, the Rider levels in Canada also cover Western disciplines. And while I'm not trying to say that a good coach needs to be certified, I can attest to the fact that we went through a total of 6 coaches before we found one that actually helped my daughter improve her riding. And along the way, I can tell you we met some real loonies. Some that didn't care about my daughter's progress because she wasn't showing and kept cancelling lessons or not having any horses for my daughter to ride that day, some that had (ahem) "unconventional" ideas about riding and horsemanship, and some that pushed my daughter too hard, or just told her everything was great and she had nothing to improve upon (um, yeah no). At least when a coach is certified, there is a standard applied.
And I hear you about struggling to find someone local. My daughter's coach is an hour away. We do weekly lessons, and in the summer, we bring our own horse (I have to rent a trailer, and it's an all-day thing) so she can get ready for shows. I also ride, but don't show, and this coach is perfectly fine with that. She gives me just as much attention as she does to her students who win ribbons at the Royal. Everyone gets the same treatment from her, no matter what their rider goals may be. I'm not interested in doing rider levels, but I encourage my daughter to do them because a) they're a great motivator for kids (they get a badge and a certificate), b) she started very young so may become a coach herself some day and might as well work her way through the certification program, and c) we have our own horses, but she doesn't want to learn barn management from her mother - sometimes, kids are far keener to learn from someone they admire than a nagging mom. With the rider levels, I know she is getting a well-rounded training program.
, yes, you have to be certified to do the testing. It's unfortunate that your daughter can't be tested by her current coach. Is there the option of a certified coach coming in to do the testing? My daughter's coach is the only one in our general area who can do it, and travels to other barns to do the testing on other students. She has completed all the English and Western levels, and has successfully competed herself at the national level, as well as training other competitive riders. We're very lucky to have her!
I will add that sometimes when she's overbooked, my daughter's coach will ask one of her advanced adult students to take over the lesson for her. My daughter was coached by this person a couple of times and while she doesn't have the breadth of knowledge our certified coach has, she does have new ideas. My daughter was very happy that she has picked up new strategies from this younger coach. Sometimes even the best can run out of ideas when dealing with a challenging horse. However, this younger coach also takes more risks, and my daughter has fallen off more often with her than she ever did with our regular coach. Nothing serious, thankfully, and my daughter is advanced enough to handle it now, but I would not have liked it if she was a beginner. Then again, they wouldn't have put her on this specific horse if she had been a beginner I guess. My point is that switching it up can be a good thing too, as long as you are maintaining some kind of standard and that the coaches aren't working against each other.