Therapeutic Riding Instructor Certification Options

Therapeutic riding instructor with a student on horseback on a forest path.
Dave and Les Jacobs/Lloyd Dobbie / Getty Images

There are several certification options and training courses for those interested in the field of therapeutic riding. Therapeutic riding is an activity for individuals with a disability where they can learn or improve on their sense of positive self, control, focus, and physical well-being. These programs require qualified staff and volunteers who have completed certification programs.

Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International

Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH) offers a three-level certification program for therapeutic riding instructors. The courses include Registered, Advanced, and Master certifications. The PATH certification program is widely known and respected.

  • There are three pathways to Registered (entry-level) certification:
  • Attending a PATH approved training course,
  • Attending a PATH member college or university,
  • or an experiential path that includes online coursework, teaching under supervision, on-site workshops, and an on-site certification class.

Candidates must complete two online exams, attend the workshop and certification class, and have at least 25 hours of teaching under the supervision of a PATH instructor. The application fee is $60.

For Advanced certification,

  • A candidate must be an Individual or Registered member
  • Have taught riders for at least 120 hours at a PATH center
  • Have completed a workshop or training course within the past two years
  • Submit a resume and references

The certification itself requires a written exam, riding demonstration, lunge line demonstration, and a lesson demonstration. The certification fee is $1,000.

For Master certification,

  • A candidate must already hold Advanced certification
  • Have four years of experience with a PATH center
  • Have at least 400 hours of teaching experience
  • Have at least two years of service to the PATH International organization
  • Provide references, a professional resume, case studies, and video footage

The Master certification also requires an oral evaluation that must be successfully passed. The certification fee is $1,000.

American Hippotherapy Association

The American Hippotherapy Association (AHA) offers the Certified Hippotherapy Clinical Specialist designation to physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech and language pathologists. Those who become certified may use the initials HPCS (Hippotherapy Professional Clinical Specialist) in their credentials.

Applicants must have:

  • Been in practice for at least three years (6,000 hours)
  • Have at least 100 hours of hippotherapy practice within the last three years
  • Pass a multiple-choice exam

The certification fee is $275 for AHA members and $375 for nonmembers.

An entry-level certification is also available to physical therapists, physical therapist assistants, occupational therapists, occupational therapist assistants, and speech and language pathologists.

Applicants must have:

  • Been in practice for at least one year (2,000 hours)
  • Have 25 hours of treating patients using hippotherapy
  • Complete AHA Level I and II skills courses
  • Pass an exam

The certification fee is $250 for AHA members and $350 for nonmembers.

National Council for Therapeutic Recreation

The National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC) is the recognized accrediting body for therapeutic riding instructor certification in Canada. The NCTRC offers the Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS) designation to qualified applicants who meet the prerequisites and pass an exam.

Applicants must have:

  • A baccalaureate degree
  • Practical experience in the field

Exams are offered in January, May, and October. Locations for the exams include Canada, the United States, and Puerto Rico. Full details are available on the NCTRC website.

Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Therapeutic Riding

The Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Therapeutic Riding (ACPTR), located in the United Kingdom, offers a hippotherapy course designed for physiotherapists.

Applicants must be:

  • Members of ACPTR
  • Have full membership in the Chartered Society of Physiology
  • Have at least one year of professional experience as a physiotherapist
  • Submit a skills assessment checklist

The course itself involves two four-day training modules that are scheduled six months apart. There are also written assignments to be completed in advance of the hands-on coursework. The hippotherapy course fee is 1350 GBP (approximately $2,000).