Should I get Certified?

I’ve had several recent inquiries regarding whether or not to get certified, so I decided to share my thoughts. The questions came from people with tons of experience with horses, and teaching both able-bodied and disabled riders, who are wondering if they should get certified.

Their concerns include:

  1. Is it legal to teach therapeutic riding without a certification?
  2. Is it worth the time and money to get certified, if I already have all this experience?
  3. Is it worth starting this new endeavor later in life, when I’m so busy and haven’t been through testing in so long?

These are all very valid questions, and these are my thoughts about them. Remember, I’m not a PATH spokesperson, these are just some thoughts based on my observations. If you have additional insight please leave a comment!

1. Is it legal to teach therapeutic riding without a certification?

  • It is not illegal to teach without a certification. Lots of barns teach riders with disabilities without a certification. We have met lots of them at open shows such as Special Olympics. These can be great programs.

2. Is it worth the time and money to get certified, if I already have all this experience?

Well, let me tell you the benefits:

    • You’ll gain a more thorough knowledge of disabilities, adaptations, and teaching techniques
    • You’ll be given the tools for your own continued education
    • Being certified adds a level of professionalism and legitimacy to offer your clients that comes with having been certified through an international organization to their standards.
    • The safety and teaching methods you learn will make you a better teacher for your regular recreational riders as well.
    • The certification could widen the demographics of students you could teach.
    • You’ll learn safer teaching methods to the extreme.
    • The uncertified teachers/centers I have seen at open shows I have also seen do some pretty (scarily) unsafe things, simply because they didn’t know any better. There are lots of additional safety factors to working with riders with disabilities that you probably have thought of unless you’ve been trained and mentored.

3. Is it worth starting this new endeavor later in life, when I’m so busy and haven’t been through testing in so long?

  • I understand your nervousness, I was super nervous! Whatever age you are it’s learning a new skill and getting tested, and that can be hard.
  • Having so much experience with horses and teaching means you have a head start because you will already be comfortable with much of the requirements.
  • Having so much experience also means learning to teach to PATH Intl standards may be difficult, and you will have to adapt. But learning to teach the PATH way is very important because it’s the safest way, it follows logical progressions in teaching skills, and sets a great foundation. After you get certified you can modify your teaching style as long as it’s safe, but for PATH certification you need to do it their way – and all for good reasons: for safety and standardized practice across the nation.
  • If you can’t afford the time/money to get certified, I would recommend at least attending a workshop as an auditor, or buying the certification reading materials from PATH Intl. (such as the standards manual and the teacher’s manual). I really stress this for safety’s sake, if you are going to be working with riders with disabilities.

Ultimately, it’s a decision you have to make for yourself. I think the most valuable thing to getting certified is the safety awareness. Hopefully these thoughts help you make the decision that’s right for you!

Best of luck in your teaching journey!


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!

4 thoughts on “Should I get Certified?

  1. As someone that started therapeutic Riding as a second career late in life, I was in my 50’s when I started my center. 4 3/4 years later, we serve over 100 riders and growing. Don’t negate your experiences in the world or business experience. ( I had for profit and design experience only). I also went back to school and took some equine classes. It was a long time since I had gotten my masters and was concerned about being able to memorize and sit in a classroom. It was an incredible experience and I made friends from the classes I attended. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at: .

  2. As someone who also began therapeutic riding instruction as a second career, I would agree with the last bullet point advising instructors to attend the PATH workshop, purchase the manuals, and take the two on-line courses. However, the on-site evaluation I attended, was less than optimal. One horse was noticeably lame and there were too many candidates to accurately assess the candidates’ skills. It also lasted 4 and half days. So.. the classes were very helpful but PATH really needs to review their evaluation procedure in keeping with best practice principles and equine management.
    I love this blog too! Thanks for all the great ideas!

    • Thank you for your comment! You make a good point. The quality of the on site workshops and evaluations depend highly on the hosting center and evaluators who lead it. It can be a hit or miss (I have seen both sides too). I’m sorry to hear your experience was less than optimal. Hopefully people read your comment and learn from your experience, and ask around to find the best centers and evaluators.

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