I am certified in CHA Level 3 English and Level 2 Western. My goal is to become a certified Master Instructor. I am wondering if you have any advice as to how I could acquire the necessary skills in order to accomplish this goal. My current employment in the horse industry is as the head of a YMCA summer camp horseback program. Any suggestions that you have would be greatly appreciated.
One final question for you: Do you think it would be beneficial for me to audit CHA clinics or other horse clinics in preparation for achieving my goal?
The biggest factors that inhibit a person’s ability to attain a higher level of certification is a lack of personal riding skills (you must be able to ride above the level that you are certified to teach), an inability to address upper level riding theory in lessons and the inability to give timely and meaningful corrections to the riders as it applies to position and the timing and application of the aids. It takes a lot of experience teaching upper level riders to achieve these skills.
You need to find a way to teach some upper level lessons, which you probably do not have a lot of at the YMCA. Perhaps you could either take on some private clients (perhaps go to their own barns) or freelance at another facility. If you look in your CHA Composite manual at level four, it will give you an idea of the types of lessons you'll need to be able to teach. Mostly, what we are looking for at that level is that you can instruct your students safely on the theory behind the skill, precisely how and when to use the aids to accomplish the particular maneuver, that you are forthcoming with position corrections throughout your lessons and that the lesson has a lot of application (in other words, the riders get to practice a lot).
A great way to practice making timely corrections to riders is to go to a horse show or some other large gathering of riders and sit on the sidelines making corrections (to yourself) for each rider as he/she comes by. For instance, eyes up, sit back, heels down, leg too far forward, back hollowed out, hands too high, etc. This will help you develop an eye for corrections and let you practice rolling them off your tongue. Most people find it easy to make corrections on beginner and intermediate riders, but when you are teaching the upper levels in a CHA clinic, the riders will be instructed to ride as themselves so the corrections may be more difficult to detect and they will be real-life corrections.
As for teaching upper level skills, first you must master the skill yourself (all of the skills in each level) then practice teaching it to someone else. Most people at higher levels of riding have learned that it is one thing to be able to perform a skill, but it is a whole different ballgame to be able to communicate that skill to someone else in a manner that they can understand and learn from. Taking higher-level lessons yourself will definitely help.
Auditing a CHA clinic is a great way to prepare for certification. If possible, try to determine if there will be participants at the clinic teaching at a higher level. If it is a very low level clinic, it may not be very useful for you. Going to other types of clinics might be beneficial to you in your personal horse handling skills, but would not help you much in preparing for certification; in fact, it could hurt you as there are some definite safety issues in some horse clinics that would not be tolerated in a CHA clinic.