Read as Laura Moya talks about her career as a Therapeutic Riding Instructor.  Find her at www.highhopestr.org and on the Twitter feed in the sidebar of this interview.

What do you do for a living?

I am a Therapeutic Riding Instructor.

How would you describe what you do?

As a Therapeutic Riding Instructor, I teach horseback riding to children and adults with physical, cognitive and emotional disabilities.  The horse is utilized as a method of accomplishing goals that are set through collaboration with the participant, participant family, school system, and therapists.

What does your work entail?

Therapeutic riding instruction necessitates strong horsemanship skills and people skills as well.  In addition to working with the horses and participant populations, I also have administrative responsibilities facilitating different programs offered by the organization.

What’s a typical work week like?

In a typical work week I instruct, both group and private lessons, for about 6-8 hours.  In additional to instructional responsibilities, I also have one morning and evening where I am what is called a “back-up” instructor, helping to facilitate activities in the barn and arena in order to assist the instructor teaching in the arena.  These responsibilities involve getting paddock retrieval and turnout, grooming and tacking, and exercise horses as assigned.

When not in the arena, I am diligently working on administrative duties.  In addition to instructional tasks, I also supervise all training and education initiatives, interns, instructors in training, summer camp programs, field trips and birthday parties, and all curriculum development and volunteer training associated with our unmounted Equine Learning Program.  The typical work week involves a lot of multi-tasking and time management to be both effective in the arena and the office as well.

How did you get started?

In my junior year of High School I completed an Independent Study to learn more about Animal Assisted Therapies and began volunteering at a Therapeutic Riding center as part of my coursework.  I quickly fell in love with therapeutic riding and knew that it needed to be a part of my life.  So when I started looking seriously at colleges, I made sure that there was a center nearby where I could volunteer.

My love for the field and the magic that occurs so naturally between a horse and someone with a special need only magnified over the years.   After college I became certified through PATH International and have been working as an instructor ever since.

What do you like about what you do?

Aside from fulfilling my childhood dream of working with horses, I really enjoy the interaction with people.  Not only do I know that I am able to help improve our participants lives but we also have a great impact on the volunteers that help make what we do possible.  Part of the magic of therapeutic riding is that it is very much a community endeavor.  Centers need the assistance of the local community in order to flourish and improve programs.  It is inspiring to be part of such a powerful, community driven initiative.

What do you dislike?

Since most centers are non profit there is always a crunch for resources.  Whether it is looking for grant money to fund existing programs or looking for volunteer support to start a new initiative, there is always a drive to develop new relationships and expand offerings while balancing the workload of staff.

How do you make money/or how are you compensated?

My position is full time salaried.

How much money do you make?

I make between $29,500 – $50,000 annually.

How much money do you make starting out?

My starting salary was $29,500

What education or skills are needed to do this?

Although there are more colleges and universities now that offer minors or focuses in Therapeutic Riding Instruction, this is not a pre-requisite for becoming a certified instructor.  Individuals who want to become certified must have a strong foundation in horsemanship skills and a working knowledge of individuals with disabilities.

There are three levels of instructor certification along with a myriad of specialty certification that can be completed (such as carriage driving, interactive vaulting and equine specialist).  Registered Instructor Certification is accomplished through either an Approved Training Course or a self study method culminating in a two and a half day workshop and certification.  Both methods involve online testing, instructor mentorship with a certified instructor as well as riding and teaching evaluation.

What is most challenging about what you do?

The most challenging aspect of being a therapeutic riding instructor is the need to be flexible to change.  When working with horses, who are independent thinking animals, and individuals with special needs, there is always a level of unpredictability.  Therefore it necessary for an instructor to constantly evaluate the risks and the benefits of activities for both the individudal and the horse as well.  Managing this risk coupled with balancing administrative responsibilities can create stress and possible burnout in instructors.

What is most rewarding?

It is extremely rewarding to work with the participants, volunteers and instructors in training.

What advice would you offer someone considering this career?

I would encourage anyone interested in therapeutic riding to look into achieving a graduate degree in some field of therapy (occupational, physical, mental health, etc.).  This will help to secure a higher pay salary and the opportunity to work as a part-time instructor at centers.  Many centers are small and may not have the need or the funds for full time instructors therefore an educational background that it is marketable in multiple fields is imperative.

How much time off do you get/take?

Vacation time is accrued throughout the year and increases the longer an employee is with the organization.  The range is roughly 12 days off for new employees and can increase up to 20 days per year.

What is a common misconception people have about what you do?

Many people think that a superficial knowledge of equines and horseback riding is sufficient in order to be a therapeutic riding instructor and this is not the case.  Also, lots of people think that therapeutic riding is only for children even though it is incredibly beneficial for adults with varying challenges.

What are your goals/dreams for the future?

To return to graduate school to complete a degree that would allow me to work with participants at a higher level.

What else would you like people to know about what you do?

Therapeutic riding is wonderful but it is not for everyone.  If you are interested in becoming an instructor, volunteer at a center first to ensure that you like it.  If you decide to move forward, make sure that you have a strong instructor who can mentor you through the certification process and plan for your success.  Good mentorship is the key to becoming a strong instructor yourself!


{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Vival McCarty November 17, 2018 at 5:54 pm

My Daughter-in-law has the same responsibilities as you
And has worked for years and years. They look to her for all the competitions (and there and there are many. She trains the volunteers holds conferences and works unbelievable hours because she loves it.

But——-there is no pay, no reimbursement for her expenses.

Can you give us suggestions on getting to the point where she can be paid what she deserves? The board just shrugs it off. She is not the only one in this situation.
Could you help us?

Thank you.


Jan Eckstein April 18, 2017 at 6:29 am

Do equestrian coordinator’s need path certification?


Stephanie October 13, 2016 at 11:45 pm

I have always wanted to do this kind of work but I have never known what degree to go into or how to actually get a job. What college did you go to and what degree did you get? I am in Utah and there are very few institutions out this way, I was wondering if you know any out this way or know who I could contact out here.


William February 29, 2016 at 6:37 pm

Hi my girlfriend and I are looking at starting a theraputic riding barn. We currently don’t have a facility to do so in. I was looking to see if you had any advice or guidance to pursue our passion and get things going.


William February 29, 2016 at 6:40 pm

PS.. My girlfriend is currently in the process of being a certified instructor.


Shelby February 11, 2016 at 7:15 am

Hello. I am 15, and want to go to college to be a certified theraputic riding facility owner, as well as a theraputic riding instructor. I have had horses for 11 years now, and I am a very versatile rider, and trained the horses that I have now, on my own. I have shadowed a few trainers in the past 3 years, and I am in 4h currently, for my 7th year. I give lessons on my horses now, but I am looking into colleges now. I am in Medina, Ohio. IF you could point me in the right direction, I would greatly appreciate it! Thank you! My email is sllambert2019@s.bcsoh.org


Miller deramus April 12, 2015 at 11:41 am

I am interested in starting a horse therapy program for special needs people and veterans i am going to form a non profit charity i have a 150 wide and 250 new inclosed arena and a 10 stall barn state of the art facilities i am looking to start out slow dedicating 2 stalls and horses and doing it twice a week for a while then working up to more horses and days i need to hire a path certified instructor and need to know about what type equipment would be needed I would like to start off 2 days per week with no more than a maximum of 4 people if you could help me i would greatly appreciate it my phone number is area code 205 994 1240 i am building this facility in Vincent Alabama which is in Shelbyville county


Jamie Wines January 5, 2015 at 8:33 pm

I’m a junior in high school and am considering this career. I love horses and want to work in this field I’m just concerned about the job demand and the job security. And I would also like to know more on the locations of where I would be able to work.


Katherine April 16, 2015 at 10:58 pm

I would highly recommend pursuing a career in a therapy field, OT, PT, SLP, or Psychology. All of these require undergraduate and graduate level degrees, some even doctoral ( PT for sure, and some types of Psychology) With a degree in one of these fields you will have more career choices and more levels of certifications available to you for the different forms of Equine-Assisted Therapy. If 6+ years of higher education isn’t your thing, I believe you can get certified as an instructor with a degree as a PT, OT or SLP assistant, which is only two years ( associate level degree). I would also suggest doing online research on the different types of Equine-Assisted Therapy and see which one you like best, then go find places to volunteer. Good resources are : PATH intl. , the American Hippotherapy Association, and the EAGALA. Also, depending on your level of horsemanship, I would gain as much knowledge and experience as you can with these animals. I have been an avid equestrian for 17 years and I am still learning something new about my horses every day. Best of luck to you!


Jessicca September 8, 2014 at 2:27 pm

I am a volunteer at the facility in Sand Springs, OK. I love the work I do and I want to thank you guys for giving kids this opppurtunity!



Ola January 27, 2014 at 12:32 pm

I am looking for information about Therapeutic horse back-riding in the U.S. I am a certificated instructor for Therapeutic horse back riding from “Shiluvim” college, Israel.
What are the chances that if I want to start working in the field in the U.S I will have to do the course all over? Or whether my certification is enough?



avi December 9, 2013 at 12:43 pm

I am wondering how do you find a job as an therapeutic riding instructor
in the US
I am a therapeutic riding instructor but live in Israel and trying to find a job in my field in the US

thank you


Isla November 3, 2013 at 6:45 pm

What college did you go to?


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