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Become a riding instructor

No need to go to college to become a riding instructor.

There is another option to college – part time training using a distance learning course plus a local commercial equestrian centre. This route is often the best way for those who have work, family, horse etc.  For younger people, attending an equestrian centre on a full time basis is a very viable option for gaining the right qualifications.

  • Many do not realise that a UK riding instructor first has to gain 3 graded qualifications or be assessed in equine management and riding along with the coaching qualifications. They are qualified not to  just ‘teach’, they coach, train horses, manage staff and stables and more.

College or Equestrian Centre?  For a young person the route to working with horses will need some thought.

Tracy Allin Baker

Tracy Allin Baker

Equestrian centre:   OK, so you won’t get the long holidays the college kids get – but let’s face it, ‘working with horses’ is what you are aiming for?  In the real world, working with horses won’t allow you take long holidays.

Maybe you or your parents, prefer you opt for the protective enclosed world of the college environment? rather than training in a real life commercial environment.  However, will you get the qualification you actually need?

For the slightly older person or even the mature person, who left school a while ago,  the equestrian centre offers a more flexible approach to learning than the structured ‘courses’ offered by colleges.

Many employers have advised us that they would rather take on an employee from a commercial riding centre than from a college course.  Many prefer their staff to have started on the professional Stages exam route or the Association of British Riding Schools UKCC route rather than the National Diploma or BTEC courses they are gaining at college (these are the vocational qualifications).

Equine College courses:

Do you need a Diploma to become an instructor – or do you need a Coaches Certificate? 

It is the coaching certificate you need – so aim for the instructors / coaches training.  In fact many young people are pushed towards a college course believing that this is the best route to gaining the Coach Instructors qualifications.  For some however, it is also entirely the wrong route.

  • It is popular to assume that a college course, is the only route to take to becoming a riding instructor.  This is not the case.
  • Youngsters often enrol on what seems to be a good ‘qualification’ – A  national diploma perhaps. The Levels 1 2 & 3 Diplomas however, are not a direct qualification route for an instructing career. 
  • Yet more exams will have to be taken after that Diploma is achieved – so do consider carefully if it is worthwhile and right for you.

In the UK, there are a number of different ‘equestrian’ qualifications – some are useful, but some, we believe are not.  Some lead on to degrees – others provide functional practical skills which are good for gaining work as a groom, and others provide ‘Coaching’ or ‘Stable Manager/Grooms’ qualifications and today there are professional rider qualifications too.

Take care therefore, that the course you choose, or you choose for your child is in fact the right career path.   Ask the questions. What does it lead to.  If you want to instruct find out if it will finish up giving you an instructor’s / coaching qualification in the end.

Part time instructor training:

As we mentioned earlier – both young and more mature people can often train full or part time at an equestrian centre.

If you want to train part time, you may even be able to offer work in exchange for training on specific days a week.  This gives the yard a hand and provides you with the hands-on practical experience.  You will need that hands on training to gain the practical skills for your exams.

The theory knowledge can be gained by distance learning such as Lingfield Correspondence courses whilst getting that practical help locally. Lingfield Intermediate Diploma programmes provides the majority of the theory on which you would be questioned during the day of the professional exams.  You would not need lectures and can get this knowledge under your belt in advance – thereby being one step ahead when it comes to training.

Many yards these days offer adult riding and stable management lessons specifically targeted towards the entering and gaining professional exams.  It just takes a bit of searching to find the right place.  The Lingfield admin office offers help with tips of what to look for to find the right yard/equestrian centre.

I’m an experienced horse person – I don’t need the basics.

If you are experienced already you may think you don’t need more practical training.  However, consider this:  would you pass the advanced driving test after you have been driving a few years – probably not without someone telling you what is expected of you in the test.  It is the same for working with horses – you need tips on what is expected and, ‘exam preparation’.

Riding Instructor / Coaching Qualification System

The qualification system in UK is fairly straightforwards but few training providers or colleges seem to give you the whole picture.  Often they tell you only what they can offer. The instructor qualifications can be gained through either the British Horse Society or the Association of British Riding Schools.  Both have similar training and qualification systems which on completion, enable instructors to become professional coaches and to gain the ALL important insurance for teaching.

With the BHS system, once assessed by your trainer at the equestrian centre as being ‘ready and up to the required standard’, you can put yourself in for the exams and work yourself up the ladder.

You can in fact put yourself in for the exams whenever you like.  However, we would say  ‘be realistic’.  These are genuinely professional exams, the entry fees are not cheap.  It could be a waste of money should you be considered borderline and fail and then have to re-take.

Although the systems for qualification are similar with each organisation, one thing is certain, everyone has to start at the bottom and work their way through the exams. There is no alternative with the BHS system although the ABRS do offer a direct entry via prior learning and experience in certain situations but this is currently (2017) at Level 2 only.  ABRS About UKCC

There are also a variety of pre-requisite exams. These must be achieved prior to being eligible to take the coaching / instructor exams.

What makes a qualified riding instructor/coach

Instructors do not just teach riding – Today they are trained to a nationally graded sports standard in a variety of skills. For this reason we are moving over to call our instructors ‘coaches’.

Instructors are and always have been horsemasters and horse trainers, which means they have the ability to understand and put into practice equine welfare and management to a high standard, and to teach and train horses. Riding instructors today are also trained people coaches working with their clients and pupils to improve both mental and physical skills.

To be registered with the British Horse Society as an instructor they must up hold to date first aid certificates, attend training sessions and seminars regularly to maintain their standards, gain their Riding & Road Safety Test, have CRB checks in place (Criminal Records Bureau) and be up to date with child protection checks too.

The ABRS have similar systems in place with the added advantage of the UKCC qualfication. In our articles section we provide more informtion about the UKCC route.

Along with the above mentioned tests and checks, the exam route to becoming an instructor via the BHS is as follows

BHS Stage 1 (both riding and horse knowledge elements – some questioned orally)

BHS Stage 2  – once at this level of training you can opt for three different routs or pathways; professional rider, groom, coach.

To become a professional coach you will follow the route which encompasses all three of these pathways and gain the ‘complete horsemanship’ qualification.

On reaching Stage 2 you continue in your chosen path or speciality (grooms, rider or complete horsemanship whch includes the coach qualification)

BHS Stage 3

After a specified amount of hours teaching – which must be signed off by a relevant person – the candidate is awareded the BHSAI.

Further Stages and Instructors qualifications follow to gain Stable Managers or Intermediate Instructors certificates.

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