Thought I’d better do a bit of a write up on my Stage 2 exam. Waiting for the results seemed to go on forever this time (2 weeks) so in the end I decided to wait before I did a write up.
Got really lucky with the weather, it was freezing cold, but a lovely sunny day. My group of 5 was scheduled to ride first, which I was pleased about. I rode first in my Stage 1 and found it really helped to calm my nerves. First horse was a lovely boy, very responsive, if a little stiff. We quickly got down to independent schooling, this was different from Stage 1 where we were pretty much told what to do the whole time. I had decided to treat this part very much like being in the warm up at a dressage test, and this worked well. We then formed a ride and did some work without stirrups. Thankfully, this horse was very smooth and forward which helped enormously.
We then swapped to our second horse, and I felt that as I’d had such a good first ride, the examiners would give me something I bit harder. I was correct, as I was asked to ride a big heavyweight coloured cob mare. She was very sweet, but obviously hated flatwork, and made my life quite difficult. We then did the one-handed work, which was a figure of eight in trot. Again, I wasn’t too sure how this went as it was rather like negotiate a wardrobe up a flight of stairs!
We then all lined up and got told individually that we were to jump. I was slightly concerned when I realised I was to stay on the cob, however my fears were unfounded as we went outside and realised that the mare perked up. She obviously loved jumping and went like she was going round Badminton! We then swapped on to a third new horse, mine was even more keen that the cob. I was a bit worried that my last turn overshot the jump, so I had to correct to approach straight. Otherwise I was really pleased and had a great time!
Next was the tack, grooming, travelling section. This was fairly straightforward, we had to do a quick groom, then tack up, and select and fit two different boots. This was fine, the examiner came around and asked if I would be happy to send the horse out for exercise with this tack. There were no rein stops and it had a running martingale, so I pointed that out (I assume they’d been removed deliberately). He also asked how I’d check the fit of the martingale, and I had a totally blank moment, so he showed me!
We then worked in pairs, one put a mane plait in and one started the tail plait, then swapped over. We then had to put clothing on for travelling. Again, in pairs, it was nice to have a ‘friend’ to work with. I dodged a bullet as the examiner asked my partner whether she would use a poll guard on a horse she didn’t know. I would have said yes, but she said no, and that was the answer he was looking for. Bit confusing as I thought you always had to play it safe.
After that we went in our groups to do the physiology, anatomy, feet, health section. This went really well as it was more of a discussion with each of us chipping in which answers we knew as and when. We had to demonstrate, with tools, how to remove a shoe, and how to clip (clippers switched off), dismantle clippers etc.
After lunch, we did the theory section. Again, was quite happy with this but was getting quite tired by this point. I got the luck of the draw and though we had questions directed at us individually I thankfully got questions I knew the answers to. This examiner quite liked her cooked feeds, something I know little about. We also discussed stable sizes, materials and field maintenance.
They saved the worst for last! Lunging was right at the end. I was still dreading this, despite all my early morning practice before work. By this point I was really tired and ready to go home, especially after the grilling that was the theory section. There were 3 of us to lunge at a time, the indoor arena was sectioned off into 3. I had to wait around whist everyone else was tacking up as someone had taken my horse’s cavesson and side reins back to the tack room, so that was a bit off-putting straight away. The horses are already tacked up apart from those items, I got all mine’s bits on, then fastened my lunge line (all nicely coiled up), only to realise my helper was still holding the reins over the horse’s head. I had to then unclip the line, hand it to the helper and secure the reins. All little things to unnerve me before I even started. Anyway, I got the middle space to lunge, right in front of the examiners!
The horse was once again, really good and obviously used to being lunged. He was very obedient and I thought it was going rather well until one of the examiners asked if I thought the horse was being exercised sufficiently. I’ve had it drilled into me that the horse really needs to be moving forwards, and I thought he was, he was tracking up nicely and really going forwards. I gee’d him up a bit more but to be honest it felt a bit quick to me. They also asked if I thought my side reins were the correct length, I knew they were too long and had planned to shorten them to next time I changed rein, which I did. Lastly, they just said watch the size of your circle, which I took as meaning my circle was too small, so increased the size a bit.
After the longest 15 minutes of my life, we were told to finish and bring the horses in. I was asked a couple of questions on the size of the circle required for lunging, and the sort of surface that would be suitable for lunging. We were released after that I made a swift exit, pleased to be on my way home.
All in all, it was a lovely day. The horses were all fab and a pleasure to ride and look after. The jumping phase was particularly fun – I often forget with all the dressage, how much I enjoy my jumping. Suffice to say I was thrilled 2 weeks later to find I’d passed the whole thing. I had some reservations about the lunging and part of the jumping. The examiners really are on your side, and want to pass you. They gave us little tips / help throughout the day if anyone was struggling with an answer. Hopefully this will give anyone looking to take this exam some insights in to what to expect.
June 2016 edit: I have now taken my BHS PTT exam, for all the notes on the day click here.