Julie, I read some of your Q&A's on the internet and I thought you might be able to help me. I own a nd operate a horse trail riding program and I'm thinking of adding a youth camp to the program next summer. We've done horse camps before but not while it's been under my management. Are there certain regulations or standards that must be met before opening the camp: I've recently started reading up on the CHA standards. Ive ordered a few of the manuals and look forward to attending a certification clinic soon, but my main question is with CHA itself. Are these standards simply helpful hints or are they State Law? I have every intention of getting in line with Cha standards, but if I'm not CHA approved, does that mean I can't legally open?
Thanks for your question. It is one that tends to come up a lot, so this will be a good opportunity to answer it for everyone. CHA does not have any authority or mandate over any business or individual. The Standards and guidelines that we put forth are simply as a resource to riding programs so that they may operate safely and efficiently and measure their operations against a set of standards that are widely accepted within the industry. Our Standards and horsemanship manuals represent a consensus from a variety of horse professionals all over the US and Canada. They are not one individual's idea of how things should be or should be taught, but represent widely held practices within the industry. It is difficult to come up with acceptable standards that are broad enough to cover all types of facilities and that are effective, without placing too many restrictions on operators. That is why many of the standards have very broad interpretations. As for operating a summer camp in your area, you need to look into state laws that may apply. In most states, you would be required to get a childcare license from the state, usually the Dept. of Social Services, or whatever agency regulates childcare. If you are planning to have a residential camp, there are more requirements than running a day camp. It is possible that if you are just offering a day camp, that you do not need a license, but you should check with the state to find out. If you are operating a residential camp, you should look into the American Camping Assoc. standards for residential camps. Although CHA has no mandate or authority to govern any programs, our Standards are frequently used in lawsuits as an example of widely accepted practices. These could be used either for you or against you, depending on the circumstances of the case. If you are CHA certified, you are more obligated to be compliant with CHA standards, from a liability point of view. For example, if you were CHA certified and were named in a law suit for doing something that was contrary to CHA recommendations, like having kids ride in tennis shoes, then the CHA standards would be brought in as evidence that even though you were trained and certified by CHA, you wantonly and willingly disregarded CHA standards and could be found to be negligent. So, the answer to your question is that you can legally operate with or without CHA certification. Your state law is the only applicable authority and you should look into any state license required and what your state's inherent risk laws require. CHA certification is icing on the cake, which shows to your clients and your insurance company that you are qualified to do what you do. But once certified, you are beholden to our standards, only in terms of liability. I hope this answers your questions and good luck with your programs. I am sure they will be safe and effective and we look forward to having you as a certified instructor.