By Sarah Evers Conrad
Whether you run an equestrian facility of any kind or are seeking one out for riding lessons, camp, board, or training for your horse, site accreditation should be on your mind. The Certified Horsemanship Association Site Accreditation Program is a program that allows equine facilities to get a designation from CHA that states they have met certain standards for quality, effectiveness, and safety set forth within the CHA Standards for Equestrian Programs manual.
A variety of equestrian programs and facilities can apply for accreditation. These include lesson programs, camps with horses*, colleges, schools, private or public boarding or training operations, recreational riding programs, driving programs, vaulting programs, programs for riders with disabilities*, trail ride operations, and outfitters. Every facility that applies for Accreditation will be meticulously inspected by two trained CHA Site Visitors who will go through every standard to ensure compliance.
CHA Accreditation covers three main areas: the facility itself, how the program operates, and the program’s management. The standards set forth guidelines for:
- Safe grooming and tacking areas
- Arena and trail construction and maintenance
- Safe and humane areas for animals
- Emergency plans
- Staff qualifications
- Program policies and procedures
- Director qualifications
- Horse selection
- And so much more
The CHA site accreditation program is a well-established program that CHA consistently seeks to improve. Since accreditation is only available to CHA Business/Program Members, these members receive all of the Business/Program Membership benefits, as we discussed in the blog last time. http://cha-ahse.org/store/blog/business_membership_benefits.html
However, accreditation status also offers additional benefits, for both the facility and the customers considering that facility. The benefits below make it worthwhile for programs and facilities to become CHA Accredited. Let’s look at how CHA Site Accreditation helps these two parts of the horse industry.
Benefits of CHA Site Accreditation
CHA Accreditation helps facilities and equine programs to:
Strive for Excellence – The Standards for Equestrian Programs manual was developed by experts from equestrian programs, insurance providers, equine industry professionals, and legal consultants. These experts created a document with the highest standards possible for quality and safety. Those facilities who want to strive for excellence must meet 100% of the mandatory standards and 80% of the recommended standards. In addition, certain specialized equine programs—such as driving, vaulting, or programs for riders with disabilities—may have additional standards they need to meet. CHA Accreditation helps programs develop high standards and a consistent way of doing things effectively and safely.
Assure the Public That They Care About Their Customers – One of the main goals of the accreditation program was to help the public select equine programs that meet industry-accepted standards. Meeting industry standards for safety and quality allows an equine program to show customers that they care about their participants’ safety, horse welfare, and the quality of service they are providing. It signals to potential customers that the business at-hand is willing to be scrutinized and held to high standards of their own choice. However, even if a business followed all of the standards, it doesn’t mean that an accident can’t happen. We all know there is an inherent risk in working with large animals with a mind of their own. However, facilities that have met accreditation standards are committed to reducing that risk and promoting safety each and every day.
Provide a System of Accountability and Credibility – Accreditation allows parents, grandparents, and other guardians to put their trust in the accredited equine program that has a system of accountability and credibility behind it. The accredited facility has shown that it will go to great lengths to meet set safety standards, is willing to be evaluated, and has passed the inspection of professional CHA Site Visitors who inspect the facility for compliance of each and every standard. Businesses set themselves above other potential businesses under consideration by a parent or guardian by voluntarily applying for and meeting industry standards set forth by an international organization that focuses on safety, effectiveness, and quality.
Improve the Industry as a Whole – It behooves all of us to raise the level of programs available within the equine industry. This allows us to have better lesson programs, better care for our horses, top-notch training and competition programs, better horse camps, etc. As facilities raise their standards to meet an international accreditation like that provided by CHA, then it benefits all participants. As is written in the Introduction, the “Standards for Equestrian Programs is offered for the benefit, safety, and improvement of the equine industry and the clients and horses it serves.”
Meet Customer Demand – In today’s market, the consumer has many options for almost anything they desire. And today’s consumer has learned how to do research, especially thanks to the internet, to find the best business that will meet their needs. Most consumers want a high-quality product or service, and CHA Accreditation signals to potential customers that a business has met high standards. In addition, since the US government does not regulate equine facilities, YET, having businesses meet standards set by the industry becomes even more important. And if the US government does decide to regulate the equine industry down the road, the framework will already be in place for those businesses that already have CHA Site Accreditation.
Market Themselves More Effectively – If an equine business markets themselves as CHA Accredited and lets potential customers know the importance of that designation, they have then set themselves above their competition in the market. It becomes especially important if there is another accredited facility within a particular market. For if the competitor is CHA Accredited and another is not, then the business that is not may see a decline in business as customers choose another facility. Accredited facilities should make sure to use the CHA logo on all advertising, letterheads, displays, and marketing materials. In addition, the CHA Site Accreditation sign can be displayed on the property. Those programs that are accredited are also promoted through CHA, such as in the database of certified riding instructors and accredited facilities at www.CHAInstructors.com.
Demonstrate Professionalism – It is another way for a business to show that it is professionally run. One of the main reasons CHA Site Accreditation is offered is to educate facility owners and program operators on how to manage key areas of their programs, especially in the areas of safety. For a facility to be accredited, it must have written policies that meet standards set forth in the manual. These policies allows program management to develop its program how it wants to operate, maintains consistency, assists with training staff, clarifies the responsibilities of the staff, and encourages safety and good business practices.
CHA believes that facilities and individuals striving to follow the standards set forth in the manual promote a safer environment for equine activities. Even if your equine program is already striving and meeting the safety standards set forth in the Standards for Equestrian Programs manual, you may think, why do I need to become accredited? Let me ask you, why not? CHA Accreditation is like earning the “Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.”
For more information on what is required for accreditation, how the process works, or to apply, please visit the Site Accreditation section of the CHA website.
To purchase the CHA Standards for Equestrian Programs manual, please visit the CHA Store Online or call 859-259-3399.
* Please Note: If a camp or a program for riders with disabilities is not CHA Accredited, it may hold an accreditation through the American Camp Association (ACA) or the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship (PATH) International. While these programs are different from CHA Accreditation, they do provide similar benefits. In addition, a facility with accreditation status from ACA or PATH can also apply for CHA Site Accreditation if they so choose.
Information not to Include:
For a CHA Business/Program Member to earn their Site Accreditation, they must be a member in good standing, fill out the application for Site Accreditation, and then pay their CHA Site Accreditation fees and the travel expenses for two CHA Site Visitors to come to the facility for a visit, which is usually during business hours. In addition, the business must create a self-assessment notebook using the Standards for Equestrian Programs manual. Any concerns should be addresses, staff and volunteers should receive additional training if necessary, and this should also be documented. In addition, any maintenance or upgrades should be completed before the site inspection. It is time to put your best foot, and hooves, forward.
During the site inspection, a member of management usually gives a tour of the facility to the Site Visitors and be the person of contact throughout the day. Then the Site Visitors will start verification of each standard, making notes along the way. They do not determine accreditation status. This is done after the Site Visitors send in all their information and notes by the CHA Program Director, who is an official CHA staff member. The site is scored, and if it meets all the requirements, then staff will receive the accreditation certificate, a CHA Accredited Site outdoor sign, and other accreditation materials. The facility must continue compliance with the standards and submit written documentation every year and also inform CHA of any major changes to the facility.
If the site is denied, management can re-apply after six months, or if necessary, an appeal can be made to the CHA Grievance Committee.