Riding Instructor qualifications
Is Your Riding Instructor, Coach or Trainer Qualified?
There are plenty of riding instructors out there. Some may call themselves instructors others may give themselves the title trainer or coach, most are qualified to teach/coach and train both horse and rider.
How many are there however, who have absolutely no qualifications at all? – not even at the most basic level.
How many are there who actually do not even ride or know the basics of riding well? Some may be good at riding but useless teaching. Some may be good at riding and can ‘train’ people for exams but not necessarily train people to train their horses.
It has always astonished me that people take it for granted that because a person can ride and owns a horse or horses, they will be suitable riding instructors or teachers/trainers.
As a private owner employing a freelance instructor, the sensible thing is to ask the instructor, trainer or coach, if he or she has been trained to teach and coach people. Do they have teaching qualifications – ask to see the certificate for their qualification. If they ARE qualified there is absolutely no need for them to be affronted by this question. Frankly it is only those who have no qualifications who are likely to be affronted.
If you are unsure you could always ask in general conversation 1. How many years ago they qualified for their teaching exam and 2. Where did they take it. Very very few people after all, are likely to forget one of the most important days in their teaching career.
There are just two organisations in the UK who award teaching qualifications and both hold records going back years and years. It is simple therefore, to ring either the BHS or the ABRS and ask if a particular person gained their qualification at a specific centre in a specific year – or range of years.
Alternatively of course, you can attend a riding school where you can guarantee that there will be qualified instructors available, BUT it is still wise to check because not all of the instructors at riding schools will be fully trained as yet – they may be trainees.
Helpful friends and acquaintances:
A great many people however, give it little thought and learn to ride with, or have lessons from, an unqualified instructor. Many parents allow their children to be taught by unqualified instructors. Even teenagers, who happen to ‘live down the road and have their own horses’ are often given complete authority over a child and their riding lessons.
- I have often wondered if these parents have ever thought about whether the person teaching their child is genuinely and seriously qualified for the job – never mind whether they are insured or not.
If you were sending your offspring/wife/husband on a high risk sports course such as skiing, or a motorbike or canoeing course in an area where there was fast running water or strong tides, or indeed if you were going on such a course yourself, would you check the credentials of the person running that course?
- Would you want them to be well trained? insured and up to date with the latest methods and techniques as well as being up to speed with the latest safety issues?
- Most probably the answer is ‘yes’. Why then, do many just not bother with these factors and questions when the high risk sport is horse riding?
Riding is not just sitting on a horse. Riding properly, so that both rider and horse are comfortable and safe, is not a straightforwards procedure. Neither is it easy to teach someone to have the a good enough position (‘seat’) so that when they get a bit wobbly, they can maintain their balance without hanging on to the reins for security (thus hurting the horse in the mouth), or gripping the saddle with their legs to be sure they keep their balance and don’t fall off. Both of the latter tend to make the horse rush or behave in a way which is not conducive to the learner staying put in the saddle.
Good riding instructors / coaches / trainers take years to gain their qualifications, and to maintain those qualifications on the national Register of Instructors they must attend regular training courses held by the relevant governing bodies.
- The qualified instructor is trained in teaching and coaching methods to a national standard. They know HOW to teach a person to ride safely – it isn’t just a matter of teaching them to sit on top and steer.
- The qualified instructor is trained to train horses and to improve horses and sort out problems with previous training.
Someone once said to me that the so called ‘riding teacher’ who has no training should be likened to the average car driver teaching someone to drive an HGV properly and safely – without damaging either the vehicle or anyone else, or their property. The untrained teacher might manage to get some things right, but a good deal would be wrong and could go wrong, and a whole lot more would be very unsafe.
- If you use an unqualified riding instructor, not only will your riding experience most probably be unsafe, but have you ever considered what might happen should there be an accident? Suppose you have a fall? What about a serious accident ?
Most people are aware that riding is a high risk sport. The trained instructor has possible problems in mind at all times and risks are calculated and sensible.
- They are taught how to prevent them and know at what stage riders can undertake more advanced or difficult exercises etc. Riders are not presented with a situation they are unlikely to be able to handle. the qualified instructor can read the horse and understands the horse – they read their intentions in advance in 99.9% of cases – so can prevent problems.
- Few people seem to realise that the unqualified freelance teacher is an uninsured teacher.
It is highly unlikely that any unqualified instructor will be able to gain any sort of insurance for teaching.
- In the case of an accident involving a court case and subsequent compensation claims against them, the uninsured teacher is unlikely to be able to afford to pay out thousands of pounds in compensation and could well lose their house never mind their own horse! The permanently injured child or adult rider could well struggle to get any compensation in these circumstances.
The qualified instructor should be a member of an organisation which offers official registration and relevant insurance.
- Third Party Public Liability insurance is NOT enough even though this is commonly assumed to be sufficient. It has to be the right and relevant insurance for teaching & training and riding others horses. Only the BHS or Association of British Riding Schools are likely to provide sufficient qualifications and therefore enable the instructor/teacher/trainer to gain the relevant insurance.
For your child’s and your own safety and security, always check that the teacher you use is qualified and therefore insured, he or she will then understands HOW to teach safely and knows what a good ‘seat’ really is so that you or your child is secure and safe and can enjoy a long and happy hobby.
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.
The younger students could opt for a college course to gain professional qualifications 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.
More information on why instructors need insurance here
Check out the other articles on gaining professional qualifications too.