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Instructor Certification Program


   Becoming a volunteer at a NARHA (North American Riding for the Handicapped Association) center is deeply satisfying.  Becoming a NARHA Certified Instructor goes one step further.  An individual must have a true commitment to the instruction of individuals with disabilities as well as a commitment to overseeing the daily routine of a therapeutic riding center, the training of volunteers, training and monitoring the therapeutic equines and continually updating its programs.

   For more information on the Instructor Certification process, link to www.narha.org.  Go to the Instructor section for details.  SHADOW Equestrian offers the opportunity to accumulate the necessary 25 “Instructor In Training” hours under the mentorship of Kay Drissel.  The final certification workshop and testing are available two times a year (October and May) through ARCH (Atlantic Riding for the Handicapped) located in Egg Harbor Township.  For more details, contact Kay Drissel at 856-694-4034.

Below, read the testimonials of SHADOW Equestrian’s five NARHA Certified Instructors

Kay Drissel

Age 58 (retired Elementary School Teacher)

NARHA Certified Instructor, February 2003

   I have always loved horses, not only to ride, but to experience how animals in nature and humans can bond together as one.  I did the usual kid things, went trail riding with friends, joined 4-H, participated in horse shows.  They were all fun, but what I remember most was how my horse helped me through my teenage years.

   Horses were put on hold when I got married and had children.  When my younger daughter showed an interest in horses, they again became part of my life.

   At age 50, I knew I would be retiring from teaching and wanted something to do blending children and horses.  I found NARHA on the internet, found a center nearby and began volunteering.  It didn't’t take long to know this would be my future.  In the early 2000’s, NARHA made it possible to obtain certification through video tapes.  This suited my schedule, as I was still teaching full time.  However, as I watch my “Instructors in Training” go through the new certification process, I feel I missed the camaraderie of working as a group and watching different teaching techniques.

   My future plans (since I already run SHADOW Equestrian and act as a mentor to my volunteers) will include attending workshops, instructional sessions and starting new innovative programs here at SHADOW Equestrian.  Just as I did when working with student teachers in the education field, I want to continue mentoring Instructors in Training here at SHADOW Equestrian to ensure the continuation of therapeutic riding centers in Southern New Jersey. 


Dianne Valentine

Age 52 (Registered Nurse)

NARHA Certified Instructor, May 2007

   My love for horses began when I started riding at the age of nine on my uncle’s cranky old mare.  I often rode alone and the mare always took good care of me, bringing me safely home.  This was how I became aware of the wonderful connection we can have with these amazing animals.  It wasn’t until five years ago that I was finally able to have them in my life again.  I now have two horses and a pony on my farm in Salem County.  I enjoy my horses not only for riding, but also just for the pleasure of their company.  Western trail riding has always been my first love, but I have recently started riding English and have also done some driving with my pony.  I continue to take riding lessons to improve my skills in the saddle.

   During my thirty years in nursing, I have cared for children in hospitals and was a School Nurse for ten years. I’ve always been involved with different types of volunteer work, but when I heard about SHADOW, I thought that it would be a good way for me to work with kids and be around horses too.  Little did I know what a fulfilling experience this would be. The combination of children and horses creates a special atmosphere that is a joy to be part of.

   After side walking and leading for two years, I saw how many ways our little riders benefited emotionally and physically from the horses. I wanted to become even more involved as an Instructor because I felt my horsemanship and medical background would give me a good foundation.  Since NARHA sets high standards, I feel confident after completing the Instructor Course that I can give a safe and effective lesson.  Everyone I worked with during my training period was very supportive and eager for me to succeed.  I’ve found the whole therapeutic riding community willing to share ideas, resources and lend a helping hand for the benefit of the riders.  I enjoy being part of SHADOW Equestrian and plan to continue there as an instructor.

   My philosophy about therapeutic riding is to see the horse as the central part of the team.  The presence of the horse in the lesson is just as important as its motion and the rider should be encouraged to make this connection.



Lisa Mathias

Age 47 (Wife and Mother)

NARHA Certified Instructor, March 2010

   I have been riding horses for the past fifteen years and even owned my own horse for several years. I love all aspects of riding. I am also a mother and love spending time with my children. When I found out I could combine my two loves and help people at the same time I knew this would be an amazing experience for me. I have been with SHADOW Equestrian for the past two years and it has changed me. Seeing children with special needs accomplish goals that, without this program, might not have been possible, warms my heart and puts the biggest smile on my face. While watching the children accomplish these tasks and watching the glow of happiness that the other instructors got while helping them, I was inspired to become an instructor myself. Becoming an instructor was difficult, but also extremely rewarding. I have learned so much at my classes and feel so proud to have reached my goal. Seeing the children each week is definitely something to which I look forward. I love all the people and the horses at the farm. It really feels like a family.

Stephanie Jones

Age 26 (Retail/Full time Student)

NARHA Certified Instructor May 2007

   I have always loved horses.  As a small child growing up, my grandparents had a “family” pony, Cinnamon, for all the grand kids to share.  She was there before I was even born, so for as long as I can remember, horses were always a part of my life.  Sadly, Cinnamon was old and by the time I was five, she passed on, but my love for horses continued.  So when I turned seven, my mother decided it was time to enroll me in formal horseback riding lessons.  I took lessons for the next five years, then I met my current horse, Mai Tai.  I finished the rest of my childhood with Mai Tai and I know that I could never have asked for more.  I learned very early the compassion and love of a horse and now believe that children, in particular, form the most special bonds with horses.  It is hard to explain, but it is something that I know will never again happen in the same way.

   Growing up, I had a cousin, Eddy.  He was only one year older than me and he had severe CP.  I never did think of CP as a disability, it was just the way Eddy was and I knew no differently.  Eddy couldn’t talk or walk but he could laugh and he did that a lot.  As I got older I started to realize what limitations life had placed upon my cousin.  But I was stubborn, I loved horses and I loved Eddy and I knew something could be done.  Then I met Mai Tai and realized the power of a bond between horse and human.  So I developed a plan, Eddy would ride and also share a bond with Mai Tai and he would laugh and laugh because he would love the excitement of it all.   I had never yet heard of “Therapeutic Riding”, but I was ready to start working its magic.

   I started volunteering at SHADOW Equestrian about four years ago.  I didn’t realize that therapeutic riding existed until one Super-Saturday event that was held in my town.  I saw the SHADOW Equestrian information booth and was impressed.  Two years later I searched until I found a contact and called Kay.  My experience at SHADOW has been nothing short of spectacular.  The horses, kids and families that I meet inspire me every day. I volunteered on Monday nights as a side-walker for a couple of months and then Kay started giving me my own students.  Finally, three and a half years later, Kay convinced me to become a Certified Therapeutic Riding Instructor. 

   I feel that my certification process started the day I walked into SHADOW Equestrian.  Every week I learn from the students and I was able to learn even more by taking the NARHA Instructor course.  Having my certification gives me more confidence as an instructor and it also gives me the opportunity to meet other people who are on the same path that I am on.  For the time being, I will continue volunteering at SHADOW Equestrian, but one day I would like to have my own facility and therapeutic program that services the needs of both children and adults with disabilities


Kay E. Drissel (President), 1907 Monroeville Rd. Monroeville, NJ 08343Phone: (856) 694-4034     Email: shadoweq@verizon.net