Recently I’ve met a few people interested in getting certified who aren’t ready to start the process yet, or aren’t 18 yet (which you must be to get PATH certified), but they want to start doing something to prepare. So I thought that would make a perfect blog post – what you can do to get a head start on getting ready for certification!
How to start preparing for PATH Intl Instructor Certification
1) Gain riding skills.
- Because you can’t teach what you don’t know!
- Take lessons, in various disciplines! So you can learn riding skills, and learn how others teach riding skills.
- Become familiar with the riding test and get competent at all the skills you need to do it as listed in The Certification Booklet p.10
2) Gain horse knowledge
- Go through the horse knowledge lists in the “Registered Instructor Criteria” section of the The Certification Booklet p.14-18 and look up anything you don’t know
- Read the Certified Horsemanship Association Composite Horsemanship Manual available from CHA website which goes through most of the things on the knowledge lists
- Read horse books and online horse articles!
- Go to clinics and seminars!
- Do anything and everything you can to learn about horses!
3) Prepare for teaching
- Become familiar how PATH Intl. standards want you to teach lessons by reading these:
- Actively watch and reflect on lessons! Ask yourself these questions when you volunteer, watch, or take lessons. The first few times take a moment to sit down and answer each question after the lesson. Soon you will familiar enough with these concepts that you’ll notice them during the lesson and become an active watcher! It helped me to keep a journal of these things. (These are the top 10 – for more in depth questions read Watching a Therapeutic Riding Lesson)
- What was the lesson plan? Was there a mount order, warm up, skill taught, practice, progression, cool down, and dismount order?
- What skill was taught?
- How did the warm ups tie into the skill taught?
- How was progression used to increase the rider’s independence at the skill?
- Did the instructor give lots of hows and whys?
- Why did the instructor choose the particular assistance given by the leader and sidewalkers?
- What safety precautions were taken by the instructor? When were the tack checks?
- What difficulties came up and how did the instructor handle them?
- What did you like about the lesson and how the instructor taught?
- What did you dislike about the lesson and how the instructor taught?
- Keep a binder of interesting lesson plans, games, activities, patterns, obstacles, ways of describing skills, and teaching techniques – basically, tools you want to keep in your back pocket for later.
- Read books that are helpful to riding instruction.
4) Get practice teaching already!
- Some facilities require you pay for teaching hours, but some instructors may be open to giving you some opportunities to get more involved before then. Just ask!
- Ask if you can lead warmups or cooldowns. The instructor can give you the exercises or you can help choose ones that pertain to the lesson. This gets you comfortable with speaking loudly and teaching for a few minutes at a time, instead of getting thrown in to teaching a whole lesson all at once.
- Lock yourself in your room where no one can listen and teach out loud to muted YouTube videos! Seriously, try it!
- If you have a horse, offer to teach your friends how to ride! Get practice lesson planning, speaking in a loud teaching voice, figuring out how they learn best, and remembering to use lots of hows and whys to explain things.
5) Become familiar with disabilities
- Volunteer in a special needs classroom. You’ll learn a lot about communicating with various disabilities by watching the teachers and interacting with students.
- Ask instructors about their students and why they work with them certain ways.
- Read the PATH Intl. Instructor Educational Guide, 2nd Edition, as mentioned above.
6) Become familiar with the certification process
- Read The Certification Booklet by PATH Intl.
- Read my article How to Become a Certified Therapeutic Horseback Riding Instructor with PATH Intl.
- Become a PATH Intl. Individual Member. You will get a magazine with lots of great instructor info in it, and access to PATH Intl.’s online community forums with great info and resources!
- Start saving up money! It costs around $800.
7) Attend a workshop
- Attend a two and a half day Registered Instructor Onsite Workshop. You need to take one to get certified and since they are good for 2 years, you could take one early. They are amazing. But there are mixed reviews about whether to take them before you go through the certification process (so you learn everything you need to know to practice during your teaching hours), or take the workshop after the certification process, along with the certification tests (so what you learned about how those particular evaluators want to see you teach is still fresh in your head). It depends on the person, whatever works best for you!
Overwhelmed already? That’s okay and normal! There’s a lot to learn because you are learning a new skill: how to teach riders with disabilities to stay on a 1000 pound animal according to PATH Intl. standards. Even if you already have horse and teaching experience, there’s going to be a learning curve. But remember, in order to teach your students to overcome challenges, you must first overcome your own. So persevere and don’t be too hard on yourself. Any little thing you do is a start and that’s great!
Note: This is not professional advice, this is a blog. I am not liable for what you do with or how you use this information. The activities explained in this blog may not be fit for every rider, riding instructor, or riding center depending on their current condition and resources. Use your best personal judgement!