Staying Involved in EAAT When You’re Not Instructing
There may be times in your life when you do not instruct therapeutic riding lessons or are involved in equine assisted activities and therapies – due to injury, other jobs, burnout, having kids, or some other reason – and that’s okay! I’m in that boat right now with having babies, and it’s really made me think about this, and want to share what I’m learning. I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic, so please add comments at the end!
(Pretend there’s a helmet on my kid).
Why Stay Involved
Include your why’s! Or insert some other clever instructor training joke here…
First off, this post is geared toward people who aren’t currently instructing (and may have left their program or even the industry) but do plan on going back some day, with some side comments for folks who on the fence about whether to ever go back to instructing or not. AKA, this post is not for people wondering whether or not to stay involved, I’m not here to convince you.
That said, it’s a weird place to not be instructing anymore, after you spent all that time and effort and money to get certified, after you spent hours or years teaching… and then suddenly you’re not in it anymore. Suddenly your reason for being involved (teaching) is no longer there. So it’s important to think about why you want to stay involved, because that will dictate the how.
These are some reasons why you might want to stay involved in EAAT when you’re not instructing:
- You plan to instruct again some day – you need to keep up your continued education, stay up to date with the industry, keep up your skill set, and so on.
- You support the EAAT industry – you think it’s great! You want to support the world of EAAT and other instructors, even though it’s not your focus right now.
- You’re involved in something related to EAAT – you’re on the board for a program, you work at a barn, you’re involved in horse welfare, you make adaptive tack, or something else related, so you need to stay involved and up to date.
- You never know what the future brings – you never know what connections might be made or what opportunities might come up, even years down the road, so you want to keep the door open of possibly getting back into EAAT in the future if the right situation arises. This is important if you’re on the fence about whether to even stay involved or not: do you want to keep the EAAT door open?
- It’s easier to keep up your certification than get it all over again – seriously, do you remember what big a process it was to get certified? Even with the upcoming changes, do you want to go through all that again? If you’re on the fence about whether to even stay involved in EAAT or not, just know that although the new PATH Intl. CTRI transition process may be a little more work in the short term, the new certification maintenance method will be easier in the long run (more on that later*). And if it’s easier, you might as well keep it up, because you never know what the future might bring (see above)!
- Things change and that’s ok – your role in EAAT may change, you may change, the circumstances around you may change, and that’s okay! Because life is not stagnant and neither should people be. Change is good because it makes you grow. Speaking of which…
- You want to grow – you can use your current situation of not instructing to grow you into a better instructor in the future when you do go back to teaching.
I’ll use myself as an example (because it’s the inspiration for this post – hah!). Right now I am not instructing EAAT because I am choosing to stay at home with my kids while they are little, but I do plan to go back one day. It is weird not instructing, but I believe all things connect and can already see how being a mom is making me into a better and more compassionate person who in the future will be a better instructor – I already look at my old riders and their parents (and all the time it took them to get to lessons!) differently now that I am a parent! So in a way, I’m staying involved just by being a parent and developing some empathy. On the other hand, I want to support the industry and stay directly involved somehow, and the most natural way has been this blog I already have – I am really passionate in helping other instructors and I want to support you guys by encouraging you and inspiring and informing your teaching. My role has changed and that’s ok!
So, think about the why, because that will help you find a how that you like and are motivated to do.
How to stay involved
How you stay involved will look different for every person because we all have different motives, tastes and personalities. Here are some of the ways I’ve been enjoying staying involved, as well as some more ideas.
If you are certified through an adapted/therapeutic riding certifying body such as PATH Intl., a very natural and easy way to stay involved is through their continued education requirements – having a certain number of continued education hours every year in things like riding lessons, disability education and general continued education. Some of these things can keep you involved in EAAT directly (such as attending conferences) and others less directly (such as attending a riding clinic). It’s a good place to start and the certifying body usually has a long list of acceptable hours on their paperwork!
Attending a conference in person is a really great way to stay involved because along with learning information from seminars about EAAT, you can meet people and make connections. I went to my first PATH Intl. International Conference alone and it was almost easier to meet people that way (alone – I think they took pity on my, lol). I made it a point to meet the people next to me and used the blog as my conversation starter asking people if they had any interesting activities to contribute! Attending a regional conference is a great way to stay involved in your local community.
Online conferences are really great too, I have enjoyed the two I attended by PATH Intl. These are more focused on the content since you are not sitting in a room with people, but there is still some social aspect with the chat boxes you can comment in while the seminar is being given.
This is my new favorite – I can learn about EAAT while cooking dinner! Albeit cooking dinner now takes a lot longer because of how often I stop to take notes… I am also surprised at how much watching these videos makes me feel involved in the industry, as I’m watching and learning the same thing many other people have. Here are some good resources for webinars related to horseback riding and EAAT (note that PATH Intl. says webinars must be from PATH Intl, higher education institutions, professional associations, and other “reputable learning services”):
- PATH Intl. webinars
- CHA webinars
- Hooffalls & Footfalls’ Intuitive Instructor Club and Instructor Chat Archives
- ATR Webinar “In Case You’re Not A Doctor”
- (Do you have any more resources? Please leave them in the comments section!)
Take Riding Lessons
This keeps your personal riding skills up, gives you new ideas for ways to teach things, and gives you a little of the perspective of your students. It’s really nice to find an instructor who is familiar with EAAT and teaches you with an eye toward you being an instructor and teaching riders as well, such as giving you tips about how to teach the same thing you are learning. If you can’t take lessons very often, or you and/or your horse is not conditioned so you can’t do as much, it’s okay and actually works out well to review the basics and do a lot of work at the walk because that’s most often what you are teaching in EAAT!
Participate in Forums
There are several great forums for EAAT you can be a part of to join in discussions on the industry, stay up to date, ask questions, meet people, and be a part of things. These are nice for folks who are more social because you can interact with people (unlike watching a recording) and for those who aren’t (because you can choose when and how to interact). Here are some forums I’m aware of (and often stalk but rarely post on, hah):
- PATH Intl.’s Community Connections
- PATH Intl. Equine Managers Facebook Page
- Your PATH Intl. Region’s Facebook Page
- Riding Instructors’ Forum Facebook Page
- Therapeutic Horseback Riding Instructors Facebook Page
- Equine Assisted Activities & Therapies Worldwide Facebook Page
- The Chronicle of the Horse Forum for “Riders With Health Issues”
Attend local mental health or disabilities seminars
If you live near a university or community college, check out what special classes or presentations they may have related to the field. A community college near me used to have monthly mental health presentations that I attended that could count toward continued education and also helped me meet people in the community involved in supporting people with disabilities.
Visit programs in your area to see what they are like. I learn SO much when I visit other programs and it always sparks ideas for things to do at one’s own program. When you travel you can try to visit a program in the area as well.
Teach Able Bodied Lessons
Keeping up teaching outside the EAAT industry will help maintain your skills and grow them in different areas. I enjoy teaching a few random lessons here and there and it’s really fun to take all I’m learning and apply it to a different type of rider than I’m used to.
Volunteer at your local Special Olympics, or special fundraising days for your local EAAT program, or be on the board for a program.
Be supportive of the industry and your local program. If they have a fundraiser, attend or volunteers. If they have local businesses they partner with, be a patron.
Here are some more ideas from PATH Intl.’s list of accepted continued education options that would provide ways to be involved with EAAT as well:
- Attending clinics
- Attending horse fair seminars
- Higher education courses about disabilities and human behavior, anatomy, physiology and biomechanics
- Writing and submitting papers for publication
- Presenting on EAAT topics at professional conferences and clinics
- Retaking PATH Intl. Online Courses and exams
- Attending a conference with the goal of gaining knowledge toward the EAAT industry
- Coaching or receiving coaching (see PATH Intl’s details about this one)
- Volunteering for PATH Intl
- Horse show judging for a PATH Intl. Member Center, Special Olympics, or Paralympics
- Attending or presenting a PATH Intl. Member Center volunteer training
Be a part of the transition to the new PATH Intl. CTRI Certification. I am not in cahoots with PATH Intl. to encourage you to do this, I just realized that while thinking about how to stay involved when you don’t instruct, one might also be wondering if you should even transition if you don’t instruct anymore. Well, continuing your certification and transitioning is one way to stay involved, and I want to encourage you to do it because it’s really not much more work than maintaining your current certification, and probably even less work in the long run.
*Some info about the new CTRI
- Here are all the publications about the new CTRI process and transition given out by PATH Intl., if you need a refresher
- Here is a very helpful CTRI Transition Cheat Sheet and CTRI Transition process instructor chat video by Hooffalls & Footfalls
So far, this is what you have been having to do to maintain the current PATH Intl. Certification:
- Submit a membership renewal
- Submit hours of continued education with a certification maintenance form ANUALLY
Now, this is what you have to do to to transition to PATH Intl. CTRI status:
- Submit hours of continued education with a certification transition form (basically the same as above)
- Take a test**
In the future, this is what you will have to do to maintain PATH Intl. CTRI in the future:
- Submit a membership renewal, OR NOT! You don’t have to be a member to hold a certification, they’re separating them.
- Submit hours of continued education with a certification maintenance form EVERY 2 YEARS
Future continued education and certification maintenance requirements will be:
- 20 hours continued ed (CE) total within the past 2 years (instead of 1, as it was the old way, so the same amount of hours but over 2 years!)
- 12 hours of those CEs must be disability education (instead of 6, so the same number annually just doubled because it’s every 2 years)
- 4 hours of those CEs must be core requirements, riding lessons for instructors (instead of 2, so the same number annually just doubled because it’s every 2 years)
- 4 hours of those CEs must be general CEs (instead of 12 annually, so basically they want you to have more disability education and less “whatever” education)
I think it sounds like a better deal, do you? Also, PLEASE CORRECT ME if I got anything wrong!
**More about the test
To transition, you can do it for free until the end of the month (SORRY this post is cutting it so close to the deadline, wish I couldn’t been helpful sooner!). Or you can do it later for a fee. Don’t worry, you have plenty of time 😉
My experience of the test: It was harder than I expected and therefore took longer than I expected, but because the “hard” questions had wording I found very difficult to understand, or I felt I needed more information to make the right decision, or the related answer I found in the Standards was worded in a way I found confusing, or the question was worded in a way that was tricky to find in the Standards. I did have to look many things up, but probably because I’m not as “spiffed up” in my knowledge due to not teaching. In the end I had to make my most educated guess for a few questions and still got them right – I only got 2 wrong and a passing score of 92%. Some of the questions I could tell must have been pulled from or related to the recommended reading therapeutic riding textbook (Dewkett, M., Brady, H., & Hernandez, H. (2016). The Comprehensive Guide to Equine-Assisted Activities and Thearapies) because the wording seemed confusing to me but like something I would understand if I’d read what whoever wrote the question had read. So, that’s my experience. Hard but passed anyway. That’s probably good because the point is that the certification is getting harder on what really matters and letting go of what doesn’t.
I hope this is helpful to some folks out there! It was really helpful to me to think this through for myself. I’m at peace with my changed involvement with EAAT and looking forward to what the future brings!
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! If you would like to contribute an activity or article, please contact me here, I would love to hear from you!