Become a Horse Riding Instructor: Education and Career Roadmap

Research the requirements to become a horse riding instructor. Learn about the job description and duties, and see the step-by-step process to start a career in horse riding instruction.

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Should I Become a Horse Riding Instructor?

As a horse riding instructor, you'll spend your days teaching people of all ages and skill levels how to properly ride horses. You may also teach others equine care techniques. In this recreational field, some work may be seasonal. You might also need to work weekends, and your hours could vary. Injuries, particularly from falls or kicks, can be a part of this job as well.

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Career Requirements

Education Required No college degree required, but an associate's or bachelor's degree in equine studies may be helpful
Certification Voluntary; can be obtained through the Certified Horsemanship Association (CHA) or the American Riding Instructors Association (ARIA)
Experience Horse riding and equine care experience
Key Skills Thorough understanding of horses, ability to teach others, patience, ability to ride, groom, catch, halter and lead a horse; expertise with bits, bridles, saddles, whips, crops and grooming equipment
Salary (2015) $26,610 (median salary for all types of animal trainers)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Certified Horsemanship Association, I Have a Plan Iowa, Multiple school websites.

Step 1: Become a Proficient Rider

According to the CHA, aspiring instructors should have expertise in riding and grooming horses. Instructors should also be able to ride at a walk, trot or canter in an arena; safety precautions are important as well. To acquire these skills, students should take riding lessons at a reputable stable or equestrian center in their area. Many of these locations offer both group and private lessons.

Success Tip:

  • Spend extra time around horses. Volunteering at a stable is one way to gain additional insight into this field. Observing professional instructors may be helpful as well.

Step 2: Gain Instructional Skills

A good teacher must be able to clearly and concisely impart knowledge to others. The CHA indicates that prospective riding coaches should also be able to design effective methods of instruction and implement them in ways that benefit both horses and riders. A few private organizations and schools offer training programs or clinics for aspiring instructors. Common topics include teaching methods, equine law, emergency procedures and horse selection.

Step 3: Earn a College Degree

While not necessary to become a horse riding instructor, an associate's or bachelor's degree in equine studies can provide valuable, in-depth knowledge of horses and horsemanship techniques. Some of the courses you might take include horse management, equine reproduction, horsemanship, equine behavior and ethics in the equine industry.

Step 4: Consider Certification

ARIA's certification process evaluates a potential teacher's instructional ability through written and oral tests, as well as videos submitted by the candidate. The organization offers certification in fifteen specialties, including western pleasure and equitation, dressage, side-saddle, show jumping, hunt seat and riding to hounds. Tests are available in several levels of competency for each specialty.

The CHA requires prospective teachers to attend a 5-7 day clinic at an approved host facility. Expert clinicians evaluate the applicants as they teach practice lessons, participate in workshops and take written tests. Students may become certified in a number of different specialties at levels ranging from assistant instructor to clinic instructor.

The Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH) provides three levels of certification for those who wish to become therapeutic riding instructors. These professionals use horsemanship to provide unique therapies and activities that enrich the lives of children and adults suffering from illnesses, disabilities or injuries.

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