Riding Instructor Certification: Is it Necessary?

Last Updated on March 26, 2022

If you have a passion for horseback riding and teaching, riding instructor may be the job for you. So, do you need a riding instructor certification in order to give lessons? Though having a certification is not necessary in most of America to teach lessons, it can be beneficial to have.

No matter if you want to teach one riding discipline or all riding disciplines, you want to make sure you have the proper experience for the job. Getting a riding instructor certification can help ensure you have all the skills you need for the job.

Do You Need A Riding Instructor Certification To Teach Riding Lessons?

In most European countries, there are legal requirements to have a riding instructor certification in order to teach riding lessons. However, in America, with the exception of Massachusetts, there are no legal requirements to have a riding instructor certification to teach lessons.

Though not necessary in America, it can be beneficial to have a riding instructor certification. Some individual barns may even require instructors to have a certification in order to teach riding lessons.

However, just because a riding instructor doesn’t have a certification doesn’t mean they are any less of an instructor. In America, there are plenty of top-notch trainers and instructors that do not hold a riding instructor certification.

Receiving A College Degree In Equine Studies

Instead of certification, some instructors may graduate with a college degree in equine studies. In equine programs, students will take classes in riding instruction, training, safety, and more. This will give them the experience and qualifications they need to be an experienced riding instructor.

Other instructors may gain experience through internships at barns. This will give them hands-on experience to develop the skills a riding instructor needs.

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How Do You Get A Riding Instructor Certification?

In America, there are various programs that equestrians can participate in to earn a riding instructor certification. These programs not only give people the horse skills they need to be an instructor, but also the professionalism, safety, and business skills needed for the profession.

The American Riding Instructors Association

The American Riding Instructors Association, or ARIA, offers one of the largest riding certification programs. Applicants can choose from fifteen specialties across three levels of proficiency.

Those wanting to get a certification must take a general knowledge test that covers horses, riding, and teaching, along with their philosophy of riding instruction. In addition, tests are also taken in each of the specialties that a person is wanting to achieve. For those wanting to earn Level II or Level III certifications, videos of them teaching riding lessons must be submitted.

USDF Teaching Manual

Certified Horsemanship Association

Through the Certified Horsemanship Association, or CHA, applicants will come to a test center where they will teach practice lessons, participate in workshops, and have their riding skills evaluated. Throughout the year, there are several opportunities at locations across America to gain certification or partake in a skills workshop

Through CRA, applicants must also take written tests as well. The CRA also offers several different areas of concentration in that applicants can receive certifications.

United States Dressage Federation

The United States Dressage Federation, or USDF, offers riding certifications for those who are wanting to teach dressage. The program consists of two parts: educational workshops and Instructor Certification testing. Certifications are available for training through fourth levels and FEI levels.

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United States Eventing Association

The United States Eventing Association, or USEA, offers riding certifications for eventing instructors of all levels. According to the USEA, the level of certification is based on an individual’s “highest level of teaching knowledge and skill-based upon a self-evaluation of their own history of riding, competing, and learning/teaching.” Applicants will also attend workshops where they will receive feedback on their teaching.

Massachusetts Department Of Agricultural Resources

For those wishing to teach riding lessons in the state of Massachusetts, they must receive a state license from the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources. Licenses for riding instructors in the state must be renewed annually. To become a riding instructor in Massachusetts, one must pass a Safety and Basic Knowledge exam.

In addition, they must either be qualified as a riding instructor through a recognized governing authority or an approved certifying program. Alternatively, candidates can also complete a successful apprentice program.

Apprenticeship programs must consist of at least six months and include 60 hours of teaching riding lessons to students. Lessons must take place at a licensed stable and happen under the supervision of a licensed mentor.

British Horse Society

The British Horse Society, or BHS, is one of the best-known programs to offer riding certification programs. They offer riding instructor certifications that are valid in Great Britain and all across the world.

In order to receive a certification, applicants must partake in a system of testing and be professionally trained to teach lessons. There are several levels of competency evaluations applicants must undergo along with providing documentation of their teaching experiences. The BHS offers various levels of certifications based on skills, qualifications, and riding disciplines.

Though the BHS offers one of the premier riding instructor programs in Europe, there are others as well. Many countries in Europe also offer certification programs as well.

Receiving A College Degree In Equine Studies

It is not uncommon for riding instructors to earn a degree in equine studies at a college. Many colleges that offer equine programs have classes in riding, training, care, coaching, and barn management. These programs offer great experience in everything horse-related.

Do You Need A Riding Instructor Certification To Teach Riding Lessons

Becoming A Riding Instructor

Depending on where you work and the individual barn, you may need to get a riding instructor certification. However, many riding instructors in America get their experience from a college degree or apprenticeship.

Do you have any questions about getting a riding instructor certification? If so, please ask your riding questions in the comments below.


Can You Teach Horse Riding Without Qualifications?

In most European countries, a riding instructor certification is required to teach riding lessons. However, in America, Massachusetts is the only state to require certification to teach lessons.

What Insurance Does a Riding Instructor Need?

Some horse insurance companies will offer specific plans for Horse Trainer and Riding Instructor Insurance. It is a good idea to look into Care, Custody and Control Insurance, Commercial Liability Insurance and Equine Professional Liability.

Can You Teach Horse Riding Without Insurance?

Due to the risks that come with horseback riding, you will want to have insurance if you are a riding instructor. To find the best plan for you, reach out to an insurance agent that specializes in equine insurance.

What is the BHS Stage 2 Exam?

The BHS Stage 2 Exam will assess your ability in the show ring at the walk, trot and canter, along with a change of direction and management of pace. You also have to be able to understand cues, ride in an open space and jump single fences.