Getting along well with horses is second nature to most people interested in working with horses. Although knowledge of both horses and riding are crucial for people interested in becoming riding instructors, employers generally ask that their applicants also possess “people skills.” The riding instructor must have the patience to work with kids and adults who have no experience riding horses. The instructor must also, in many cases, be able to work both individually and collectively with people of varying levels of skill.
Particularly in a summer camp setting, one major responsibility of a riding instructor is to teach the basic skills necessary to safely ride a horse. The instructor initially focuses on essential skills such as mounting and dismounting, stopping and steering the horse. The beginner learns to walk the horse, and once comfortable, he is taught to guide the horse through a trot and into a canter.
The instructor also teaches horsemanship principles, according to Equimax, which essentially means methods of appropriately interacting with horses to build trust and ensure safety. The instructor guides the student through haltering, leading—or directing the horse while safely walking alongside it—and tying the horse.
The Equinest website suggests that a riding instructor will sometimes prepare students for competition and accompany them to dressage, jumping or other equestrian events. Although this is typically the job of a coach, an instructor will sometimes assume the responsibilities of a coach, just as she will sometimes undertake barn organisation or some level of horse training as part of the job.
The class structure varies with the establishment. An instructor may teach groups of riding students, and these students may be separated by age. Classes may also be divided according to skill level. In addition, for a higher price, the instructor may offer private lessons that cater to the student’s individual abilities and experience. Writer and riding instructor Laura Jane Thompson suggests that while group classes and private lessons each have their separate advantages, she herself begins with a private lesson—even for a student enrolled in a group session exclusively—in order to evaluate the student’s strengths and weaknesses.
The American Riding Instructors Association offers riding-instructor certification in order to enhance the employability of instructors. The association offers certification in 14 areas of specialisation, and certification must be renewed every five years. Both oral and written assessments are administered at approved test centres throughout the United States. The association lists currently certified riding instructors in a national directory. The British Horse Association and The Certified Horsemanship Association also offer certification programs.
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