5 Benefits of Becoming a USDF Certified Instructor

Megan McIsaac (Franke Photo Design)

By Megan McIsaac

Hello!  My name is Megan McIsaac and I am a USDF Certified Instructor through Fourth Level with my sights set on certification through FEI! This journey has been a long one, 20 years in fact! 

Megan McIsaac (Terri Miller photo)

I began teaching dressage while I was in high school. At the time, I knew everything and wanted to spend my life immersed in anything involved with horses! They are my first love and passion. Both of my parents are PhDs, and they wanted me to go to college and become a doctor or lawyer. They understood the value of owning a horse at a young age and were proud of all the facets that I was learning. I learned discipline, patience, responsibilities, disappointment, hard work, and the value of caring for something other than myself. They also thought that I would grow out of it and get a career outside of horses. 

That did not happen. At the age of 22, I wrote a 45-page business plan, took out a business loan, and got started in the development of my training business and 20-acre farm. At that time, it was a small indoor 60 x 120, outdoor riding arenas 80 x 200, and five stalls. Over time, it has been developed into a 24-stall barn, more pastures, 80 x 200 heated indoor riding arena, and we are currently building a new outdoor riding arena and track. It only took me 20 years! 

During the last 20 years, one of the most important milestones for me was becoming a USDF Certified Instructor!

Here are 5 benefits that I have found from becoming a USDF Certified Instructor:

As a certified instructor, I became part of an elite group of like-minded instructors and trainers. 

My fellow certified instructors and I have the need to be the top of our sport, and we are recognized for that. We are the standard and want to become better. Just being a USDF Certified Instructor sets us apart. We put ourselves out there to be evaluated and graded, and we passed the tests! And let me tell you, there are so many tests! I am always searching for new training tools or exercises and different ways of giving the same instruction, which is just one reason I enjoy discussing training issues with colleagues. We also want to improve our sport throughout our country. As the USDF Instructor/Trainer Program grows and more instructors are becoming certified, it is helping set a standard throughout our country. The USDF certification itself gave me more confidence in my training & teaching abilities.


There are so many opportunities to network and make connections, as well as make long time friendships! Let’s face it, this sport can be hard or lonely at times. I think it is so important to make connections with like-minded individuals whether they live further away or are just in the next town. During the USDF Instructor/Trainer Workshops (many of which are open to auditors), there are many opportunities to meet new people and talk about not only training or teaching, but also business and management. I love hearing how other instructors run their businesses and train horses. It’s a great opportunity to identify things they may be doing more efficiently that I might want to implement into my business. Additionally, there is now a USDF Certified Instructor Facebook Group, which is fantastic because we can connect with everyone around the country, not just at the workshops, Adequan®/USDF Annual Convention, or certification!

Instructors are highlighted in USDF Connection and on YourDressage.

USDF is proud of their Certified Instructors and the USDF Instructor/Trainer Program is doing a great job at promoting their instructors/trainers. I always feel supported. I personally have been asked to take part in writing articles for USDF Connection magazine as well as YourDressage.  I have also been included in the “Meet the Instructor” column. As a one woman show, sometimes the PR side of my business is pushed to the bottom of the pile. Thank you to USDF’s Instructor/Trainer Program and publications team for always thinking of me!

Your contact information is included in an elite list on the USDF website

As a USDF Certified Instructor, all your contact information is included on the list of Certified Instructors on the USDF website.  This is fantastic advertising making it so anyone searching for an instructor on the USDF website will be able to find you! This is also a handy tool when I have a student who is moving out of state, as I can easily help them locate an instructor with a simple search of the website. Thank you USDF for making this list available to our membership!

As a USDF Certified Instructor, you can apply for more grants through The Dressage Foundation.

Another great benefit to becoming certified is that there are grants specifically for  certified instructors!  Check out the Major Lindgren Instructor Education Grants. There are three grants awarded each year to help further our education. The Dressage Foundation also has grants to help us become certified, such as the Maryal and Charlie Barnett Continuing Education for Dressage Instructors. This grant offers funding for those individuals wishing to participate in the USDF Instructor/Trainer Program. Take advantage of these great opportunities!

These are only five benefits to becoming a USDF Certified Instructor, and there are many more.  For those of you considering becoming certified, I strongly encourage you! Whether you are an instructor or trainer wanting to become certified, a rider who would like to learn more, or a volunteer wanting to participate, you will get so much out of this program! 


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