Saturday, November 28, 2009

2009 American Riding Instructor Convention

The 2009 American Riding Instructor's Association International Convention was held Novemer 18-21, in Naples, Florida. The weather was perfect, the agenda of networking, education, research, products and speakers was amazing, as always. The group picture above pretty much says it all.

Featured speakers were Jane Savoie (Dressage), Denny Emerson (Eventing), George Morris (Hunter/Jumper), Susan Harris (Balanced Seat Riding), Rhonda Watts-Hettinger (Sidesaddle), Peggy Brown (Centered Riding), Julie Fershtman (Equine Law), Shirley Boone (Insurance for Instructors and Facilities), Bob Allen (Business Aspects), Sgt. Jerry Mayo (Royal Canadian Mounted Police), Rod Bergen (Equine Stress Management), Kimberly Carlton (Teaching Aspects), Judi Whipple (Teaching Aspects), and product representatives, Jochen Schleese (Schleese Saddlery), Suzanne Johnston (Cover-all Building Systems), Roy Burek (Charles Owen Helmets and Vests), and many other sponsors and vendors who did not speak but had lots of products available for inspection and sale.

Instructors came from as far away as Australia and Spain, and also from every state in the U.S. The networking opportunities were endless and everyone was taking advantage of finally meeting people we have communicated with over the phone or internet--in some cases, for years! It is great to be able to put a face with the name you have become familiar with and know you can trust.

All the instructors who are certified through ARIA that I have come to know have a standardized foundation in their rding and teaching philosophies (no matter what specialty they teach), and all I know uphold the Code of Ethics of ARIA. I feel lucky to know them.

There is probably an ARIA certified instructor in your area. Look at the ARIA website in the instructor directory, and you will find a listing of instructors by state. Each listing has their name, address, phone number, what their specialty(ies) are, and what level certification they hold. Level I is "instructor in training", Level II is "basic instructor", and Level III is "advanced instructor". Level III is the highest regular certification ARIA offers. If you are looking for a qualified riding instructor, this is a very good place to find one in your area. If you are a professional who is thinking about getting certified, contact one (or more) of the ARIA instructors in your area, and ask them questions--all the certified instructors that I know are more than happy to answer questions about ARIA! I know I am! :-)

I believe that every instructor who offers lessons to people should be certified by a nationally or internationally recognized certifying association (like ARIA). The public who comes to us to learn to ride has no basis for recognizing safety and quality in our programs, and so we, as a group, need to willingly prove to our students and potential clients that we have the skills to teach them to understand and ride horses.

We all know that there is no mandatory licensing of riding instructors, and anyone can "hang out their shingle", whether they know anything or not, so it is up to us to self-regulate our industry. Becoming an ARIA certified instructor is a major step in the right direction. Taking the next step and continuing our education through clinics, symposiums, seminars, conventions, and yes, through horseshows keeps showing our students and potential clients that they can have confidence in our abilities as they discover all the layers of horsemanship.

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