Chrissie's Stages Story

Chrissie Barnwell is 22 years old and has been riding since she was 13. Read her experiences and advice for taking BHS exams below.

Chrissie BarnwellI've always loved horses and when I was 20 I realised how passionate I was about them.

I came to Pippin Equestrian, a BHS Approved Centre, as an apprentice to study towards the BHS stages. I quickly learnt that I was a lot less experienced than I thought - unable to sit properly to the canter, or ride a 20m circle! But after meeting Helen Barton-Smith and the staff at Pippin, I was determined I wanted to ride and teach like them, and be able to gain experience and knowledge to manage a yard of my own in the future.

I rode many riding school horses during the week days, and had stable management lectures. I found the Hazel Reed books very useful for revising at home. I had PTT practice once a week, and was able to put into practice what I learnt in half-hour private lessons. This really helped with my confidence, and as the clients I taught improved, it gave me a really good feeling!

My first exam was BHS Stage 1 in December 2011. I had never done anything like it before, and I was very nervous! It was the first time I had a real reason to wear my show jacket and cream jodhpurs, and I felt the part! The examiners were very welcoming, and so was the centre (Sparsholt College). The horses were lovely, and the examiners and other candidates were friendly which really helped to put everyone at ease.

But the hardest part was waiting for results! I was not expecting a complete pass, as there were moments where my mind went blank or I wasn't completely confident with the answers I gave. So, 10 days later when the results came through I couldn't have been happier to see passes all round!

I took my Stage 2 exam in April, PTT in the August, and Stage 3 Care in October 2012, all at Pippin Equestrian. It was good to take the exam where I trained as I felt much more comfortable. I am very proud of myself to have come so far in such a short time, which couldn't have happened without the staff at Pippin Equestrian!

My advice to others is to introduce yourself to other candidates before the exam - the day feels a lot better if you can exchange experiences throughout the day, help each other, and keep each other calm!  After all, the assessors want to pass you all – you’re not against the other candidates! Also, visit the centre your exam will be held, and ride there if you can. It feels much more comforting to have an idea of where things are and what the horses are like.

The assessors want to pass you all – you’re not against the other candidates!

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