Therapeutic Riding Instructor

A therapeutic riding instructor teaches horseback riding lessons to adults and children with emotional, physical or cognitive (the ability to think, learn or remember) disabilities. The goal of therapeutic riding (also called hippotherapy) is to increase and improve independence, mobility (movement), balance, and the mental and emotional health of those with special needs. Therapeutic riding instructors are also responsible for monitoring the health and behavior of the horses under their care.

What Responsibilities Will I Have?

  • Work with riders to establish short- and long-term therapy goals based on a screening of the rider and input from parents, guardians and medical caregivers
  • Set measurable goals for the program (such as rider or volunteer growth) with guidance and input from the program executive director
  • Create and implement written riding lesson plans, activities and patterns based on individual rider needs
  • Effectively communicate instructions and plans with riders
  • Schedule and coordinate sessions with riders, the executive director and program coordinator
  • Document rider and client progress after each session and monitor goal progression, making changes when necessary
  • Fit horses and riders with necessary riding and therapy equipment
  • Ensure all riders and handlers are following the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH) recommendations for a safe and functional setting while providing horse therapy activities
  • Understand and monitor horse behavior and soundness (overall health of the animal), administering equine first aid when necessary
  • Provide regular care for horses such as grooming, tacking, feeding, socialization and exercise
  • Assist with volunteer screening and scheduling
  • Assist in writing grants (the process of applying for funds) to further develop program offerings when working at a nonprofit facility
  • Perform regular barn chores, organization and cleaning

Recommended High School Courses:

  • agricultural education
  • animal science
  • equine science
  • biology
  • anatomy
  • physiology

Education/Training Required:

An associate or bachelor’s degree in animal science, equine science, agriscience or a related field is recommended. To become a certified therapeutic riding instructor (CTRI), the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH Intl.) application process must be completed. The process includes the following:

  • Certification in adult and child CPR and first aid.
  • 30 hours experience in equine handling and management.
  • Documentation of experience working with individuals with disabilities or special needs under the supervision of a certified PATH Instructor.
  • Pass the PATH Intl. Standards Exam.
  • Provide a 10- to 20-minute video displaying the ability to instruct a rider through a specified riding pattern.

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