In May this year our two British Horse Society Accredited Coaches, Ross and Lorna attended the two day BHS Conference in Cavan. One of the many talks presented was by Alex Copeland and Tim Downes and centred around how candidates are assessed for ridden examinations and what is required to pass.
The pair explained that the pass criteria varies through the exam structure.
At Stage 1 level, all marks (100%) are available for the riding and 70% is required for a pass to be achieved.
At Stage 2 level, 80% of the marks are available for the riding and 20% for the oral section. 70% overall is required to pass
At Stage 3 level 70% of the marks are available for riding and 30% for the oral section. 70% overall is required to pass.
At Stage 4 level, 60% of marks are available for the riding section and 40% for the oral section. 70% overall is required to pass. This means that a candidate cannot pass on their riding alone - they must be able to evaluate and talk.
At Stage 5 50% of marks are available for riding and 50% for the oral section. This underlines that the qualification is not just about being able to ride - candidates must be able to evaluate an animals way of going, to explain what they are feeling and have done and to understand how to progress
Alex and Tim also explained that assessors will assess whether a candidate is lacking in skills or if they have skills which are developed in the wrong way. It is more of a concern to see incorrect training and habits (for example a rider thinking they should pull the head in and giving incorrect aids) than to see embryonic skills needing development.
The differences between Stage 1 and Stage 2 riding exams were clarified by the team:
The team clarified that at Stage one candidates are required to walk and trot without stirrups where as at Stage two they must also canter.
In stage one the light seat is introduced where as in Stage 2 candidates must jump
In Stage 2 assessors must gauge how well balanced is the rider and are they effective enough to ride a horse forward to a fence. Sabrina Jones explained that the new skills record which must be signed off by a professional accredited coach before a candidate can attempt their Stage 2 exam has meant that far less candidates are being stopped before the jumping phase.
The team explained that at all levels people make mistakes but assessors are not looking to fail anyone on a small mistake. In fact the team will question to identify if the candidate understands the background of why something should be done a certain way - for example where a candidate has their stirrup twisted the wrong way the assessor will question to ascertain if the candidate understands the correct way and why.
The exam structures are designed to future proof riders because following process and technique means riders will go on to ride at a higher level.
Information provided around Stage 3 and 4 riding exams gave the following insights:
At Stage 4 level it was clarified that the assessors will have sat up on the horses that candidates will ride beforehand and that at this level candidates may ride horses “long and low”. in fact at Stage 3 and 4 assessors don’t want to see people candidates riding immediately in a dressage test outline and do not wish to see riders riding movements without understanding why a movement is or is not beneficial to the horse.
At stage 3 and 4 level the candidates need to be able to influence the horse so balance is key as is a basic understanding that the horse out of balance users their head and neck to balance. Riders with bad balance pulling a horse on the bit is an issue as the horse cannot work correctly. Assessors see too many riders riding backwards thinking they must ride a horse in a frame - they want to see that the rider is balanced and can ride forward into an outline.
At Stage 4 the horse should lift frame and go into the elementary balance with the withers up.
A lot of riders at Stage 3 and 4 level say ‘I am going to use transitions to improve the horse’ but it is important to remember that only good transitions improve the horse, bad ones don’t!
Riders at Stage 3 and 4 level should read the horse they are riding and should be surprised and comment if a thoroughbred is lazy rather than or a cob is sharp off the aids. Candidates should understand the makeup of the horse, what it typically goes like and should comment if it is not true to type. As Tim said ‘if a 30 year old Land Rover drives like a Ferrari - you would be surprised and would comment on it’
At Stage 3 and 4 correct candidates are starting to influence the horse. At Stage 3 the odd support aid in the rein is understood. At Stage 3 the intention should be to ride forward with independent aids - at Stage 4 candidates should be doing this. The biggest issue seen by assessors is candidates intentionally riding the horse backwards. Intention is key - the rider must show that they intend to ride a horse forwards into the contact in balance even if they have not yet achieved it.
At Stage 3 a candidate can be unsuccessful in their flatwork exam but if they are workmanlike and sufficiently balanced they can go on to pass their jumping exam as they have been seen jumping at Stage 2 and have been signed off for Stage 3 jumping.
At Stage 4 under the new format there will be a specific dressage assessment -candidates will ride one horse that is at elementary level, one that is not yet there yet and one that they ride over trot and canter poles. In showjumping candidates will ride three horses - one to do with riding over a course, one to ride related distances and one to show how they develop flatwork into jumping using poles.
At Stage 4 the rider needs to be training the horse and candidates need to take responsibility for the how the horse is going when solving problems. When discussing fixing issues self reflection is important and candidates need to say not just what they will do to the horse but also what they will change in their riding
A sign off for Stage 4 wont be mandatory until next year.
At Stage 5 there wont be a sign off book instead candidates will complete a training and cpd log which they will bring with them and discuss.
At Dunbyrne Equestrian we have our own onsite BHS Assessor and BHSI Ross O’Hare. If you are working towards your BHS riding exams and need some training, sign off for exams or a mock assessment please get in touch - firstname.lastname@example.org