Sally Buffington - USEA Instructor

The United States Eventing Association Instructors’ Certification Program has certified Sally Phillips Buffington of Stone Creek Ranch as a Level II Instructor for students through the Preliminary level. To date there are five certified USEA Instructors in the state of Texas and sixty two in the United States, according to Sue Hershey, co-chair of the ICP Committee, from the USEA national office of Leesburg, Virginia.

ICP Certified Instructors are available for teaching clinics for Pony Club or any other group of riders wishing to learn these time tested, safe methods of eventing.
Sally explains more about the program and the testing process:
“The Instructors’ Certification Program was born through the realization of four of the world’s greatest event riders, and others, that our sport needed to confirm riding and training principles and practices for the education and protection of all. Eventing is a thrilling, difficult, wonderful sport, but it is also inherently dangerous. At this point anyone can call himself or herself an ‘instructor’ and go out there and allow dangerous situations to develop that may result in injury either to the rider or the horse.”

“The four ‘Guiding Minds,’ as they are called, are Karen O’Connor, who is the other co-chair of the ICP Committee, Captain Mark Phillips, Eric Horgan, and Don Sachey. With the other members of the ICP Committee, they formulated and agreed upon the standards that the ICP program is based upon. Committee members have donated countless hours to help define and develop the program.”

“The process of becoming certified is not easy. I would never want to deter someone from seeking it; quite the contrary. It offers a wealth of knowledge as you go through the workshops, mentoring, etc. The opportunity to learn from Olympic level riders is always a positive thing. One must attend mandatory workshops, describe one’s own riding and competition history, and get three of one’s top students to verify that one has taught them. I found it to be very helpful that I personally compete. One must have a child abuse clearance from one’s own state and be certified in First Aid. Once certified, there is a continuing education program on a four-year cycle where certified instructors must earn credits.”

“My actual testing was done with two ICP assessors over a period of three days; beginning this fall, however, the Assessment time schedule has been changed so that each candidate instructor is fully assessed in one day. Sue Hershey is also present, and the ten Candidate Instructors at each Assessment come from all parts of the country. One does not know what rider/horse combination he or she will draw for each of the three phases of teaching that must be evaluated by the assessors (dressage, show jumping, and cross country). The candidate will usually draw a different combination for each phase. Therefore your experience and knowledge base are certainly on call to identify a deficiency or strength in a short period of time and visibly improve it by the time your twenty minutes are up. The five-minute interview and the ten-minute warm-up with your horse-and-rider combination should clue you in to their performance level. In that five minute interview you must also do a safety check of equipment, obtain a medical history on the horse and rider, etc. To say you must be ‘on your game’ is an understatement. Nerves, which are abundant in all of us under such circumstances, need to be left at home.”

“There are also written exams pertaining to medical care, Horse and Stable Management, and Teaching Theory and Practice. All in all, you are well tested in every area possible to ensure you have developed and can demonstrate the knowledge and skills necessary for certification as a professional event instructor.”

“The USEA ICP Committee has done a remarkable job. They truly care about bettering our sport and addressing the safety issues involved. The time they all donated to get this off the ground and the hours they listened to us as Candidate Instructors during the ‘off’ hours of the workshops proved they were trying to make it a do-able program even though the standards are very, very high.”

“Waiting for your results can feel like years!” said Sally. “I flew to Spokane, Washington, at the end of July and received my official notification August 20th. It is difficult to define what it feels like to officially become a Certified Instructor. Your training philosophy has been approved by the best in the world and seconded by the USEA. The personal notes by such great riders/instructors reflecting on your performance during the testing are thrilling.”

“We all strive to do our best as trainers and coaches”, said Sally. “We have to wear many robes as we fulfill our duties as trainers and coaches. We have to maintain high standards to ensure the safety of our students and horses as they are running at speed over fixed obstacles. It is a sport like none other. To best emphasize what it meant to me to receive that letter and read what they said, I will tell you this…I slept with it that night!”

Sally Buffington’s Stone Creek Ranch is located in Bulverde, Texas. She and her thoroughbred, Absolut, finished # 4 in the nation last year at Master Senior Training level. Cell # 210-421-1534. She trains students from Dallas, College Station, and Austin to New Braunfels.


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