certifications, and I will need to be able to dedicate my time and best efforts into learning the curriculum and being able to pass the tests.

How do you all feel about national-level programs? What programs are you involved with? Would you like to see the industry support more professional certifications?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s