Riding instruction

What is the Waubonsee Community College program in therapeutic riding and equine studies?

The program in therapeutic riding and equine studies is a series of non-credit Workforce Development classes which prepares you for Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH Intl.) Instructor Certification, developed in partnership with Equine Dreams Therapeutic Riding Center.  Waubonsee is one of only a very few colleges in the United States to incorporate PATH Intl. therapeutic riding instructor training certification within their curricula.

For those interested in attaining certification as a PATH Intl. Certified Therapeutic Riding Instructor, a series of 12 classes is required, taking approximately two years to complete. In addition, through our partnership with the Equine Dreams Therapeutic Riding Center in Newark, IL, students can gain the hands-on experience needed for certification.

For those interested in other equine areas, the individual courses in this program can be selected, and provide a beneficial background for a variety of equine-related fields.


What is a therapeutic riding instructor?

Under the guidance of a therapeutic riding instructor, individuals with special needs experience the rewarding benefits of horseback riding and other equine-assisted activities in finding strength and independence. Therapeutic riding instructors serve participants of all ages and with a range of physical, emotional, behavioral and cognitive challenges.

What are the benefits of equine-assisted activities and therapies?

A physical, cognitive or emotional special need does not limit a person from interacting with horses. In fact, such interactions can prove highly rewarding. For instance, experiencing the rhythmic motion of a horse can be very beneficial. Riding a horse moves the rider's body in a manner similar to a human gait, so riders with physical needs often show improvement in flexibility, balance and muscle strength.

Whether it's a five-year-old with Down Syndrome, a 45-year-old recovering from a spinal cord injury or a senior citizen recovering from a stroke, research shows that individuals of all ages who participate in equine-assisted activities and therapies can experience physical and emotional rewards. For individuals with emotional challenges, the unique relationship formed with the horse can lead to increased confidence, patience and self-esteem.

Here are just a few of the benefits of therapeutic riding: 

          Physical:  Improves balance - Develops range of motion - Increases muscle strength - Aids coordination

          Cognitive:  Builds direction-following skills - Improves motor skills - Enhances sensory integration

          Emotional & Social:  Enhances positive self-image - Builds self-confidence - Develops independence & teamwork - Builds friendships


What is PATH Intl. certification?

The PATH Intl. Registered Instructor is the entry level certification required for PATH Intl. Riding Centers. The PATH Intl. certification program focuses on education in a progression that culminates in a test of your successful application of that knowledge, including practical and hands-on skills.

The process of achieving therapeutic riding instructor certification is an education based process that helps interested applicants to prepare for and to succeed in achieving Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International Instructor Certification.  A PATH Intl. Registered Instructor must demonstrate riding and teaching ability, knowledge, and above all, safety while teaching therapeutic horsemanship.

NOTE:  Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH Intl.) was formerly known as the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association (NARHA).


Why do I need PATH Intl. certification?

Therapeutic riding instructors who teach at PATH Intl. Centers are required to achieve PATH Instructor Certification status. The criteria and requirements for certification are detailed in the PATH Intl. certification booklet.  This booklet details the skills and knowledge an instructor must possess in the areas of Equine Management, Horsemanship, Instruction, Teaching Methodology and Disabilities for each level and class of certification.


What if I’m interested in becoming a riding instructor, but not necessarily an instructor of special-needs riders?

Individual courses may be selected as appropriate to your needs.  The following courses are useful to those looking to teach horseback riding to able-bodied riders:

          HCP931 - Equine Studies I
          HCP936 - Equine Studies II
          HCP932 - Teaching Methodology for Riding Instruction
          HCP933 - Introduction to Psychology for Riding Instruction


What if I want to work in an equine-related field, but not necessarily to teach riding?

Individual courses may be selected as appropriate to your needs. The following courses would be beneficial to anyone seeking enjoyment and employment as a trained professional in the horse industry, including such fields as barn manager, equine vet tech, trainer or assistant trainer, and horse care specialist.

           HCP931 - Equine Studies I
           HCP936 - Equine Studies II
           HCP948 - Business Concepts for Therapeutic Riding


I am a teacher … or social worker … or therapist.  What does this program offer me?

Waubonsee offers a short introductory course, HCP930 – Introduction to Therapeutic Horseback Riding Instruction, which explores the field of therapeutic riding and its potential benefits for clients with a variety of special needs. 
In addition, depending on your background and interests, you may find the following courses will aid your understanding of the many ways therapeutic riding and equine-assisted activities can be physically, emotionally and socially rewarding for your students or clients:

          HCP937 - Teaching Methodology for Therapeutic Riding Instruction
          HCP938 - Introduction to Psychology for Therapeutic Riding Instruction
          HCP942 - Health Sciences for Therapeutic Riding Instruction I
          HCP947 - Health Sciences for Therapeutic Riding Instruction II


I’m interested in becoming a therapeutic riding instructor, but I have little riding experience myself.  How skilled do I have to be as a rider?

A therapeutic horseback riding instructor needs to know and demonstrate intermediate level horsemanship skills, including bending, straightness of lines, control of the horse, along with correct posture and balance, body alignment, posting with the motion of the horse, canter leads, and the like. When teaching riders for whom balance is a primary goal, an understanding of these principles is critical. Additionally, these riding skills allow instructors to evaluate a prospective therapy horse for a program and to appropriately match equines and participants.

Course instructors can evaluate your riding skills, and if necessary, you can arrange (at additional cost) for your own riding lessons at Equine Dreams or another riding facility to improve your skills.


What is the cost of this program?

Each course in the program is individually priced, prices vary dependant on the length of the course. See the current schedule of classes for specific courses and costs.

The required hours of practice in teaching therapeutic riding under the guidance of a certified PATH Intl. Instructor can be acquired through a practicum at Equine Dreams Therapeutic Riding Center at no cost to the student. The willingness of the highly qualified therapeutic riding instructors at Equine Dreams to mentor those seeking PATH Intl. certification at no additional cost to the student represents a priceless investment in your future as a therapeutic riding instructor.

The estimated price for the complete 12-course program is $4,200.


How long will it take to be ready for certification?

Course work will require 12 weeks of class, each fall and spring semester for two years, as outlined in the sequence of courses list. In addition, prior to the certification exam, a minimum of 25 hours of mounted practice teaching therapeutic riding under the guidance of a PATH Intl. Certified Instructor must be completed.  These hours of experience are typically acquired the late spring and summer months between class semesters during that 2 year period.

PATH Intl. appreciates the commitment made when someone applies for the certification process. The financial resources and the time needed to complete the educational requirements, the practical demonstrations, and to build up a basic level of horsemanship skills reflect a dedication to service of some very special individuals. As a professional certification, you should expect to invest a significant amount of time in teaching, course work and preparing for the certification itself.


How do I register and pay for classes?

Check the current schedule of classes, then download and complete the Workforce Development Registration Form.  There are directions on the form for mailing or faxing your registration to our Registration and Records department. Or you can walk in and register at any of our campuses.  Waubonsee requires that a full or partial payment be made at the time of registration, but offers a variety of payment options.


How can I find out more?

For information on Waubonsee courses and the registration process, contact:
          Workforce Development at (630) 906-4152 or wfd@waubonsee.edu

For information on Equine Dreams Therapeutic Riding Center, PATH Intl. certifications, and therapeutic riding, contact:
          Equine Dreams at ride@equinedreams.org