Chicago Equestrian - News, Events, Contacts and Marketing Services

How Do You Become a USHJA Certified Trainer?

Symposium credit for certification can be obtained at The George H. Morris Clinic Nov. 23-25 in Hampshire, IL.

What is the USHJA Trainer Certification Program?


“The USHJA Trainer Certification Program was developed to preserve the American Hunter/Jumper Forward Riding System by offering a comprehensive educational program based on that system and providing increasing levels of certification for professional horse trainers” (USHJA). This program is solely done on a volunteer basis. It helps promote equine professional to describe and advance their role within the hunter/jumper industry by providing continuing education and a medium for long-term professional growth with acknowledgment of merit. “Professionals in the industry each have unique skill sets as well as goals and objectives, and becoming a Certified Trainer allows for this individualism within a set of standards and ideals” (USHJA).


Speaking with a local trainer, owner of Camelot Farms in Oswego, Illinois, Sue Kovalik, stated that “I decided to participate in the USHJA Trainer Certification Program because I was interested in seeing what the program offered and to support accreditation for the sport”.


How do you become a Certified Trainer and maintain your status?


First you have to submit an application with the application fee of $100. The application is an important and integral part of becoming a certified trainer. An applicant must “understand the importance of the materials they submit as a part of their application for acceptance into the program. It would be impossible for the committee members to know each applicant personally or even by reputation, so the quality of the presentation of your experience and professional expertise in your resume is a significant factor in the evaluation process. Recommendations completed on your behalf by professional trainers who can speak to the specifics of your abilities as a teacher, rider and trainer of students and horses at a variety of levels are equally important factors” (USHJA).


The Trainer Certification Program Committee will review applications for the Trainer Certification Program (“TCP”) three times a year. Completed applications and required documents must be received in the USHJA office or postmarked by the following deadlines to be considered:

  • January 15 for review in February
  • May 15 for review in June
  • September 15 for review in October


Before submitting an application, a potential applicant must review the requirements to apply which are as follows:

  1. Must be 21 years or older, declared professional status with USEF, and in good standing with the USHJA as an active member or Collegiate Coach.
  2. Along with the completed application and application fee of $100, applicant must submit a resume and copy of current professional and/or general liability insurance.
  3. Attend a USHJA Trainers Symposium, TCP Clinic, or complete the Online Trainer Certification Course.
  4. Three recommendation forms.

For more details please visit this webpage.


Once an application has been approved by the TCP Committee, the applicant will need to submit the $225 exam/certification fee. Once the TCP Committee receives the fee, the application will receive instructions for taking the online exam. Each applicant has 6 months to complete the exam with a score of 85% or higher. The exam contains five sections with thirty questions in each section. The applicant may log into the exam two times with an unlimited length of time per log-in session. Those applicants are not accepted will receive individual feedback on how to improve and have the opportunity to re-apply.


All Certified and Professional Trainers are responsible for maintaining their USHJA Active or Collegiate Coach Membership annually. If the trainer's Active or Collegiate Coach Membership is not renewed by January 1, his/her certification will be at risk of being revoked. If membership is not renewed by February 1, the trainer will forfeit his/her certification and will be removed from the USHJA Certified Trainers Directory. After February 1, the trainer will have to reapply to the program if he/she wishes to regain certification.


Certification must be maintained and updated every five years. Additional certification maintenance and educational requirements are currently in development. Please continue to monitor the USHJA website for further details.


What are the benefits?


This program reinforces the Hunter/Jumper discipline for many reasons.

  • Education program centered on the American Hunter/Jumper Forward Riding System
  • Endorsed training and teaching goals
  • Knowledgeable topics: stable management, horsemanship practices, safety, flat work, jumping, professional conduct and client relations.
  • Free listing in the USHJA Directory of Clinics for clinics that are hosted by Certified Trainers


“For the farm and myself it shows accreditation which I feel helps business and provides some standardization. On a personal level I feel there is always something to gain when such opportunities exist and they should be pursued”, said Kovalik on the advantages of the program.


The benefits for the Certified Instructors are just as valuable for them personally; which encompass the following:

  • Developing and improving teaching skills that incorporate the principles of the American Hunter/Jumper Forward Riding System
  • Opportunities for interaction and exchange of ideas with other Certified Trainers and mentors from all levels
  • Increased credibility, professionalism and visibility to current and potential clients
  • Inclusion in the USHJA Certified Trainers Directory and publications
  • Eligibility for insurance premium discounts through Markel Insurance


When is the next opportunity to become a Certified Trainer?


Asking Kovalik what she suggests for those that are thinking of applying, she suggests “that if they are thinking of applying, go ahead and do it. You will walk away with something that you can use. The publications were great and it was nice to interact with other trainers from all over the country”.


For Zone 5, mainly for the Chicagoland area, the next Trainer Certification Clinic is the George H. Morris Clinic hosted by Diane Carney at Telluride Farm. This wonderful Certification Clinic will be held at Telluride Farm in Hampshire, Illinois on November 23rd to 25th. The entry fee for the certification is $375.00 which includes the Certification and lunch daily.