Tuesday, Jun. 11, 2024

The Trainer Certification Program Will Present Great Opportunities

Our columnist believes that the new U.S. Hunter Jumper Association program will especially benefit collegiate instructors and students.

This summer our sport is being given an amazing gift with the official unveiling of the U.S. Hunter Jumper Association Trainer Certification Program and its accompanying educational materials. 

A group of our top professionals have spent more than four years developing the program requirements and a comprehensive manual that will help us establish a commonality of language and riding theory within our sport. 

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Our columnist believes that the new U.S. Hunter Jumper Association program will especially benefit collegiate instructors and students.

This summer our sport is being given an amazing gift with the official unveiling of the U.S. Hunter Jumper Association Trainer Certification Program and its accompanying educational materials. 

A group of our top professionals have spent more than four years developing the program requirements and a comprehensive manual that will help us establish a commonality of language and riding theory within our sport. 

As an educator in the world of collegiate riding, I’m grateful that these professionals have been willing to
volunteer their time to help us canonize the basic precepts and language of riding and horse care, preserve the wisdom of the founders of the American System of riding hunters and jumpers and gather the ideas and advice of current industry professionals.  What a boon it will be to have a comprehensive curriculum that was created after lengthy study, discussion and debate.   

This program and its resources should have a positive impact on collegiate riding in particular because our fundamental purpose is educational. 

As consistency in usage, terminology and theory spreads to riders and trainers at every level and in every area of our country, a student’s transition from one instructor to another will become more seamless.  Additionally, this expansive manual will be a valuable resource for the many colleges and universities that offer course work in horsemanship.

The scope of this impressive manual—described as a collection of shorts from many of the best professionals in the sport, past and present—is unique because its editors have amassed information that encompasses horse care and conditioning as well as riding and training theory into one comprehensive volume.  They’ve pulled together some resources that might have otherwise been lost and which will help us retain and understand our sport’s heritage and evolution. 

Additionally, the manual includes the insights of outstanding professionals who are currently active at the top levels of the hunter and jumper industry.

A Teacher Is Also A Student

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Aspiring equine professionals who have chosen to develop their skills and credentials through a college riding or equine studies program will have the opportunity to gain the theoretical knowledge necessary for the first Category of Certification while pursuing their college degree. 

Many students who have been active teaching assistants as a part of their curriculum may well have successfully prepared themselves to meet all of the requirements for this first certification level shortly after graduation. Colleges that offer riding programs and equine studies majors and minors are working to instill in their students an understanding of the “best practices” within our sport. 

Many of the grassroots instructors and trainers come out of collegiate riding, and the Trainer Certification Program will help us ensure that these young instructors/trainers share a common grounding in the fundamentals of our sport.  More importantly, the information provided in this new curriculum will spark great dialogue and debate about risk management, professional standards of conduct, training philosophies and horse care in the 21st century. 

Riding instructors and trainers are a strong-minded group, so it’s unlikely that all of us are going to agree completely with the information provided through this program! But at the very least it will stimulate discussion and force each of us to examine our own philosophy and practices. 

The hallmark of a great teacher is his willingness to look beyond his own experiences and examine as many relevant resources as possible, sift through the new information and compare it with his own beliefs and ultimately blend the concepts found valuable into his current philosophy.  Becoming an effective teacher is a dynamic process in which the teacher must be willing at times to assume the role of a student. 

I think that the second Category of  Certification is based on expanding the knowledge of instructors at all levels by giving them access to the ideas and insights of practicing professionals from the hunter and jumper rings. 

Our sport is evolving, and we must be willing to reflect on ideas and concepts from sports psychology, disciplines that focus on body awareness and control, natural horsemanship philosophies, learning research and other areas that can expand our success as instructors of riding skills.

Exploring new information and integrating it into our knowledge base helps us remain fresh and can help protect us from burnout, but I must say it’s not a substitute for a thorough grounding in the basic principles of our field. 

Breakthrough Moments Wanted

The TCP’s aim is closely aligned with the concept of active learning, which is at the heart of many college mission statements. Educators want their students to become active learners who know how to access, analyze and assimilate information.

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One of the primary roles of a good instructor is to help the student become a good learner so that he can function independently of his teacher. The comprehensive manual that has been developed for this certification program will be empowering for students because they will have access to the resource that provides the context of their instruction. Students will be able to use the manual to reinforce their learning and to explore topics from their lessons in more depth and on their own time. 

We have all experienced the moment when a clinician or guest instructor has told one of our students something that we have been telling him for ages. Yet the way in which the instruction was expressed allowed the student to have a breakthrough, actually allowing the instruction to transform the student’s performance. 

It’s my hope that the TCP manual will have this same type of impact on riders, instructors and trainers throughout our sport. It can give us more ways of expressing what we already know, provide us each with our own “aha” moments, and enhance our understanding of the standards of our sport.

Looking beyond the direct benefit this program can have to educators, students and trainers, I think equally important is the positive impact it will have on the public perception of our sport. 

I’ve heard many professionals bemoan the fact that “anyone can hang out a shingle and become a riding instructor.” If we acknowledge this as problematic, then a program that “will allow trainers to promote a reputable and reliable resource base for current and potential riding students” who aspire to ride hunters or jumpers can only have a positive result for our industry as a whole. New riders and their parents will view this program as a way they can feel more confident that they are choosing an instructor who understands and uses the “best practices” of our sport. 

While this new program is completely voluntary, I cannot imagine not taking advantage of all it has to offer each of us. I’m eagerly awaiting the publication of the manual and the chance to delve into it. I believe I will find affirmation for what I’m already doing and new ideas to test and perhaps integrate into my view of the American System of riding and schooling hunters and jumpers. 

I’m thrilled that I can use this resource in developing a curriculum that will provide my students with a comprehensive educational program. I’m delighted that our governing body has taken this momentous step to legitimize our sport in the public eye.

Finally, I hope that my excitement about this program is contagious and that all of us will jump on board and support what can only have a positive impact on our sport for years to come. 

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