While therapeutic horseback riding may not be the first type of therapy that comes to mind to deal with a physical or emotional tragedy, many women have found it to be just what the doctor ordered. Thanks to the work of the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association, women dealing with all types of traumatic experiences, from breast cancer to abuse, can find healing. In 2011, the NARHA changed its name to the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International. Under its new name, the organization continues to offer several types of national certifications for riding instructors.
Depending on how ambitious you want to be as a riding instructor, PATH offers three levels of certification -- registered, advanced and master. The first step in earning any of the PATH instructor certifications is becoming a member of PATH. After paying the membership dues, riding instructors hit the books, taking two online courses and exams, obtaining CPR and First Aid certification, and completing a horsemanship skills checklist. Other requirements include taking part in 25 hours of group classes, an on-site workshop, and an on-site evaluation of skills. An instructor can also opt to finish a PATH-sponsored training program or attend a PATH-approved college or university to fulfill her education requirements.
Instructors with a knack for equestrian driving can check out PATH's three levels of driving-instructor certifications, Level I, II and III. The driving-instructor certification includes a driving workshop and passing an on-site certification exam, where test-takers show their skills through written and hands-on portions. The exam tests the instructor's know-how in equine management, horsemanship, driving instruction, teaching methodology and disabilities. Instructors must also prove they have experience, with Level I instructors submitting at least 200 documented driving hours. Level II instructors must have 400 hours and Level III instructors, 1,000 hours.
Instructors up for more of a challenge can opt for the certification for interactive vaulting, another form of therapeutic riding that combines gymnastics and horseback riding. The flexible and fearless can earn certification in interactive vaulting by being a PATH Registered Level Instructor and 21 years old. Applicants learn the skills by taking a PATH-sponsored vaulting workshop within two years of applying for certification. Each candidate must prove her skills by submitting documentation of 30 lunging hours and 20 interactive vaulting teaching hours with the application.
PATH offers the Equine Specialist in Mental Health and Learning designation, created for professionals wanting to offer mental health or learning sessions where the participants simply interact with horses, rather than ride them. This certification also includes spending time in the classroom, attending the PATH Equine Specialist in Mental Health and Learning Workshop and passing a horsemanship skills test and two online exams. Each applicant must also submit documentation of 60 hours of experience in equine mental health or learning and 20 hours of education in equine behavior and management. Applicants can also let colleagues talk them up through two letters of recommendation from equine professionals.
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