The TCP, or Trainer Certification Program. Can it be saved?

The Trainer Certification Program has been in place with the USHJA for a number of years, but has failed to gain much traction.

For one, it seems illogical to think you need to be certified to go to a horse show. Two, it is very pricey for something which requires renewal every 5 years. Three, it doesn’t have a clear direction.

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I understand being certified to run a boarding or teaching facility, but to write a check? I am riding my horses either way, but being certified to compete sort of gets lost on me. And this country is too large to begin encouraging all competitors to be certified to compete.

I also disagree with the concept of the wealthier clients you have, the higher tier you are in the the certification program. Actually, I might be a better trainer than a lot of people at the top of sport with deep pockets, and sometimes they might even send me one to fix, so because I choose to not compete on that level, or teach kids anymore, I can’t be considered a top tiered trainer? I beg to differ. I have also seen multiple TCP trainers which I have really questioned how they achieved the certification. I even know of examples where TCP trainers have been written up by stewards for borderline abusive behavior.

One of the biggest faults with the TCP is that it is lost between a competition world and real world. This country is making it seem like showing horses is the same thing as training horses, and it is not. They are two very different things.

I looked on the website to see what kind of information was put up for each trainer and I was a bit shocked, actually. They are recording in graphs and charts how many ribbons are won. Holy Crap. That doesn’t seem right. And it proves my point about how this country perceives horse training. Ugh.

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You also need to think about it as a future process. Established trainers do not need the USHJA to tell them they are established trainers. If you have been in this business for more than 20 years, forget it, the TCP is useless to you, right? Zero benefit. You have the clients you have, that is not likely to change. You find the horses you need to find for your clients. The TCP doesn’t help you with that, does it? The TCP needs to aim toward the next generation, not the existing one. And clearly, with incentives, and with benefits. Start thinking about how to entice the under 30 group. Trust me, I have been watching the TCP flail for what, ten years? I’ve lost track. Those members who learned about it at the age of 18, and ignored it are now 28, and lost. gone. uninterested. Let them go. Trust me.

IF TCP wants to have better equipped competitors the fix is easy. Offer classes restricted to TCP professionals. They could be really interesting classes actually, not just 8 jumps and a ribbon. They could be wildly technical, too, with the freedom to incorporate each discipline, hunter, jumper and equitation. Or, similar to what the TB’s have done have a TCP Hunter, or TCP jumper class.

Those classes would be judged with score cards, the rating of the judge would be noted, (i.e.: you have just been judged by a R or r judge, or learner judge) and you may either enter the class yourself or choose a student you train to participate (but you would get credit for). The TCP Restricted classes can even have a finals, so accumulating points throughout the year would qualify you for a final, which maybe you win a County Saddle, or a complete Pony Club Manual set, who knows. It looks like Markel insurance is very involved with the program, which seems like a smart move, since they offer insurance for Professionals, so maybe they might offer their own incentive.

The Score Card would be filled out similar to a dressage test. Say a Dressage test scores ten movements, then has four little boxes at the end to score Submission, Rider Position, Impulsion and whatever. The Score Cards would be generated within the TCP program, depending on what the TCP feels a professional should be required to perform, and put online, and could be downloaded by the horse show secretary as needed.

The score cards would also satisfy the rising desire for feedback. There seems to be a steady increase in really wanting to know what the judge thinks about your round. There was even a push for numerical scoring this year to become standard practice for A rated divisions. Instant feedback for each round.

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If you need a Tiered program, which I don’t think you do, you can offer a tier based on points accumulated during the year in these classes. Maybe with double points offered at the Final.

If the Finals or classes were offered with prize money, the incentive speaks for itself. Have a $10,000 TCP Finals? I actually would consider participating.

I think people like to be reassured that the monies they are putting up for programs are being recycled within those programs. So if the total costs are nearing $2,000 for each individual to be certified, how much is coming back to the individual?

rundown of discovered costs for TCP, according to the website…..

$100 Application Fee

$225 Exam if Application is approved

$500 Clinic attendance (required)


$200 Online Certification

$20 Background Check

$?? 400 insurance – varies

$65 Manual fee

Travel Costs for clinic – let’s estimate $500

$75 Renewal Fee every 5 years

The George Morris Equitation thing? Remember when it started and there were all these horsemanship requirements to participate, but no one would do them, and everyone complained, so it was decided to just drop those requirements and expectations? so now it’s just a clinic or something, I don’t even know. or care. Welcome to real life. no one cares, right? bingo. However, I believe it is a very different reality on the State level.

I think encouraging horsemanship comes from a different area in this country. I don’t think it should just come from the USHJA, which is still relatively low on the popularity scale. However, chances are there are more horse people signing up for the state level organizations, such as the Maryland Horse Show Association, Virginia Horse Show Association, etc. When introduced to horse showing, more people than you think start with their own state horse show organization, see if they like showing, and move on from there.

Exploring options on the state level. In order to become a member of a State Show organization, what if you had to pass a ten minute written horsemanship test? Would you do it? Junior memberships have two different categories (members under 12 exempt)  12–14, and 15-18. Adults have two different categories – Professional and Amateur. Members over 50 are exempt. Then, add on from there. Safe Sport Training, for example. If the USHJA wants to prepare the tests, fine, use the money you take from us and issue them to the affiliate organizations and you can even take it one step FURTHER. If the MHSA member has passed the test, and taken Safe Sport, the USHJA MEMBERSHIP fee for that year is REDUCED. Give credit for the MHSA membership which meets USHJA criteria. That is your incentive. right there.


Remember the affiliate organizations have to PAY the USHJA to be an affiliate organization. A whopping $250 per year! There are hundreds of affiliate orgs in this country. (There are some State organizations who refuse to do so because they don’t see the benefits, and I tend to not blame them. There are none) What does that money get used for? Maybe it should be directed back to the members who choose to do their education through the affiliate organizations.

The background checks could work the same. This is a hard sell for a lot of people. Yes, there are children and every show. What worries me is that there will be a growing number of people who simply avoid showing on the national level just because of boosted requirements, like background checks. However, if you were to give credit to the membership for doing the process, you might not continue creating a gap.

What if there are too many affiliate organizations? Most states have more than one show organization, so how do you solve keeping track of them all? Well I have news for the USHJA, maybe it is time to start amending relationships on the state level and do a little extend-a-paw thing work WITH affiliates instead of against them. Data collection is the way forward? Use your staff to start collecting data on affiliate state level organizations.

I have never seen any movement from the USHJA which would indicate they would support discounts in membership dues, but even the USEF has made strides with options, so I think maybe we are seeing the writing on the walls here.

We have too many classes, no show manager wants to add yet another class. I get it, but what is worse, losing the program all together, or finding a way to put a TCP class in the schedule? If there is one thing I have seen is the lack of ability for all factions of horse competition to work together. Each group in this country is fractured and separating more each day.  You have to start somewhere, right? Or maybe another idea is out there, I feel like the answers are right in front of us, we just have to look closely.


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