Study Tips for the PATH Intl. CTRI Exam

"How do I prepare for the PATH Intl CTRI (proctored, closed book) exam? "

This question has been asked multiple times by both mentors (those helping someone work towards certification) and mentees (the candidate for certification) so I wanted to put down my top tips for preparation in writing.

The tips given in this blog are ones I have found through years of trial and error and set mentees up for success not only for the CTRI certification process but also work well for other certifications such as the PATH Intl. Registered TRI certification, PATH Intl. Advanced TRI Certification, CHA certifications…..and are also techniques I am personally using now as I start pulling pieces together for the PATH Intl. Master TRI Certification. 

Note: This blog (and the video) were created pre-release of the PATH Intl. study guide. Once the study guide is released, I will continue to recommend the following components to fellow mentors and my own mentees to aid in preparation for the certification process. 

Please refer to the PATH Intl. CTRI Certification information page HERE for more details and all the official documents. 

Don’t want to read? Watch the replay (but be sure to grab the links and download in this blog!

When does the CTRI written exam happen?

Candidates working through the PATH intl. CTRI Certification process will sit for the proctored, closed book exam once they have submitted their application and it has been verified that all components meet requirements. Check out the Road Map from PATH Intl. that gives the visual of this process. 

Study & Preparation Tips

Tip #1- Use the Criteria to Create a Study Guide

Cover of PATH Intl. CTRI Criteria GuideThe CTRI Instructor Criteria (in PDF download of Application Booklet on right side) makes a great study guide for instructors working through the certification process and is a key component to helping guide the learning that should be happening during the application and exam phase. 

I am going to give you instructions below to start the process of breaking down the booklet into manageable sections to tackle and master. 

Create the Study Guide

  1. Print off the PATH Intl. Advanced Riding Instructor Criteria (in Application Booklet PDF download on right side)
  2. Come up with a ‘legend’ for the following three groupings (example: use different colored highlighters, different symbols like a +, * or X…whatever works for your brain):
    1. Things I am 100% comfortable with
    2. Things I need to review but have some knowledge about
    3. Things I that I am uncomfortable with or do not know
  3. Now, go through the criteria piece by piece and mark each item according to the legend you created in step #2

Tips for using the study guide

  1. I suggest that you start studying and practicing the criteria items you put in the third group “Things I that I am uncomfortable with or do not know”  since these things may take you longer to learn or incorporate into your teaching.
  2. Once you have a good start on the items in the 3rd group, start working on things in group 2.
  3. Don’t forget to keep reviewing, practicing, and incorporating things that you marked as being in your #1 group! Our #1 items can easily slip into #2 if we let them go onto the back burner and do not consciously practice and incorporate them on a regular basis.

Other tips regarding the study guide

  • Studying and Preparing for the CTRI Certification may look a little different for each item. This study guide will help you be able to recall items for the written test but it also goes beyond that and helps you acquire and refine knowledge that will help you be a solid instructor. 
  • Some items you can study for in a more traditional way by writing up note cards, typing a study guide, etc.
  • Some items you may need to think about how you can study and prepare for in a hands on way.
  • Don’t feel discouraged if you see a lot of items in the “need to review” or “things I don’t know/am uncomfortable with” sections. These will be addressed at the end as you build your ‘road-map’ to work towards advanced certification. I promise you can do this if you put your mind, time, and energy into this!

TIP #2- Read and Study the PATH Intl. Instructor Guide

Cover of PATH Intl. Instructor Study GuideThe new Instructor Education Guide put out by PATH Intl. is filled with a ton of fundamental information for instructors entering into the world of adaptive (therapeutic riding) and the EAS industry in general. The information is laid out well and there are some great supporting photos and diagrams as well.

If you are a mentor I would highly suggest you purchase this book and assign homework to your mentees! I teach a college level course (Principles of Therapeutic Horsemanship through Isothermal a PATH Intl. Higher Education member) where this book is the primary textbook…so yes, I personally use and reference this book on a regular basis (This is not a paid promotion but honest recommendation!)

Tip: As a topic is talked about and/or seen for the first time (say during your hours at the center before teaching or during supervised teaching hours), read the corresponding material in the Instructor Guide. 

I recommend you buy a print version of this book so you can make notes, book mark pages, and use as a reference in the future. Click HERE or on the image of the book to be directed to the PATH Intl. store where you can purchase the book.

TIP #3- Become Familiar with the PATH Intl. Standards for Certification & Accreditation

Cover of PATH Intl. Standards ManualLearn how to read, interpret, understand, and apply the information in the PATH Intl. Standards for Certification & Accreditation manual. A digital copy is available for free to PATH Intl. Members or available for purchase to non-members. I personally use the digital copy the most and do not own a print copy. I like the pdf version because you can easily use the search feature to find information  (for my computer…Ctrl+F)

Wow! There are a TON of pages!!! Where do I even start??? What components should I study first???

I would suggest you become familiar with what information is in the manual so that if you do not read it right away you at least know what/where to find the information. I hope that, as a certified instructor, you will have eventually read all the information once and constantly use it as a resource. 

Have I read the entire manual….Yes….a few times and I refer to it almost every week if not a couple times a month when I encounter new things, need to refresh my memory on a standard, need to provide guidance to a mentee, etc. It’s dry but it is crucial for instructors to become familiar with (especially if you are a mentor!)

What if you can’t read everything all at once? Where should you start? The items below are the pieces of the manual I usually assign first to my mentees to study….then we layer in pieces of the bigger chunks as we progress and learn about new topics. Note: all page numbers listed below are for the 2018 edition)

“Bite Sized” pieces to read and digest first (Note: page numbers below are based off 2018 edition) 

  •  Introduction to Precautions & Contraindications (P. 8-12.
  • Composition of a Standard (P. 17) 
  • Mandatory Standards (P. 18-22)
  • Standards as they Apply to Instructors (P. 29-30)
  • Backriding Position Statement (P. 32)
  • Helmet Use Guidelines (P. 167)
  • Selection of Equines (P. 169)
  • ADA Guidelines (P. 177)
  • Adaptive Tack Guidelines (P. 178-179)

Larger pieces that can be broken down as you encounter the topics:

  • Glossary (P. 152-165)
    • Tip: Study these in chunks (ex: look over all A-C words in the general and medical terms section).
  •  Standards
    • Tip: Study these based on topic as they come up during the training (ex: find all the standards that apply to Participants, give a summary of each, and state how it applies to you as the instructor).
  • Precautions & Contraindications:
    • Tip: Study these based on the diagnoses you have/will be encountering during your time exposed ot EASs and supervised teaching hours (ex: You are assigned a student who has Autism. Read over and research information in the P&C section regarding Autism).
    • Use THIS DISABILITY STUDY SHEET that has been formatted to help guide your brain into thinking about the diagnosis through an Adaptive(Therapeutic) Riding Instructor “lens”.

TIP #4- Study Diagnoses with an Instructor’s Perspective

As adaptive (therapeutic) riding instructors, we must not only be familiar with the different diagnoses we may encounter but we must also be able to take that information and apply it to how we match tack, equines, volunteers, arena setups, etc. based on the needs and abilities of our student. 

While I highly caution instructors about not their students in the “box” of their diagnosis and therefore putting present limitations on them, it is important for us to practice the mental process we should be going through when thinking about all the things we must manage on a continual basis before, during, and after lessons. 

This DISABILITY STUDY SHEET helps to serve as a guide for instructors to start flexing the muscles of their instructor brain! These are the factors I mentally review over and over during every lesson that help me maintain a high level of safety and quality while still promoting independence in my student and not keeping them “in the box” of what their diagnosis looks like on paper. With practice, this is something an instructor can do in their mind without much effort when they encounter a known diagnosis or they know what crucial things to think about when they have encountered something new. 

The Disabilities Study Sheet helps to tie pieces of the CTRI Criteria, the Instructor Education Guide, and the Precautions & Contraindications manual all together!

Did you get your FREE download?

This download includes:  Disability Study Sheet which can be utilized by mentors, certification candidates, or any instructor in the Equine Assisted Activities and Therapies industry!

Final Thoughts

Although, at first glance, the information you should study and learn may seem overwhelming keep pushing forward! Remember that you are not just working towards a piece of paper and an email signature that says “PATH Intl. CTRI”…but instead have the mindset that you are studying to be the best instructor you can be for your students. 

Break things down into small, achievable goals that you can work on over time. Remember….the instructors you look up to were not born knowing everything. It has taken them time, practice, and experiencing failures to get to where they are now. 

If you are working towards certification– Find a quality mentor FIRST that can help guide you through the process of becoming certified. Linking up with an experienced mentor can save you a lot of time, effort, and stress. 

If you are a mentor helping someone work towards certification- Feel free to utilize this information, check out my Mentor Boot Camp, and make sure you stay up to date on the certification process and material expected of your mentee!

I would also recommend checking out The Intuitive Instructor Club! Get immediate access to 40+ hours of online education (2+ new hours every month). The educational content is taught by MULTIPLE industry professionals and is specifically geared towards instructors in the Equine Assisted Activities and Therapies Industry. Watch videos on mounting, dismounting, volunteer management, equine management, teaching theory, real lessons, and much more!

Questions? Comments? Email

Watch a replay of the Instructor Chat on this topic!

Saebra Pipoly
Hoof Falls & Footfalls Owner/Founder

*This blog was compiled independently by Saebra Pipoly of Hoof Falls & Footfalls and is not paid for or endorsed by PATH Intl. Information presented in this blog may not reflect the views or opinions of PATH Intl. Please refer to (links in blog post) for official and up to date information on any and all certification related materials.

** I personally chose to use the term Adaptive Riding vs. Therapeutic Riding and avoid ‘horse therapy’ at all costs. Why? CLICK HEREThe thoughts shared in the  post above apply to not only Adaptive riding but also to other mounted equine activities and therapies offered at an EAAT (Equine Assisted Activity and Therapy) Program/Center/Barn.

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