USHJA Trainer Certification Program

Joining us on HunkyHanoverian today is Kelsey Marcus, a h/j trainer local to DFW, TX who trains out of Cedar Haven Stables. Kelsey has recently completed the USHJA Trainer Certification Program, and as a somewhat budding program I asked her to share her experience with us today. Enjoy!


USHJA Trainer Certification Program
Kelsey in the irons at a Bernie clinic

The USHJA Trainer Certification Program has been a major topic of discussion for the past few years. Back in October of 2017, I was taking a clinic with the famous, Bernie Traurig, where upon sign in, there was a separate section for TCP participants, and that is where it all began for me. Before this clinic, I often thought about there needing to be some sort of exam for horse trainers to take and pass in order to call yourself a horse trainer. I mean, lets face it, anyone can call themselves a horse trainer so how do the first-time riders and their parents differentiate between an educated horse trainer and a horse person that wants to teach horse back riding lessons?

So, the USHJA developed the TCP to “preserve the American Hunter/Jumper Forward Riding System by offering a comprehensive educational program for professional horse trainers.” The great thing about this program is that not every person who calls themselves a horse trainer can become certified, there are in fact requirements. “In order to receive and maintain certification, trainers are tested on a broad spectrum of relevant professional information, including training techniques, safety of horse and rider, horsemanship skills and business ethics.” Now, in order to become certified, there are many steps one must take before being able to take the exam to even receive the official certificate

USHJA Trainer Certification Program
Kelsey on a client’s horse (Floris) at a Julie Winkel clinic


Step 1: Trainer must submit to USHJA Trainer Certification Program the following; TCP application and $100 application fee

Step 2: Trainer must complete a background check

Step 3: Trainer must send USHJA their resume

Step 4: Trainer must watch and complete exam over Safe Sport Training

Step 5: Trainer must attain and send in proof of Professional/ General Liability insurance

Step 6: Trainer must ask 3 other Hunter Jumper professionals who are current USHJA members to submit letters of recommendation

Step 7: Complete one of the two: TCP Clinic or Online Trainer Certification Course

Once all of the above steps are completed, (by the deadlines), the trainer must then pay the $225 exam fee if the applicant is approved by the TCP Committee. After the trainer is accepted and pays the exam fee, they are then permitted to take the exam and if they receive an 85% or higher, they are then considered a certified trainer or provisional trainer.

USHJA Trainer Certification Program
Student Leah on Zach in a Bernie clinic

Now there have been many discussions on the usefulness of this exam and certification process, whether it means anything or benefits the trainer in any way. Just like anything in this world, there are pros and cons, I happen to think that my experience with the Trainer Certification Program was wonderful and it inspired me even more to continue my education with more clinics that came to our area and regular lessons, after all, how can I expect my clients to continue their education with weekly lessons for years and years but not follow this myself? I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of the Bernie Traurig clinic that I rode in to count as my Step 7, and although this was the more expensive route, I 100% feel like I got more than my money’s worth riding in it and auditing.

USHJA Trainer Certification Program
Leah & Zach

Besides riding in the clinic, I also watched every other section and took detail-oriented notes and find myself going over those notes often to refresh myself, after all, how often does one have the opportunity to watch one of the masters of the sport at work? I also like the fact that there is another option for trainers who are not able to go to one of the TCP approved clinics near them, which is the Online Certification Course that “consists of 14 videos with a total run time of approximately 5 hours. Applicants will be required to watch and complete a short quiz on each video.” This alternate option is $200 whereas auditing one of the TCP approved clinics might cost anywhere from $200-300.

USHJA Trainer Certification Program
Kelsey with her student in the irons on Floris celebrate a derby win

So, steps 1-7 are easy enough, pretty much anyone who wants to become certified, can easily accomplish these tasks. The exam was the step I dreaded, I just could not bring myself to open up the 400+ page USHJA Trainer Certification Program Manual & Study Guide. But, after procrastinating long enough, my deadline was right around the corner and I opened up the manual and began. After reading the first 20 pages or so, I realized It wasn’t bad at all, nothing like the boring books from my college days about economics or biology.

In fact, I enjoyed the manual a lot, how could I not when it was all about horses and riding, there were several chapters from the History of the American Hunter Jumper Forward Riding System, Equine Confirmation, Rider’s Position, Designing Course, Sample Flatwork and Jumping Content, Creating Lesson Plans, etc. As with any preparation material, there was stuff I already knew and there were also many things I had learned years ago but had forgotten like a horse’s resting heart rate, body temperature, number of teeth a mare had vs a gelding, and confirmation faults. After finishing the manual and bookmarking various exercises I wanted to try with my training horses and students, I decided to give the exam a whirl.

USHJA Trainer Certification Program
Kelsey & student Charlotte celebrate an amazing show outing with Silver

I believe it was a 200-question multiple choice exam and the passing score is 85%. As expected, the exam was straightforward and totally passable as long as you read through the manual well. Now some of you might be wondering why? Why do the TCP? Why pay all the money to get a certificate? Well, the main reason I wanted to complete the program and receive my certification was because I wanted to be one of the select trainers that the USHJA Trainer Certification Program committee chooses each year to even be able to attempt the exam, let alone pass it and receive the certification. Along with this privilege, I also liked that they list you in the Certified Trainer Directory but most importantly, I did it for the credibility I knew it would bring for my current clients as well as potential clients. In my opinion, one never stops learning and one can never know too much!



Looking for a certified trainer near you? Or, curious if your trainer is certified? It is easy to search the USHJA Trainer Certification Program!



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