The Ticket To Ride
Do you want to get started in riding, or improve the skills your already have? Then you need a good instructor. Since riding instructors are not licensed in the U.S. like they are in some other countries, you need to be more savvy when looking for someone to help you learn to ride. This week, we talk to Christy Landwehr, chief executive officer of the Certified Horsemanship Association, an organization that certifies riding instructors, accredits equine facilities and published educational resources. Christy will give us advice on searching out the best instructor to meet our needs. Questions or Comments? Email Audrey at:
Questions or Comments? Email Audrey at: email@example.com
Announcer: Hi, yo! Welcome to “Horsing Around”. Saddle up and get ready to have a darn toothing and galloping good time as we trot up the show that your ultimate horse source, of course. Find out how to use good old horse sense when it comes to breeding, feeding, training, and explaining. From practical tips on caring for your horse’s help to advice on how to buy horse supplies including bridles, halters, saddles, and more. So get ready to start “Horsing Around” with your host, horse expert and award-winning writer, Audrey Pavia.
Audrey Pavia: Welcome to “Horsing Around” on Pet Life Radio. I'm your host, Audrey Pavia. Thanks for joining us. This week, we're going to talk about how to find the right person to teach you how to ride. Whether you're a beginning rider or an experienced equestrienne, the task of finding a good riding instructor can be tricky. You need someone who has the right amount of experience and expertise for your love of riding, along with the ability to communicate clearly. On top of that, you need an instructor whose teaching style works well with your personality.
To find out how to locate the perfect riding instructor, we have with us today Christy Landwehr, Chief Operating Officer of the Certified Horsemanship Association located in Lexington, Kentucky.
Christy, welcome to the show.
Christy Landwehr: Hi, Audrey, thanks so much.
Audrey Pavia: So glad to have you as our first guest. We're going to talk about finding the right riding instructor just after these messages.
Woman: Why the long face? I reckon “Horsing Around” will be back in a saddle right after we round up a few words from our sponsors.
Woman: We know you're a chomping at the bit to hear more “Horsing Around”. Well, we're back on the trail. So park yourself over yonder and set a spell. You ain’t heard nothing yet.
Audrey Pavia: Welcome back to “Horsing Around”. I'm your host, Audrey Pavia, and we're here with Christy Landwehr of the Certified Horsemanship Association to talk about finding the right riding instructor.
Christy, first off, tell me about the Certified Horsemanship Association. What does your group do?
Christy Landwehr: Absolutely, Audrey, no problem. CHA has been around since 1967, so we actually celebrated our 40th anniversary last year, and we have been certifying riding instructors since that time. We also provide and publish our own educational manuals and we also put on educational conferences around the country for horse enthusiasts to go to. We also accredit equine equestriennes, barns, and stables as well.
Audrey Pavia: OK. So tell me, what should people look for when they're seeking a riding instructor?
Christy Landwehr: Well, one of the primary things that CHA believe in is that in the United States of America, anybody can hang a sign and call themselves a riding instructor. With that in mind, you have to kind of buyer beware a little bit. A lot of times, parents especially who are trying to send their children to a summer camp or trying to find the riding instructor [xx] themselves or their kids, they don’t know exactly where to look except for the good old Yellow Pages, and anybody can list themselves in there.
So the Certified Horsemanship Association provides the process for people like parents who are looking a place for their children to ride or themselves to ride to be able to know that this particular riding instructor has gone through a five-day certification clinic. We actually do hands on programming so that that person is actually teaching lessons for the full five days under the supervision of two of our clinic staff who are certifying them.
So then, there's a little bit more of the buyer having an understanding of what that person has gone through in order to be able to call themselves riding instructor. They know that their attention to safety is going to be there which is, of course, primary when you're working with such a large animal.
Audrey Pavia: Right. Now, are there other countries that have licensing that are pretty much government-regulated when it comes to certifying instructors?
Christy Landwehr: Yes, quite a few of the European countries actually, Audrey. Germany, for example, does a licensing program. The British Horse Society is the governing body in Britain. So there are quite a few countries that are doing that. At this point in time, the US is not. There is one state that does, it's actually Massachusetts, and what they require is they basically go and take a written test out at the government offices and then that written test, thereby constitutes you as a riding instructor. They're the only state right now that I personally know of that are asking for riding instructors to do any form of anything prior to saying that they can go and teach people.
Audrey Pavia: Why do you think we're one of the few countries that have as strong horse culture that doesn’t have a government certification requirement?
Christy Landwehr: Well, my personal opinion is, you know, the good old USA, we don’t want to wear a seatbelt, we don’t want to have to wear a helmet when we're riding the motorcycle down the road. I think that people believe in freedom so strongly here, Audrey, that they don’t want the government to tell them what to do. In order to do a certification process on a federal or a state level, legislature will have to get involve. I think right now that the US is not quite ready for that.
Audrey Pavia: OK. So tell us what the potential pitfalls are of using an instructor who is not certified?
Christy Landwehr: Well, obviously, an instructor can also get their knowledge from just being out in the field and doing it. So obviously there's quite a few riding instructors out there that have been showing that they're of particular breed or they're certain discipline for many, many years and, therefore, they have the experience and the knowledge necessary.
The folks that CHA is worried about are those that basically have a couple of horses in the backyard and are saying, “You know what? I really want to find the way to keep these guys to pay for their feed. Let me go ahead and hang out a shingle that says ‘I'm a horsebackriding instructor’. Then people can go ahead and come to me and take lessons.” It's those folks that might not necessarily know the safety issues and things that a child or an adult who doesn’t know a thing about a horse really needs to know in order to be around them safely not only mounted on them but also on the ground.
Audrey Pavia: Right. So what would you say the main differences between CHA instructors and noncertified instructors?
Christy Landwehr: I would say the primary difference is that a person going as a client to a CHA-certified instructor knows for a fact that that individual has gone through a process and that that process is a standard process around North America. We certify up in Canada as well. With that, they know that the person has had to do a written test regarding their horsemanship knowledge, their safety knowledge, their group presence in an arena. We certify primarily group riding instructors thinking along the lines that if you know how to teach a group successfully, then you're going to have no trouble at all teaching the one-one-one basis for a private lesson. They’ve also shown some standards of professionalism as well.
So with those things in mind, then the people are going to somebody that they can anytime get on the website and see what kind of rigorous five days they had to do in order to attain that certification. We also have different levels, Audrey. It ranges from Level 1 to Level 4. Level 1 being somebody who’s going to teach let's say for the summer at the summer camp--primarily Girl Scouts--those types of places where the kids come for just one week and they're going to learn probably how to stop, start, and steer possibly get to trot by the end of the week and that’s it.
Then we have our Level 2 instructors that are starting to teach the kids that are [xx] . Then our Level 3 instructors, and there's a big jump, [xx] were always saying between Levels 2 and 3. Level 3 is going to be getting more into the nitty gritty of “OK, now you're going to learn how to do a roll back on the rails like those Western folks. OK, now you're going to learn how to jump the English folks and so on.” Then Level 4 is the instructors that are teaching those that want to go and pursue [xx]. They want to really get out there and compete with their horses and really go to that next level with them.
So all of these can be found on our website so somebody can actually search for riding instructor and know that they’ve gone through and attained whatever level of certification that they personally might be interested in learning how to ride at that given level.
Audrey Pavia: That’s great, that really breaks it down for people and helps them understand what exactly they should be looking for. Tell me what kind of testing or teaching you, guys, do during those five days? If you could give me some examples.
Christy Landwehr: Absolutely. My first introduction actually with CHA was going through certification clinic myself. I had been a riding instructor for 18 years, and to be quite frankly, I've never heard of getting certified. When I did finally hear about it, I thought to myself, “Well, I will only do it part time.” I'll probably really don’t need the extra student, so there's really no need to do it. I was informed, “Well, your professional limits and liability insurance can go down about $300 a year. And I thought to myself, “Hey, the clinic is going to cost me anywhere between $600 and $700, I might as well do this.” After two years, I have it paid for.
So I went ahead and went and what a person can expect when they go to a clinic, it is a five-day process and the first thing that the two clinic staff will do is they’ll do a written test. The written test is not going to be your primary focus. So for those out there that have the written test phobia, I remember taking my SATs and they frightened me to death.
Audrey Pavia: I'm sure a lot of us can relate to that.
Christy Landwehr: Yes, absolutely, absolutely. So we always say, deemphasize the written test but know that there has to be something down there that we're looking for in regards to the knowledge of the person coming in. Then we provide our composite horsemanship manual, a riding instructor, and a trail guide manual, and our standards for group riding which is the three books that CHA publishes for our clinic.
But we always say you technically don’t even have to crack the books. To us, they're more of a reference that you use after the clinic. We want to know what knowledge you have coming in. So sure, the books will tell you how to teach pose and trot, and will tell you how to do some of these things. But we want to see the knowledge that you've been doing that if you teach pose and trot in a way that’s not in the book, that’s fantastic because the book is written by fellow clinic staff and fellow CHA-certified instructors. So the next update, we just might include your way of teaching.
So it's a very progressive process, and you can only have up to 10 people being certified with you at any given time, and those people end up becoming your best friends because during that time, you lean on one another because they're actually going to role play as your students.
So for example, everybody after the written test, they go in the arena and they do a sample test ride. So they have to ride themselves, no role playing, and they can chose English or Western saddle because most of our clinics, you can certify English and Western both during the same week. Then, what the person can do is go ahead and show their skills as a rider.
Now, do they have to be an outstanding rider to get certified at the riding instructor? Absolutely not, but we do have to see that they can ride one level higher than they get certified in so that we can verify that if they needed to get on, Audrey, and show a skill to a student, that they could do so.
Audrey Pavia: What about teaching style, how do you evaluate whether or not someone is a good teacher? As a rider myself who’s taken a lot of lessons, I've noticed a huge difference between instructors and their ability to communicate to the rider what they are looking for.
Christy Landwehr: Well, right after you do that test ride, then it begins, everyone has to teach at level one. Our big belief is even if you taught [xx] your entire life and you teach the really high level, you have to be able to teach somebody to mount, dismount, start, stop, and steer. So we get everyone to teach the Level 1 lesson and our model is if the lesson safe? Is the lesson effective? Frankly, the third one is big too, is the lesson fun? Because if you're going to have a style that’s not fun, people that are learning how to ride are probably not going to keep coming back to you week after week. They're going to go down to Joe down the street he's a much nicer person.
So it is very important to us that we don’t have that old fashion riding instructor. You know, the one with the [xx] and the tall boots and hitting the whip as they're saying, “Aw, come on! Do this, do that!”
Audrey Pavia: Screaming at you. Right.
Christy Landwehr: Exactly. That breaks down the thought process of the rider and the rider, it's very hard to learn when you’re being yelled at.
Audrey Pavia: Yes, I can vouch for that.
Christy Landwehr: Level 1, basically, you’d have five people mounted on horses, and as I said, this takes place around the country at different host sites that we have, so you're not going to know the horses coming in, but they're all school horses that have been used in some sort of a school program. If you're getting certified in both some in English class and some in Western but we strongly believe that at Level 1 and 2, it really doesn’t matter because we have everyone hold the reins with two hands and ride with a [xx] on.
Then they’ll go ahead and they’ll teach let say [xx] and so they’ll get up there and I'll say, “OK, all of you, come to my camp for the first time, none of you have ever ridden before, you're all around in between eight and 10 of age and you're going to learn how to get on a horse for the first time. Here we go.” You get to teach the 15-minute lesson in which you're demonstrating to us your skills as a teacher. At the end of that 15 minutes, you get to self-evaluate yourself, you get to go ahead and have each one of your students, say comments. We normally allow an assistant in the arena to--not all of us are lucky enough to have somebody like that help us in the arena but it's really a nice thing you do have somebody on the ground to help. So the assistant will come on and wait for him or her and then the two clinic staff also come in.
Audrey Pavia: Now, who are the evaluators? Who’s doing the judging here?
Christy Landwehr: We have about 125 right now clinic instructors around the country. They are people that have actually gone through this certification process and at the end of the week, the clinic staff had said, “Well, this person would make an excellent staff for CHA. They would be fantastic and we would like to recommend them as clinic staff.” So then they’ll go through a process where they have to do so many clinics under the tutelage of a more experienced clinic instructor until they qualify and be clinic staff themselves.
Then they're basically independent contractors for us, so they set their own rates and we list them on our website and also in our membership directory so that folks that are hosting clinics around the country can contact them and bring a couple of the men to do their clinic.
Audrey Pavia: Now, how difficult is it to find these clinics? Are there some states where there's a lot more of them going on than others? Is it pretty well distributed?
Christy Landwehr: At this point in time, it is pretty well spread out around the country. We actually even have them in Alaska and Hawaii, too. The best way to find them is to get on our website which www.CHA-AHSE.org. When you go on there, you'll actually see about one that says clinics, then find one by either location or by dates. Then somebody can go in and find one that’s coming up near them in their state or they can find one in a certain time frame if they have a rush to be able to get it down.
Audrey Pavia: Right. OK. Now, I wanted to ask you about the different disciplines. What if someone is side saddle instructor or they specialized in gymkhana. How does that work as opposed to just say general Western and English?
Christy Landwehr: Absolutely, great question. We are very broad based in our certification. So we will not individually give out let's say a side saddle certification. What we do though is we would recommend to that side saddle instructor that when they come to one of our standard clinics, that they can go ahead and bring their own saddle and show us the side saddle if that’s what they're most comfortable in. They can certainly show us how they teach side saddle, that’s absolutely fine, but that we also have to see them do the ground lesson which is part of what we require. We also need to see them do the levels of 1, 2, 3, 4. At the end of that, then we'd be able to give them an English if they do primarily side saddling English or Western if they do primarily side saddle Western certification, but it would not say side saddle on there.
Audrey Pavia: Tell me what the benefits are to instructors to be certified. There's a lot of instructors out there that are doing really well just on their reputation and they probably think, “Well, why do I need to do this?”
Christy Landwehr: That’s what I did. My primary reason was completely monetary. I said, “If I can save that much money on my professional limits and liability insurance, I'm going to do it.” There are so many insurance companies right now recognizing certification more and more. They're realizing that their likelihood of getting the claim might be less for somebody that’s been certified than for somebody who hasn’t. They might not necessarily know the reputation of the rider and so on because lots of insurance people don’t know much about the horse industry per se.
Audrey Pavia: Right.
Christy Landwehr: But they will know that “Oh, they're CHA certified and this is the process which they’ve gone through, that’s great.” So that’s one of the primary reasons we find that the people get certified. We also find that people like it as a marketing tool for them. Once they get certified, they can utilize our logo on all of their business cards and brochures. We also do a mini webpage for them on our website absolutely free as part of their membership.
So when somebody types in let's say the state of California and types in that they are looking for a riding instructor in the Valley or wherever the case may be, all the riding instructor that we have in that area will come up and then they can click on an individual name and then the resume and photo of that person will come up. So it creates a way for them not to have to handle websites of their own, or if they do, they can link from our website to theirs. So it gives people an opportunity to be found.
I think another reason for people wanting to be certified is for the networking. We have a monthly eblast that goes out and also a quarterly magazine. We have little tidbits in there like tricks of the trade and pet peeves around the barn and how to teach being able to feel [xx] and leads. Things like this that our members really love to network with one another on email. So from across the country, you can be learning how to do something with a problem student and being able to fix something without having to go to a clinic yourself and so on because you know that you've send it out to the masses of our membership and they’d answer it for you.
Audrey Pavia: Right. That’s great. OK, thanks, Christy. Next step, we're going to talk about the steps you should take in finding or actually evaluating an instructor when you're out there looking at different ones, hopefully certified instructors. So we'll be right back after these messages.
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Audrey Pavia: Hi, and we're back. Thanks for joining us at “Horsing Around” on PetLifeRadio.com. I'm your host, Audrey Pavia, and we're talking to Christy Landwehr who is the CEO of the Certified Horsemanship Association.
Christy, I was hoping you could break down for us what the steps are when someone is evaluating an instructor. Say they have a couple of instructors, they’ve narrowed themselves down to they're certified and they teach the discipline person who’s interested in learning. What should they do when they want to decide between the two or three and figure out which one is best for them.
Christy Landwehr: Good question. One of the primary things that we recommend to people is that they have the opportunity to contact the person by phone and that that person actually gets back to them in a timely manner. We find that a lot of times, people are riding their horses and doing things and their business skills are not necessarily up to par. Somebody that’s going to get back to them promptly and do those types of things is probably much more cognizant of their business and then also, that they're going to provide the person with their lesson. A lot of times, riding instructors will say to you, “Sure, you can go ahead and come on over for just one lesson, kind of a sample lesson, and [xx] the barn and so on and so forth.”
There's a big difference between a barn that has school horses to provide for the riders and a barn that doesn’t. So obviously, if the person needs to make sure that you know what that school horse price is, if they're planning on getting a school horse and so on. Then when they go to the actual barn, taking a sample riding lesson is a fantastic idea, and if the riding instructor offers private even though privates are normally more money than a group, we highly recommend that the person take a private first. So if they really get that one on one with the riding instructor.
There are also many barns out there that you show up and the horses already saddled, groomed, and ready to go. You have your hour ride and the horses unsaddled for you and put away. That’s perfectly fine, if the rider’s interested in that. However, I personally recommend that if you go to a barn, if you had any interest in possibly owning the horse one day or leasing the horse and so on, it's a wonderful idea to be able to know how to do everything. So to find the barn that’s actually going to teach you how to groom, how to catch a horse, how to halter a horse, how to take care of the tack, how to bridle a horse, how to saddle a horse, not only how to ride and then go ahead and do all those steps in reverse to cool down the horse and put the horse back in its pasture or pen. I think that those things are very valuable as well.
Audrey Pavia: I want to help people understand the difference between a riding instructor and a horse trainer. I know there's a lot of confusion out there. A lot of people do both, some do just one or the other, some do both but only one well. What can you tell us about that?
Christy Landwehr: You're absolutely right. There's a lot of confusion out there, and my big belief is that the two are not synonymous. A riding instructor is somebody who’s teaching the rider how to handle a horse. The horse trainer is somebody who is teaching the horse how to do particular things and then if that horse, of course, has an owner and the owner wants to learn how to deal with it, then that horse trainer then becomes a riding instructor and help to then explain to the person what steps he or she took in order to train that horse and then applied it to that person.
Just like you said, Audrey, I don’t think that everyone out there is good at both. I think most people are either good at horse training or good at riding instruction and aren’t necessarily good at both. If you find somebody who is good at both, that’s fantastic. But a lot of times, it takes a very different style of person to be able to teach a human versus being able to teach a horse.
So I think that when these people are going around barns and checking, obviously they have their own horse that they want to work with. I think it's going to important that they have a horse trainer, a person that actually trains horses and got them ready for the show ring or whatever their [xx] and goals are, but I also think it's important for that person to say, “Well then, if I want to eventually learn all the tricks that this trainer has up his or her sleeves to apply to my horse so that I can ride my horse as successfully as the trainer. Then also make sure that that person can convey that message to them as well.
Audrey Pavia: Right. So in a situation where you have a horse, say a green horse, and you put it with a trainer, that trainer is probably also going to give you lesson, that’s been my experience, to teach you how to ride that horse. For example, the trainer is riding the horse three days and you're coming out for lessons two days a week, so it seems to me that it's very common to have the trainer give lessons. Is that accurate?
Christy Landwehr: It is very common for folks that have their own horses and are putting them in training, absolutely. It might be something where there's a lot of traveling riding instructors out there, there's a lot of folks that are self-employed and aren’t necessarily at one barn and they go around from place to place. It might be a possibility for a person like that, if they find that they're taking a riding lesson from the trainer and the person is jut not getting the message across.
Trying, of course, not to step on a toe, ask the person, “Do you mind if somebody else comes in and to kind of teaches me on my horse as well and helps me with that?” The person waits, of course, until they get the green horse back home at their stable and then has the individual riding instructor come out to. So there are ways around that if they find that they don’t have a person who’s explaining the process well to them.
Audrey Pavia: Right. I wanted to ask you, too, about trail training. There are instructors out--there aren’t many of them--but there are some who specialize in teaching riders--I guess and horses--how to be safe on the trail and be good trail horse and good trail rider. Does CHA certifies trail training?
Christy Landwehr: We do, we offer a full trail program that has Level 1 through 4 and you actually go out in the world with this group. It's a fantastic five-day clinic that I myself have not had a chance to take part in and I really need to, it’ll be fun. But you actually take horses into the back country, and you're actually doing picket lines and hobbling and hind lines. You're packing the horses out and you're doing everything from the Level 1 step which is gay ride all the way to Level 4 which is actual guiding where you're taking a group of individuals down to the wilderness and doing [xx] cooking and setting up tents and all of that. So it's a very intense process for those that want to get certified at that level.
We also have a lower level trail certification process called our “combined clinic”, and that does Level 1 and 2 of the arena work and then Level 1 and 2 of trail work which would be just for the people that are going to take groups out on day rides, not necessarily those that are going to do any overnight with their guests. Then, I would recommend for those folks to go to our combined clinic.
Audrey Pavia: OK. Now, what about people that are interested in becoming competitive and distance riding?
Christy Landwehr: Yes. As far as that goes, we don’t necessarily have a certification just for that. The reason for that is that a lot of times, your folks that are going to do your competitive and your endurance riding and those types of things, are probably going to have to do arena riding first to learn how to ride. So that we would recommend that they go to one of our standard riding instructor who’s certified. Then once they get that accomplish, and they can ride, walk, trot, and canter in the arena safely, then they can go ahead and start checking their horse out in the trail and doing those types of things.
What we would like to see at CHA is once somebody has achieved our Level 4 as a rider. Then, a lot of our instructors like to then hand them on to somebody that might be a specialist in a certain area within their state. So let's say you really want to specialize in endurance or you really want to specialize in reining or what have you, then a lot of times, our instructors that tend to be a little bit more Jack of all trades can then send the person to a specialty instructor who says, let's say they do just dressage or whatever the case maybe.
Audrey Pavia: OK. Christy, tell me how people can find a Certified Horsemanship Association certified instructor?
Christy Landwehr: Absolutely. The best way is to go on our website and when you click on “Find an Instructor” or “Find a Facility”, you're taken to another one of our websites which is on CHAInstructor.com, and that’s our online database. So you're actually tapping in to our master database that’s held at our corporate office and we put the information for each of our instructors that had asked us to do so on there.
Right now, it's about 88% of our membership had asked to be listed on there. They can do an advance search and type in their city, their state, their county, and all the instructors in their area will come up. They can also type in a discipline and for those of our instructors that have gone in and done a detail bio, all the keywords that that individual has typed in will come up. So let's say they're looking for dressage or event or what have you, those will all appear as well. So that’s probably the easiest way.
Audrey Pavia: OK, and give us your website address again.
Christy Landwehr: Absolutely. It's www.CHA-AHSE.org.
Audrey Pavia: OK, is there anything else you'd like to share with us that possibly we didn’t cover that you think might be important?
Christy Landwehr: Well, we did had a wonderful partnership with the American Vaulting Association and we're now offering a recreational vaulting certification.
Audrey Pavia: Oh, that’s great!
Christy Landwehr: Yes, and it's just wonderful because AVA had been around for quite a long time and they haven’t ventured in to actually creating a certification process for themselves, so they partnered with us to do it, and now we share resources which has been wonderful. So now we offer that.
We also do a barn manager certification program where individuals that are barn managers learn actually having people that they're teaching how to ride but they board horses and what not, they can get certified as far as how they do in horse handling, horse care, their bookkeeping, their accountings, those types of things, too. Then we also provide a site accreditation program where let's say you want to get your barn accredited through CHA, we send out two site visitors to go over your management standards, your program standards, and your facility standards to make sure you're not using barb wire around the horses and things on those lines, about the [xx], if you have barrier records, veterinarian records, tax checks that you're doing on your tax. Then, when you get accredited through us, there's lots of insurance companies right now that are recognizing that so that you can get insurance discounts through that as well.
Audrey Pavia: OK. Well, that’s all we have time for today. Christy, thank you so much for being our guest this week and sharing all your knowledge with us. We're so happy you joined us.
Christy Landwehr: Thank you, Audrey. I really appreciate it.
Audrey Pavia: No problem, and next time, we're going to talk about the any uses of acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine for horses. If you have any questions or comments about “Horsing Around”, please email me at Audrey@PetLifeRadio.com. Until then, happy trails.
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