All of our therapeutic riding lessons at Hilltop Horizons Therapeutic Equestrian Center are taught by a PATH Intl. Certified Therapeutic Riding Instructor, but what does this really mean? What about this certification allows them to be effective attributes to the therapeutic riding industry?
The certification process can be generally divided into Phase I and Phase II. The first phase is more focused on completing tests and necessary paperwork that insure that the candidate has the knowledge vital to continuing on further in the process. After becoming an individual member of PATH Intl. and registering as a potential instructor in training, you have one year to submit a current copy of CPR and First Aid certifications and complete a series of online exams that focus on proper riding, teaching, and horse management skills. These tests contain very detailed material about the subjects, and really challenge the candidate to delve deeply into the field that they are pursuing. After these tests and forms are completed, the candidate has officially completed Phase I of instructor certification and receives a letter declaring them a PATH Intl. Therapeutic Riding Instructor in Training. From this point, the candidate has one year to complete Phase II.
Phase II targets hands-on training. The instructor in training must find a PATH Intl. Certified Therapeutic Riding Instructor to serve as their mentor. This person will oversee lesson planning, teaching, and reflection as the candidate undertakes a minimum of 25 hours teaching therapeutic riding lessons to groups of at least two students. This is where a lot of the learning process really begins. Until this point, the candidate hasn’t been truly exposed to the problem solving, creativity, and adaptability necessary to be successful as an instructor. Learning to conduct a lesson with multiple riders with different goals and abilities, while maintaining a safe and enriching environment, can be as challenging as it is rewarding.
On-site workshop and certification
Along with the teaching hours, the candidate must complete an on-site workshop, held in various locations all over the nation, that explains exactly what PATH Intl. is looking for in a therapeutic riding instructor. After completing the workshop, and the instructor in training feels confident in their knowledge and abilities, they must complete on-site riding and teaching tests. The riding test consists of a warmup and a given pattern that tests your ability to transition between walk, trot, and canter, general control of the horse, and your ability to ride in proper form. The teaching test involves effectively teaching a riding skill to a group of two students with disabilities while utilizing proper safety practices.
After successfully passing both parts of the on-site certification, the individual is now considered a registered-level PATH Intl. Certified Therapeutic Riding Instructor! Each year after this, this certification has to be renewed by completing continuing education hours in disability education, riding skills, and general PATH program education. Each instructor also has to maintain a current certification in CPR and First Aid. In this way, each instructor will continually improve themselves for the benefit of the riders they are serving.