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How To Get Qualified in the Horse World

Gaining Professional Equestrian Qualifications in UK

  • How do I get qualified?
  • How do I get professional certificates and letters after my name?

Are 2 of the most common questions we are asked ! Others are:

  • What qualifications are there?
  • Do I have to go to college?
  • Why do I need qualifications anyway?

These sort of questions are so common. They are asked by people who want to work in a variety of ways with horses – from instructors and nutritionist to behaviourist and equine physiotherapists.

You do not need to go to college to gain qualifications.  You can do it off your own back in your own time and at a pace that suites you. Most realise that today, employers are looking for well trained and professional workers.  To get a good job with a good employer or to get plenty of clients therefore, means gaining some sort of professional qualification.

Many people, aim to work as self employed grooms or trainers or would like to work on the psychology and behaviour aspect of training/retraining horses.

Some hope to help people improve their riding and help owners improve their horses training. Others hope to use methods which today come under the term natural horsemanship.

The basic training for an accredited qualification for anyone who wants to work in a hands on capacity with both horses and their owners is the same. It all stems from the basic equine care and management training. (BHS or ABRS qualifications – see later in this article)

Then, once those basics are gained and the certificates in your hand, you can branch out & train further to work in the field of your choice safe in the knowledge that you can obtain professional insurance. Your specialist field could be rider and horse training, behaviour consultant etc. etc.

What clients want

  • Today, prospective clients are more savvy than in the past.  Clients usually require some sort of guarantee that the person they approach to help them, and to handle their much loved horse, has received good training and is qualified in their field.
  • If the prospective client approaches an approved and recognised riding stables / equestrian centre (a business) for help it is more than likely that their staff are professionally qualified.
    • The business by law carries insurance and is hopefully professional in their business practices.  This means, should things for some reason go wrong with the training of you as the client, or your horse. there is some comeback for the client if there are any ongoing issues.
  • As a self employed trainer/instructor/behaviourist however, you are particularly vulnerable to problems encountered when things go wrong with training or retraining horses and riders.
    • Without qualifications it can be even more of a problem should the client decide to take action against you for whatever problem arises.

The pitfalls

Horses are unpredictable and are unable to tell us what is wrong and why they are behaving like they are. Sometimes re-training goes wrong. Sometimes things are made worse. It is possible that a re-trainer working on behaviour or problems when being ridden or handled might have a set back and have to work on a particular horse for longer. This might mean more hours of teaching or training than initially anticipated.

Clients however, are not always wealthy and cannot always afford to have the trainer work on the horse for longer periods than anticipated – which means the job of retraining or improving may be only half accomplished.

Sometimes even if the client is wealthy, things just take longer than expected. The owner may be the one who caused the problem in the first place, they may well blame the trainer for making it worse or not sorting it (even though the work was not yet finished).

  • We all know that serious problems with behaviour in horses can be dangerous – should the owner have an accident and consider the job of retraining has caused it – even though they may have decided to terminate the training/retraining before it was finished, many are now likely to take their grievance and injury problems to court to gain compensation.

It is especially important therefore, for the self employed to obtain some sort of professional insurance cover. Gone are the days when people accepted problems as accidents or unavoidable. Today everyone wants to blame someone if things go wrong or if someone is injured.

Finding your path

  • Getting the right qualifications for your particular field of interest can be a bit of a minefield unless you are sure which route to take for your training.
  • There is for instance just one professional qualification body in the UK for Equine Behaviourists and only one accredited professional qualification route via the Society of Equine Behaviour Consultants.
    • The Society aims to protect the public and horses by maintaining the register, making this accessible to the public and related professions and publicising and promoting the use of qualified and insured Equine Behaviour Consultants.
  • An equine behaviourist is not the same as a equine psychologist.  To date there are no psychologist’s qualifications. To work as a psychologist with people means many years of training and a degree. Humans are able to communicate via the spoken work with their psychologist to tell them how their life has been to date, so at least they are a step on the way to hopefully helping them.
    • Michael Peace however, has been retraining horses in UK since before these qualifications arrived. He is recommended by Lingfield as a trainer who is well grounded not flashy and did not need displays & demonstrations to become known as a really good trainer. His work with horses of course uses many of the things which the UK visiting round pen trainers and ‘natural horsesmanship’ trainers have used in their demonstrations and displays.  Check out this link

We are well used to getting emails and telephone calls about how to gain professional qualifications in the equine world here. Paula Clements who runs the office for The Lingfield Instructor Group, spends a good deal of her week explaining to people how the various qualification systems work and tries to help and advise which one might be the most suitable for the enquirer.

Getting a good grounding

The important thing to note for anyone who wants to work in a hands on capacity with horses is the information in the following 3 points:

  • For those who want to work with horses in a hands on capacity and to teach or train riders as well as work with their horses, there are two routes in the UK for gaining professional equine care & management qualifications.
  • These initial equine care & management qualifications are prerequisites for all hands on work with horses and can then lead on to gaining professional grooms or teaching qualifications.
  • Once you have these final instructors qualifications you can then follow your chosen field such as working with behavioural problems (psychology) or training horse & rider in other natural horsemanship style methods.

What is a Riding Instructor?

Strangely there are some who think that a riding instructor is not qualified to train and work with horses as a re-trainer. However, training horses is part and parcel of becoming a riding instructor. The two go together and it would be hard to separate them. The riding instructor is coach and trainer.

  • It must be remembered that if you want to work with horses – (unless you personally intend to purchase every horse you intend to work with), that your work will undoubtedly mean you will be involved with helping the owners improve their own skills to enable them to continue to work with the horse.

To work with a horse yourself, improve it and hand it back to the owner without any guidance, means the owner would continue to do whatever they were doing in the first place. The whole thing would be a bit pointless and unkind to the horse. The horse would very likely be back to square one in no time at all and suffer all the same or even more behavioural problems.

  • Before becoming a riding instructor i.e. trainer – or indeed to work in any field within the industry, the trainee must show that they have good all round knowledge of equine management, are able to work physically and handle horses properly in all situations.

They are required to show that they have a good understanding of the horses needs and psychological requirements. Trainee instructors are taught to understand how the horses brain works, why it does what it does and what to expect if it is not provided with the right environment and treatment. They are trained in all aspects of equine reactions and how to correct poor or unwanted behaviour. It enables them to work as a behaviourist – albeit not a specialist accredited behaviourist – a rider trainer or a horse trainer. Many work in the field of re-training racehorses or rehabilitating neglected horses or abused – many of whom come with serious behavioural problems.

  • The basic training for anyone who wants to work in a hands on capacity with both horses and their owners is the same. It all stems from the basic equine care and management training. Then, once those basics are gained and the certificates in your hand can you work in the field of your choice safe in the knowledge that you can obtain that professional insurance.
An Equine Behaviourist

The behaviorist who works with the horse and his owner must first gain professional qualifications to enable them to obtain professional insurance. Without professional insurance the self employed person is leaving themselves open to losing their house and home in any court case and to having to pay literally thousands of pound out in compensation – all of which can be avoided by just obtaining professional insurance.

Which qualifications to start with?

Of the two organisations which offer professional qualifications we are discussing here, the most well known is probably The British Horse Society (BHS). The other is the Association of British Riding Schools (ABRS).

The BHS is known on a world wide basis and their qualifications are recognised by international standards enabling BHS instructors to gain International Trainers Passports for teaching overseas.

The ABRS is not so well known but offers equally good professional teaching and instructors qualifications. For those who intend to teach to a good all round standard in the UK, the ABRS qualifications are equally as good and in some training circumstances will suit certain people better than the BHS training route. They also offer UKCC (UK Coach Certificates) which offer the same option to gain International Passports.

College courses

The younger students could opt for a college course but must be sure that this is really what they need and be sure that the course on which they are intending to enrol is in fact the route they should be taking. Many take a National Diploma only to find that they would have been better to opt just for the BHS Stages exams and have to spend more time taking those on completion of their National Diploma. For some this is time and money wasted.

Avoiding College courses

Use our courses to gain the theory knowledge for the BHS Stages and a local equestrian centre to gain the practical skills.  Check the syllabus on the BHS website and view all local BHS and ABRS approved riding schools (look at the where to ride section of the BHS site for instance).  Have a look to see if they offer training for the BHS Stages exams.  If so, ring and ask to speak to the person in charge of training.  Tell them you are aiming to take (or are already taking) a distance learning course for the theory, but would like to take the practical side of the training with them. You may need an assessment riding lesson first to see if you are ready for the riding side of the exam too.  Check out this link on our website for suitable

Academic based qualifications:

Nutrition, feeding, breeding, equine science:

If however you are looking into equine nutrition and feeding or breeding, then this becomes one of the equine science subjects which are available to college students. To work as a nutritionist is not easy – the work is limited and there are very few positions available. Work could be obtained via one of the feed companies – but there are only a few companies and hundreds coming out of college each year with suitable degree qualifications.

  • The nutritionist must obtain a degree in equine science which will probably entail a 3 year full time course. Should they wish to work in a hands on capacity they will STILL have to gain those equine management skills and qualifications we mentioned earlier.

Those wanting to work in the field of alternative or supportive therapies such as equine massage can only do this with a vets approval – each time they work n a horse it must be approved by a vet – otherwise it is illegal.

  • If you want to work as a physiotherapist you must also gain a degree. To become an equine physio means first gaining a human physiotherapy degree and then following it up with an equine one. Basically this means loads of years of theory and work on college assignments.

Working as a trainer on behaviour problems

Michael Peace whom we mentioned earlier in this article, has been working with problem horses for many years. Not to make a big name for himself but to help people and their horses.  Michael is a genuine natural horseman who is calm and relaxed.

see video link here to a horse which was going to be shot

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