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Rosewood Ranch instructor passes stringent certification
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Melinda Suppes (center) is presented her PATH Intl. instructor certificate by Rosewood Services Executive Director Tammy Hammond and Rosewood Ranch Manager Eric Hammond. - photo by COURTESY PHOTO

Rosewood Ranch horse therapy instructor Melinda Suppes took part in a grueling exam last May in Loveland, Colo. She endured four days of a workshop, written testing and field work, all with the goal of becoming a certified instructor with Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International. It wasn’t until more than five months later that she learned the results of her exam.
Suppes was informed in late-October that she is now a registered instructor of PATH Intl., the leading therapeutic horsemanship organization in the world. Her certification is significant considering applicants need 25 hours of documented horse-therapy instruction. They also need to pass two online examinations and provide two letters of recommendation just to have a chance to participate in the workshop and take the certification exam. Of those who get the opportunity, many don’t pass the rigorous certification examination on the first try.
“Melinda’s success in becoming PATH certified speaks to the vastness of her knowledge and ability as a therapeutic riding instructor at Rosewood Ranch,” said Tammy Hammond, executive director of Rosewood Services. “She made certification look easy by passing the first time, but the truth is that PATH certification is one of the hardest exams to complete. She is a true asset to all the therapeutic riders at Rosewood Ranch and to Rosewood Services as an employee. I commend her for her great accomplishment.”
Suppes’ achievement provides Rosewood Ranch with two PATH Intl. certified instructors. Ranch Manager Eric Hammond earned his certification nearly a decade ago. He logs 20 continuing-education hours annually toward therapeutic riding instruction in order to maintain his certification. Following this year, Suppes will do the same in order to maintain her PATH certification. Meeting annual PATH requirements is important to Rosewood’s ongoing success, explained Eric.
“What we do with therapeutic horse riding may look automatic but none of it happens automatically” said Eric. “It takes experience in training and an understanding about the horse, the rider and the environment to teach therapeutic riding effectively. PATH certification assures that we are meeting the highest standards possible. It is reassuring to the riders, the parents and guardians that we are taking those extra steps in order to provide the safest environment where learning can occur at its highest level.
“PATH officials are so strict with testing and requirements because they want to ensure that you can take their certificate and go anywhere in the world to teach with it,” he added. “On the home-front, having another PATH-certified instructor allows us to expand riding opportunities at the Ranch.”
PATH training for Suppes included a two-day workshop where she took her final written exam, one day of teaching two children with disabilities on horseback, and a final day of riding two horses, chosen by the instructors.
“They put you on the spot at every turn to see how you react and respond,” explained Suppes. “The horse riding was really nerve racking with two instructors watching at all times. We drew our students by numbers, then you had to develop your lesson plan according to the students you drew, using horses you just met. The lesson plans had to be 20 minutes each and they could not go over that time.
“I was happy and relieved to learn that I passed because reaching certification is so difficult. I’m glad I got to experience it, though. I think getting and keeping my certification helps to make ours a better therapeutic riding center and that means a lot to me.”