Kelly Marks is the UK’s most popular ‘Horse Whisperer’ or putting it more accurately – specialist in understanding horse psychology and behaviour, and finding workable solutions to benefit both horses and humans. This isn’t surprising as ‘horses are in her blood’ as the saying goes, her father, Douglas Marks, was sent to be an apprentice jockey at the age of 14 only due to the fact that he was small and his father liked betting. His father, who had fought in World War I (in the lowest rank) wrote to the King to see if he would find his son a job at his stables. The King duly obliged and saw to it he was placed with his trainer in Newmarket and although, Douglas only rode about 25 winners in his career (partly due to a broken back and developing TB) he formed a remarkable relationship with an ‘unrideable’ filly called Godiva. When he was just 17 he rode her to victory in two Classic races – The One Thousand Guineas and The Oaks. Douglas Marks was widely regarded as an eccentric for expressing his love of horses at a time when it wasn’t considered fashionable. He put his relationship with Godiva down to ‘sitting on her manger and singing to and giving her polos’. He then went onto become a racehorse trainer pulling off some remarkable gambles with horses other people had written off as no good.
Kelly loved ponies but unfortunately had a bad head accident when she fell off at age 6 (not wearing a hat). Her life was saved by surgeon, John Potter at the Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford and her father named a horse after him. Mr Potter (the horse) became a successful stallion in Australia and John Potter the surgeon remained close to Kelly until the last days of his life. Her accident didn’t put Kelly off though and she rode at her local riding school and at age 8 managed to get a win at her local horse show on the local riding school’s pony Puzzle in the Child’s First Pony which she remembers as the first ‘best day of her life’. The second best day of her life came when she was 11 and she became the proud owner of a 13hh grey connemara called Seamus who bolted, ran out at jumps, couldn’t be caught and wouldn’t go in a trailer. After spending every available moment with him, in just two years he became the best pony in the whole world ever.
As a teenager Kelly was a keen showjumper and was often asleep in the Luton as she was driven the length and breadth of the country by her sister, Sandra, to compete. These years were funded on a shoe-string budget and living mainly on toast. She won two British ShowJumping Championships as a junior, qualified for the Horse of the Year Show at Wembley in the Young Riders (won by Michael Whittaker that year) and won 4 classes at Hickstead once having one of her heroes, Caroline Bradley finish second and Miss Bradley was as gracious as one would imagine.
When Kelly’s sister married and she therefore lost her horsebox driver and support team, Kelly learned to type (she remains very fast to this day) and to ride racehorses (she still enjoys a gallop). Kelly won on the flat and over hurdles, was in the Ladies British Team over several years and jumped several of the Grand National fences when she played the part of the Lady Jockey in ‘Champions’, the story of Bob Champion. In 1991 she stopped using the whip in races as it ‘just felt wrong’ whipping a horse whether racing or not. In this time she had some of her biggest successes riding in races, she won the most valuable ladies handicap race of the year at the Group One course, Newbury – the Trinifold Silver Clef in 1993. She retired in 1995 immediately after winning the Ladies European Championship (with two first placings, one third) in Bratislava and Vienna.
Kelly met Monty Roberts through a chance meeting at a French petrol station in 1993. She often recounts the Zen saying ‘when the student is ready the teacher will appear’ when she tells the story. Monty asked her first to help with the writing of his book ‘The Man Who Listens to Horses’ and she also took time to work alongside him with ‘the horses with problems’. After a conversation with the Queen at Windsor Castle, Monty Roberts later asked Kelly if she could put together courses in his methods. This she duly did and became the first teacher of his methods world-wide.
Kelly put together the Monty Roberts courses, which started in the UK in 1995 and later set up her own organisation Intelligent Horsemanship in 1999. Since then literally thousands of horse lovers have benefited from her courses, demonstrations, books, most notably: Perfect Manners – How to Behave so Your Horse Does Too, Perfect Partners – How to be the Owner Your Horse Would choose for Himself, and Perfect Confidence – Overcoming Fear, Gaining Confidence and Achieving Success with Horses, as well as personal ‘hands on’ help with their horse.
Being aware of the saying ‘those who can do those who can’t teach’ Kelly has made it a mission to continue her learning and hands on work with horses so she can pass on practical knowledge that is second to none. “I’ve read the most ridiculous advice in books that is completely unworkable and unsafe, but because it’s in a book it gets repeated as if it’s fact. Good scientific trials would seem to be the answer and something I’m keen to promote but at the moment as well as the old wives tales there’s a frightening amount of ‘Bad Science’ in horsemanship out there as well. My Father used to annoy me when I’d tell him something I’d heard and he’d say ‘Ahh but is that really true?’ I understand now what a wise question that is! We need to be able to read and understand what the scientific papers have actually tested (and who the conclusions are intended to benefit). We need to question folk lore and ask ourselves ‘so that successful trainer bandaged cabbage leaves on his horses’ legs (real life case!) – was he successful because of that or in spite of that?
Kelly has had her own very successful demonstrations around the world – South Africa, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, France, Germany, Luxembourg as well as England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland where she’s helped overcome a wide variety of equine problems such as refusing to load in the horsebox, bucking, bolting, rearing, napping, spooking, shying, biting, kicking as well as nice simple young horses that are ready to have their first saddle and rider. The other parts of her Continuous Personal Development include going to Namibia to see if it’s possible to ride a completely wild, untouched horse in just a few days This was made into a fascinating documentary Click here to see Kelly and IH working with wild horses in one of the harshest deserts on earth.
She also had a go at BHS Trec which resulted in her winning the £1000 Pro-Am at Royal Windsor Horse Show
Kelly also though she should get the inside scoop on show riding and drag hunting which were filmed by Horse and Country TV Click here for Kelly Marks on Horse & County TV