Experiences of Stage 2 - by IH Office

Student 1 – The one scared of failing: Stuart Miles


It was a chance conversation with Kelly during a break in the horse psychology course held at her home in 2017 that got me in to doing the Stage 2. I had done all my courses in 2012 and had been on the leading and loading course every year since helping with moving round pen panels and general manual handling for the teachers. I’d asked Kelly if I could resit the horse psychology course which was being run the day after the loading course. 

Kelly had agreed and as she had talked about Stage 2 during the course she then asked me “Well, Stuart, when are you going to do Stage 2 “?

I replied “Oh, I don’t know Kelly to be honest I’m petrified of failing it!!”

“Well, fail it then.” she replied.

Probably wasn’t quite the answer most people would be hoping to hear but Kelly then went on to explain her reasons behind it.   No one ever fails Stage 2. If you fall short of the pass grades you’re invited back to resit the parts you need.  Technically, I can say I didn’t really decide to do Stage 2 but was told to consider myself on the list for 2018 so I had time to prepare and sort out everything I needed to do for it .

This probably worked out best for me because who am I to decline Kelly and I was letting nerves and inner voices get to me and stop me progressing in my Intelligent Horsemanship life .  Kelly also told me that it’s good to get certified in something and see it through to the end.  Looking back, I’m glad she forced my hand really because it did boost my own confidence , if she was eager for me to do it then maybe she had the confidence in me that I was lacking in myself

Preparing for it.

I found preparing for Stage 2 taxing at times.  Not having my own horses, I had to hunt out horses that I could use to film the join ups at a yard with a school that I could build a round pen in. I was very lucky in that I found a local stables called Chantry stables and the owner Gemma let me use their d harris fencing ( the type they use around building sites)  that they used for a make shift round pen. 

This worked out really well for me, despite me having to build the pen every time I wanted to practise and film my sessions on my days off from my normal job.  The yard had a few horses that I could use but as I practised my join ups, I had other liveries show interest in me using their horses to film or practice on.

  • Read the Stage 2 information on filming your join ups before you start.   I worked with a lovely horse and thought the join up went well but when I discussed the video I sent to Sandra I’d put the camera in the wrong place!   I’d jumped too far ahead and made a very basic mistake! I’d not filmed me bringing the horse through the gateway to the round pen.  Lesson learnt. Read all instructions and then reread them and then probably read them again to just make sure.
  • Volunteer to be a helper on one of the 5 day courses.   I found this was the best thing I did because I got to watch new students be taught the principles of join up. This refreshed my memory and showed me new ways to deal with situations I’d found in my practise sessions
  • If you can resit the theory courses, then do, because I found this a great help. I had just come off the back off the foal handling and stud practise course just before my stage 2 so the information was very fresh in my mind.

I did really enjoy the last few weeks build up to stage 2 as I was busy creating and putting the final touches to my horse psychology project. I was also doing the homework that was set by Ian Vanderbergh which is based around the theory courses he teaches.  I found this great as I got to research subjects more in depth than I would have normally.

The Stage 2 Week

The week itself was really good. It comprises of classroom based and practical exams on the different subjects taught.  Despite being the only male of the 5 students, we all seemed to settle in well and the camaraderie was very strong as we worked together a lot, testing each other before exams and discussing things we didn’t understand. It was nice to work in such a supportive group and I feel lucky to have had the stage 2 students that I had… 

During the practical join up exams you get assigned a partner that brings tack in, can give you assistance if you feel 2 pairs of hands are better than one. This worked well in my first practical with a horse that was unsure about the tack going on so I brought in my partner to assist me whilst I kept control of the horse.

I did learn a few things about myself during the stage 2 week like I’m rubbish at retaining information that I had just read 5 minutes before.   We were told what the exams were during the week so I would sit in my hotel room and write flash cards with information on the subject and then have them spread out all over my table at breakfast.  I’m sure the hotel staff found it very strange that in my posh hotel restaurant I had cards scattered everywhere with names of bones and breeding cycles of horses scribbled all over them . 

I came away from stage 2 week with the plan that whenever I wanted to learn new information I would drip feed it in my brain slowly over several weeks as cramming really wasn’t working. Saying this though, I found the atmosphere relaxed whilst at Hartsop farm with every member of the Intelligent Horsemanship team offering as much support and guidance as was possible.

Where to now?

I came away from my Stage 2 week with a very big sense of achievement and I’m so glad that I had done it.  Kelly was so right when she told me it’s good to see something through to the certification part.  Since doing my stage 2, I’ve attended the 5 day Masterson Equine Bodywork courses that were talked about in a previous IH magazine. I found this has really fitted in well with my own horsemanship and IH concepts as well. 

I will be also be looking to get my case studies completed and hopefully being accepted as a Recommended Trainer.   It was nice during the last Monty demo tour to be congratulated by so many people that I held in such deep regards on my completion of stage 2 exams.

The one part I love the most about Intelligent Horsemanship is the feel of being part of something that brings people together. Having had the pleasure of  working alongside quite a few IH students and RTs during demos and courses, it’s the relaxed feeling and the encouragement you get from Kelly and the team to always be the best you can be .

Student 2 – The one on a mission to be an RT: Claire Mitchell


I wanted to gain the qualification to hopefully become a Recommended Trainer. I want to help horses and their owners and this is the path I felt was right for me.

Preparing for it

Lots of reading! Not just IH material from the courses but from all other sources as well. Revision notes on little cards that I could take with me everywhere and then if I had a spare moment I could look at them. I found that after a certain amount of time my brain would switch off so I needed short bouts of revision where my brain was fully engaged.

The Stage 2 Week

I’m not going to lie, it was stressful and very nerve wracking! Once I got to the farm and got talking to my fellow classmates, I started to feel a little better but because I had no idea what to expect in terms of the exam papers I was still nervous. We all were, and this is because it meant so much to us all! Kelly, Sandra, Ian and Rosie were so comforting and helpful throughout the week and gave as much guidance as they could and this really helped me. They are so supportive and reassure you, make you feel at ease as much as possible and if I didn’t have that I think I would have been a wreck by the end of the week.

Where to now?

I am now trying to get case studies together to present back to IH so that I can become an RT – this is my ultimate goal. Since completing the week and then starting out in the real world and working with other people’s horses, I had to find a lot of confidence and positivity in myself to make the leap. I did eventually do it and advertised in my local FB groups; the response was very positive and gave me the boost I needed to get out there and help people! I now have a number of clients I am working with. in some cases it’s not just ‘one session fixes all’, some have horses with separation anxiety that need a number of sessions to help them. Seeing the results of the IH methods and how this helps the owners and their comments has been fantastic and my confidence is just growing and growing and I feel over the moon to be doing this. Yes there are days when I get a 16H horse that rears on me and I think “what am I doing! How can I possibly solve this!” then I take my time, problem solve and work back through everything in my head that I used in the exam week and I see the light at the end of the tunnel. I really hope I can continue to help owners and horses 🙂

Student 3 – The all-round horse enthusiast: Emma Sharman


Achieving the ‘Stage 2’ is part of my journey to becoming an IH Recommended Trainer. I have loved horses since I was little and working with them and owners has been my choice of career. I’ve studied at college, done an apprenticeship and then moved into working with rehabilitation for the RSPCA and World Horse Welfare. This gave me experience with different breeds and behaviours and has widened my knowledge and improved my handling skills. To become a IH Recommended Trainer will build on this and hopefully extend my skills for my future career.

Preparing for it

The upcoming days before the exam I went through all the notes from the courses and made flashcards to study in my spare time.

  • Never underestimate the value of experience, being with horses and working with as many different people and yards as you can. It’s amazing what you can learn from others and the confidence you gain by working with them and their problems.
  • The information gained from the different courses over the last few years are made relevant and you can see how you can advise and introduce techniques that some may not have thought of or even knew about. Using what you have been taught helps you retain and remember it.
  • I also found watching Kelly Marks and Monty Roberts programmes on TV very helpful too.

The Stage 2 Week

The week of exams is difficult but there is time to do last minute revision but also time to relax and chat to other people. At the end of each day you feel like you have achieved and your knowledge has been tested, by doing your best and knowing that just by getting to this stage is a achievement in itself. Though it is a stressful time, everyone is so supportive and there are abundance of tea and biscuits that helps as well!

Where to now?

I am now studying Veterinary Physiotherapy at Moreton Morell College and continuing my journey by collecting case studies to eventually becoming a qualified Recommended Trainer.

Student 4 – The one finally giving it a go: Charlie Carr


It was something I had wanted to do for a long time but life gets in the way so it took me a while to actually get there. Ever since I got my first horse Lucie, when I was 13, she was rather quirky and quite a challenging. Because of her, I became interested in how we can have better relationships with our horses and become better horse people by understanding them and their behaviour better.  Now, as a freelance instructor, I can help others understand their horses better, giving them better relationships with their horses. Deciding to actually do the Stage 2 came a few years ago when I was working in the equine department at college and wanted a job change. I knew I would be doing more freelance work and felt stage 2 would complement this.

Preparing for it

I wouldn’t recommend my preparation! Breaking my ankle 13 weeks beforehand with two videos still to do wasn’t ideal. Up until that point I did lots of practical practice especially the full join up as the tacking up is quite fiddley when you’re stressing  and it’s easy to do silly things wrong. I really struggled with being watched and being put under pressure so did the perfect manners and re did the 5 day foundation to practice which really helped.

The Stage 2 Week

I managed to leave all my homework, project and notes back in Sussex when I went to do the exam, thankfully my understanding brother and sister in law who I was staying with printed everything out late the night before the first day this was added stress that wasn’t needed!

However, I loved the week. With the stress leading up to it, by the time I made it, I was just relived to have got there whatever the outcome. The week was actually really relaxed and enjoyable.

Where to now?

Since doing the Stage 2, I have been busy working as a freelance clipper along with teaching so have had little time to do more. As the clipping tails off, my plan is to get cracking with the case studies. I may also get around to doing my next BHS teaching exam now too.

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