Yes, you’re quite correct — Ocean Rider (seahorse.com) does have a strict policy against selling any of their livestock within the State of Hawaii. This limitation is necessary to prevent the accidental or intentional release of seahorses that are not native to the islands into Hawaiian waters where they may have a negative impact on endemic seahorses and ecosystems.
The release of captive specimens is widely acknowledged to have the potential to do considerable harm under certain circumstances. The primary concerns are that such releases could introduce diseases into seahorse populations, could pose genetic threats to wild populations, and could disrupt the structure and normal function of seahorse communities, and may therefore actually result in extirpations (localized extinctions) of native seahorses.
The fact that Ocean Rider cannot provide livestock for you will have no effect whatsoever on the training lessons since you do not have to have Ocean Rider seahorses, or seahorses of any kind, in order to participate in the training course.
However, seahorses are still being imported into Hawaiian from sources other than Ocean Rider. Under the circumstances, your best option for locating seahorses will be to contact the local fish stores in your area and ask them to notify you the next time they receive a shipment of seahorses. (I am not in a position to recommend any particular pet shop or fish stores.) As always, Jocelyn, captive-bred-and-raised seahorses are much preferable to wild-caught seahorses or pen-raised ponies, when you have a choice. Lesson 9 (disease prevention and control) discusses how to screen seahorses from the pet store to make sure they are healthy before you make a purchase, so be sure to keep those guidelines in mind when you are selecting a seahorse from your local pet store.
Best of luck finding the perfect ponies for your new seahorse setup when the time comes, Jocelyn!
Pete Giwojna, Ocean Rider Tech Support