Marie has been teaching hunt seat for almost 10 years. As a junior rider, she had a successful show career with her two horses. As an adult rider, she has ridden in advanced lessons and clinics with well-known and talented professionals. She is an excellent teacher of both children and adults, and she certainly has the experience and knowledge to teach beginner riders; however, she is not licensed or certified.
Some states, like Massachusetts, require horseback riding instructors to be state licensed. To gain a license in Massachusetts, an instructor hopeful must perform a 6-month apprenticeship with a licensed riding instructor, 60 hours of which must be teaching mounted students under direct supervision of that licensed instructor. Instructor apprentices must also pass a written exam.
“There should be some sort of license or certification program for riding instructors,” said Paula, mother of a riding student. “We put our kids’ lives in their hands. We should have something that says they’re capable of that responsibility.”
Certification programs exist in the United States including the American Riding Instructor’s Association (ARIA) and the Certified Horsemanship Association (CHA). These associations offer clinics and testing sites.
So if the opportunity is there, why wouldn’t someone like Marie not be licensed or certified? First, her state doesn’t have a licensing program. And second, in a word–cost.
“I would love to be certified,” Marie explains. “But I can’t afford the cost involved.” Marie teaches at a riding school, like most riding instructors in the area. And, like most instructors like her, she doesn’t have change to spare.
Both ARIA and CHA charge close to $600 for certification testing. Additionally, they require yearly membership fees and yearly renewal fees. “That’s like a week a half’s pay for me,” Marie explains.
In contrast, the Massachusetts license application is $20. If a state license program were available to Marie for a minimal cost, such as that of Massachusetts, would she do it? “Of course! I think it would be great for instructors, students and the industry,” she said.
In addition to riding instructors, riding stables in Massachusetts must be licensed as well at a cost of about $100.
Similar to Massachusetts, Maryland requires state license of riding stables. According to the Maryland Department of Agriculture, “Licensing helps ensure that animals in commercial stables are cared for in a safe, sanitary manner and that horses used in the riding stable are fit for that purpose.” The Maryland Department of Agriculture inspects licensed riding stables annually.