What to Expect During a CHA Certification Clinic

The Certified Horsemanship Association’s Certification Clinic season is currently under way for those who want to get certified or renew a certification as a riding instructor, camp staff, equestrian program staff, a vaulting or driving instructor, and/or a therapeutic riding instructor. Certification is valid for three years, at which time, a Certified Instructor must provide documentation of 25 hours of continuing education and proof of work in the industry. In order to raise the level of certification, instructors must attend another certification clinic.

Various clinics are currently offered in 20 states and two Canadian provinces (Manitoba and Ontario), and new clinics are added to the schedule throughout the year. Certification offers a variety of benefits, not only for the certified individual, but also for their employer, program manager, and clients/students. To learn more about the various benefits, read CHA’s blog post, “Why You Should Find a Certified Riding Instructor” at http://cha-ahse.org/store/blog/why_a_certified_instructor.html.

For those who are already registered for a Certification Clinic, we’re going to take a look at how the clinic is structured and how to prepare for your certification clinic and evaluations.

The Certification Clinic Structure
In a nutshell, a CHA Certification Clinic is a multi-day (usually 4- to 5-day) intensive clinic held at a CHA Program Member host site. Each clinic attendee must attend at least 40 mandatory hours during the clinic, pass written tests, teach at least four practice lessons, undergo a riding evaluation under two CHA Certified Clinicians (and fellow attendees), and attend at least five in-depth workshops on risk management, teaching techniques, professionalism, and herd management.

The purpose of the clinic is to evaluate a participant to see if they can teach at the level they would like to get certified at and to see if their instruction is “safe, effective, and fun.” To achieve certification, a candidate must meet Certification Competency Guidelines, and certification is determined by two Clinic Staff. Certification at any level is never guaranteed, and sometimes an attendee’s skills may not be up to par to achieve a certification at the clinic.

There are four levels that instructors can achieve in flatwork in English and/or Western and in jumping. Those who do not jump can still become certified at all four levels on the flat. Clinic staff at the host site set the schedule, but it can be modified during the clinic due to unforeseen circumstances, such as bad weather.

Those who are certified as an Assistant Instructor are allowed to help another CHA Instructor during lessons and rides in English and/or Western, but they must be at least 16 years old by the last day of their certification clinic. CHA Instructors must be 18 by the last day of the clinic.

Level 1 Instructor: This involves arena riding in either English or western, and there is a strong emphasis on safety and group control. A CHA Level 1 Instructor teaches introductory skills, such as walk, trot, stop, start, and steer, along with ground lessons.

Level 2 Instructor: This level instructor may teach weekly riding lessons or day camps. A CHA Level 2 Instructor teaches improved balance, cueing, and control, with riders learning diagonals, patterns, trail riding, and progressing to a canter or lope and possibly pre-jumping exercises.

Level 3 Instructor: This level instructor helps a rider improve their form, style, and use of aids and places more emphasis on horsemanship theory and horse care. This can include exercises such as getting the correct lead, improving control of the canter, basic jumping, transitions, and school figures.

Level 4 Instructor: This level includes instructors who may be specialists in one breed or discipline. A Level 4 Instructor will teach flying lead changes, leg yields, and lateral work and may specialize in stadium jumping, cross-country jumping, dressage, or reining and horsemanship patterns. Advanced horsemanship theory and horse management is taught at this level.

Master Instructor (Level 4.4): A Master Instructor teaches both English and western at Level 4 and is highly experienced in a variety of teaching and management situations. There may be an increased focus on jumping.

For Master Instructors who would like to become CHA Certified Clinicians, the Clinic Instructors at their certification clinic can recommend them as an Assistant Clinic Instructor (ACI) or as a Clinic Instructor (CI). There are age requirements for these positions. An ACI can help others in the certification process at clinics. A CI is qualified to run a certification clinic and certify instructors along with another CI after they have been an ACI and worked at two different clinics in two different locations under two different clinic staff. All ACIs and Cis must be able to evaluate others correctly and be able to encourage others while also having the ability to give constructive comments in a kind manner.

To achieve certification, an attendee must be able to pass each level before they are evaluated at the next level. So even if you are a fabulous jumping instructor, you will not be tested on those skills until your skills teaching at Level 1 have been evaluated and confirmed. The first lesson will be at Level 1, and if you get become certified as a Level 4 Instructor, then CHA says that you are competent to teach at all the levels below that.

The 40 mandatory hours involves 20 hours in which attendees teach and ride in at least four sample riding lessons. Your skills as an instructor will be evaluated. When you don’t teach, you will be riding in other people’s lessons acting as a student. Three lessons are mounted, and one is a ground lesson. Each clinic has a minimum of five workshops. There may or may not be a skills evaluation section.

The Five Skill Areas

Two Clinic Staff evaluate your skills in five areas: safety, horsemanship, teaching skills, group control, and professionalism.

Safety: CHA emphasizes safety, and all instructors must maintain safety awareness at all times around students since students model behavior based on what the instructor does. To pass this category, you must score at least 7 out of 10. Attendees are evaluated on rules and procedures and that you can demonstrate and enforce those rules and procedures while showing leadership skills. Your personal safety habits must be spot on and you should be positive and calm in problem situations.

Horsemanship: This involves tack adjustment and fit, ground skills, riding ability, and knowledge of theory behind the skills. You must have horsemanship/riding skills at one level above the level you become certified to teach. The riding evaluation includes mounting and dismounting, riding at a walk, trot, and canter or lope on the correct lead with control and proper form.

Teaching Skills: Clinic staff will look at your preparation, your organization of material, and your utilization of resources while teaching. During your practice lessons, you must present appropriate material creatively and clearly, identify problems, and be able to find solutions to those problems. You must be able to effectively evaluate lessons, situations, and people.

Group Control: This evaluates voice projection, communication (eye contact, age appropriate), control of a group in the riding arena and possibly on the trail (if that is part of the clinic), and that you use your Assistant Instructors effectively.

Professionalism: You will be evaluated on how you implement the CHA Standards, whether you are professional in appearance and presentation and mature and consistent with a positive attitude, whether you have good interpersonal relationship skills, and respect and empathy for horses.

Your weakest area of evaluation will determine your level of certification. For instance, if you score at a Level 2 in group control, but score at a Level 4 in the other areas, you will be certified as a Level 2 Instructor. In addition, you may be certified at different levels for English and western.

Our tips in this blog come from CHA’s webinar, “Preparing for CHA Instructor Certification.” For more information on how to prepare for your evaluations, how your sample lessons are structured and what is being evaluated, and the clinic as a whole, you can watch the free webinar above or on CHA’s YouTube Channel. The webinar is a must-see video if you are headed to a certification clinic.

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If you aren’t already registered, now may be the time to book your trip and register for a Certification Clinic if you live near or can travel to one of the following states: Alaska, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Washington. To learn more about the various certifications, please visit .

CHA has been certifying riding instructors for more than 45 years and is the largest certifying organization in North America. For more information on attending a CHA Certification Clinic, please visit . For questions, please call CHA in Lexington, KY, at 859-259-3399 or email info@cha-ahse.org.