By Melissa Allen | Melissa Allen Dressage
Growing up, my parents taught me to never give up and never stop learning. I am constantly challenging myself and want to be the best I can be. When I ﬁrst heard about the USDF Instructor Certiﬁcation program, I knew that it would beneﬁt myself and my students. At that time, they only offered certiﬁcations through 2nd and 4th level so I decided to do both at the same time. I passed, but more importantly, I had wonderful examiners that changed my life. Years later, after much planning, USDF offered an FEI Certiﬁcation and I met the requirements. At the time, my grand prix mare, ‘Daina,’ was retired from competition and my ﬁlly, ‘Raina,’ wasn’t old enough to ride so that gave me a new goal to work on.
I was clinicing with Lilo Fore and Debbie McDonald at the time and spent the years between certiﬁcations training, watching and attending all the trainer’s conferences and symposiums I could to better educate myself. I’ve had the privilege of watching top riders getting instruction from top coaches. It was truly inspiring. I felt becoming FEI certiﬁed would be a great opportunity for me. The process to becoming certiﬁed at any level is to attend the workshops, take the examiners advice and critiques, and add them into day to day training. Having gone through to 4th level, I knew the process which was helpful in my move forward for FEI.
Some of the requirements include being able to teach and ride at that level. There is also a verbal exam, written exam, then you ride one familiar horse and one unfamiliar horse and finally, teach two different lessons. USDF offered a workshop that was in Connecticut in October 2015 that I decided to attend. As I lived in Missouri at the time, this meant I did not have a familiar horse to ride so I had two unfamiliar horses to ride! I was excited to go but I’ll admit, a little nervous as I wanted it to go well! I was talking to my dear friend, Allison Brock, and she reminded me to be myself and trust my training. Having her words of wisdom made me conﬁdent and I completed the workshop with high approval.
Once you complete the workshop, you must be invited to continue to the testing examination. Shortly after the completing the workshop, I, along with two others, were invited to Wellington, FL, to a testing held at Betsy Juliano’s beautiful Haven Safe Farm. My examiners were Lilo Fore, Anne Gribbons and Kathy Connelly - which could be a little intimidating! Since I ﬂew there, I once again had two unfamiliar horses to ride, but I was excited for the challenge! The ﬁrst day we all had verbal exams as a group and then moved onto teaching and riding, we each had one lesson and one ride each day. I was grateful to have great demo horses and riders and I think all participants felt the same way. I was happy with how the testing went and had fun with such a great group.
At the conclusion of the testing, the examiners took us aside one by one to discuss our scores and test sheets. I was ecstatic to have such positive feedback from all three examiners and to learn that I had gotten an overall score of 98%! I am so happy I went through this program and believe every trainer should go through it at any level. You must put yourself out there and be vulnerable, but it is totally worth it in the end.
I believe so much in the program that I applied and am in the process of becoming faculty. I am looking forward to helping other instructors and I hope to be as inﬂuential to them as my mentors were to me.