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BECOMING AN INSTRUCTOR

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Dear CHA, I am interested in becoming a certified riding instructor specializing with beginners, children and adults. My focus would be to introduce new riders/owners to the horse with concentrations on general care and pleasure riding. I do not wish to train people for hunting, jumping, racing, eventing, etc., just basic pleasure riding. Though I have owned and ridden horses for most of my 37 years, I have not taken formal lessons or competed in any of the common disciplines. I have three older horses (16,18, 20) two of who are excellent school-horse candidates. I have "unofficially" been an instructor for years having given advice, tips, training, and general information to friends and neighbors just beginning with horses. My questions are many, but I'll start with the basics:

1. Does one need recorded experience/training to become certified and instruct?

2. Will a CHA certification help validate my instructor resume?

3. Where, when, and for how much is the certification offered? I'm in SE Tennessee.

4. What other recommendations would you make to someone considering becoming an instructor?

5. What are common rates/tuitions charged and is there any money to be made at this?

6. Are there lots of lawsuits in this profession and how would I manage liability? I would appreciate your advice.

Thanks, Gina

Dear Gina,

Thanks for stating your questions so clearly, and I'll just tackle them one at a time.

1. Does one need recorded experience/training to become certified and instruct? No. Practical experience certainly helps (and it sounds like you have plenty) but there is no requirement that you must document your experience, except if you are applying for certification as a disabilities instructor.

2. Will a CHA certification help validate my instructor resume? CHA certification is recognized nationally be insurance companies, employers and even customers. Since we are the largest and oldest certifying organization (and the only non-profit certifying body), CHA certification is very widely recognized. It certainly lends credibility to your resume and your insurance co. should offer a discount. Certification is a third-party, objective opinion that you are qualified to do what you do.

3. Where, when, and for how much is the certification offered? I'm in SE Tennessee. One of our best sites is near Nashville TN at a place called Sycamore Hills. I believe they are charging about $525 for the clinic, which includes meals and lodging, all books, equipment and horses, and all the certification fees. Clinics are held all over the US and Canada, you can check out what other host sites we have by looking at the website clinic schedule. Some sites offer housing, some do not. All "standard" clinics offer English and Western certification at all four levels and the price includes use of horses and equipment, manuals, certification fees and first calendar year membership. The prices of clinics vary across the country, ranging from $450 to $600.

4. What other recommendations would you make to someone considering becoming an instructor? It sounds like you have everything in place. Certification will certainly give you the credibility and confidence you need to plunge ahead. Look into liability insurance. The type of insurance you can get will vary with whether or not you own the facility. If you look in the back of just about any horse magazine, you can find information on insurance. You will minimally need Commercial Equine Liability. You'll also want to make sure your facility is up to standards in terms of arena size and construction, policies and procedures and horse records. CHA's Standards for Group Riding Programs outlines recommended safety standards for group riding programs.

5. What are common rates/tuitions charged and is there any money to be made at this? Do you mean what an instructor charges for lessons? That varies greatly with locale and the ability of the instructor. An average rate would be $25 for a lesson, maybe a little less for group lessons. There is lots of opportunity in this industry right now. The horse industry is very healthy and growing. Many fine facilities are looking for qualified and certified instructors and program managers.

6. Are there lots of lawsuits in this profession and how would I manage liability? Yes, hence the comments on insurance above. However, I used to just think I was lucky, but I now know that knowledge, experience and careful planning helps avoid incidents. I know of many large operations that rarely have even minor incidents, while some small operations have had terrible accidents. To a degree, it is a high-risk sport, but good safety awareness helps more than people realize. That is what CHA is all about. The state you live in may or may not have statutes that reduce the liability in the equine business. Attending a CHA clinic will provide you with more information on risk reduction and safety awareness. A knowledgeable, experienced and conscientious professional incurs much less risk. In short, there is lots of opportunity in this business, but lots of risk too. You won't get rich but you may be able to pay for a more enjoyable lifestyle. Good luck to you and I can tell already that you will be successful by the way you are thinking things through.