Find out everything you need to know about preparing for your BHS assessment, so you can feel confident and relaxed on the day.
"The best piece of advice I can offer any candidate is to relax. If you’re relaxed, you can think more clearly and articulate your answers clearly and sincerely."
Give yourself plenty of time
Plan your journey thoroughly to help prevent you being late. Giving yourself plenty of time to arrive can ensure that you stay relaxed and are able to perform to your best.
Whatever the weather!
If it’s a hot day, you may appreciate a clean, dry top to change into if you become hot and sticky after the riding section. The same goes for if it’s raining – a change of clothes will make you feel warm and comfortable again.
Don’t feel like you have to bear the elements, we want you to be comfortable and able to perform to your best.
Don’t compare yourself to others
On the day there will be varying levels of candidates, but please don’t become intimidated by your fellow candidates who may come across as having more experience or knowledge, we’re only assessing you on the standard for the level of assessment – nothing more and nothing less! Try to chat and make friends with each other on the day, it will help you all to feel more comfortable and relaxed.
The assessors are there to check your skills and knowledge against the assessment syllabus and not how you compare to each other. Quite simply, on the day, if you meet the standard set out in the syllabus then you’ll pass!
Don’t get hung up on the mythical (and old-fashioned) ‘BHS way’
There is no one set way to do things with horses. Any method of carrying out a task is acceptable as long as it doesn’t compromise the health, welfare and safety of horse and rider (and assessor!). It is also important to acknowledge that equipment must be kept safe.
Be yourself and do what you would normally do. That way, you’ll be more relaxed and come across as more established and confident in your methods.
If you do have a ‘blip’ at some point during your exam, it is OK!
Please don’t worry! If you do have a refusal or a pole down in a jumping assessment, this will not mean you have automatically not achieved the award. It’s how you deal with the situation that the assessor will be interested in, so keep calm, take a deep breath and try not to let it affect the rest of your assessment. The assessor will take an overall view of your performance on the day – and after all, the horses don’t know you’re taking an assessment!
The key to success is preparation! Training with an Accredited Professional Coach or Approved Centre is the best way to prepare for your assessment day. They will completely understand how you will be feeling about the day, because they have been a candidate themselves, and they have the appropriate coaching qualifications to support you through each stage. They have a thorough understanding of our BHS Career Pathways and can help you to plan your career goals and use your Skills Record to progress your journey.
By receiving training tailored to your needs from an Accredited Professional Coach or an Approved Centre, it will ensure that you are fully aware of all that is involved during the day and help you to feel much more relaxed and confident, allowing you to demonstrate your skills and knowledge to the best of your ability.
This sounds so simple, but it is easily forgotten when you’re nervous! Try to remember to have a slow release energy breakfast to help your energy levels stay consistent throughout the day. Be sure to stay hydrated throughout the day, too – especially if the weather is warm – it will help you to stay focused.
Although many of our assessment centres will have a café or snack bar, we are not able to guarantee this, or they may not be open on the day of your assessment. We would recommend you bring your own drinks, snacks and lunch so they are readily available when you take a break and you don’t have to be concerned about spending time in a queue to buy food or drink.
In preparation for the day, you will be sent the contact details and address of your assessment venue, along with your confirmation letter. If you are not already familiar with the venue it may be an idea to book a lesson there to help you feel more settled on the day of your assessment.
Always leave yourself plenty of time to arrive at the venue. It doesn’t matter if you arrive super early, it just gives you more time to settle in and relax before the day begins. Things like traffic and road works can be hard to avoid, so it is always useful to have an alternative route in mind just in case you come across them on your way.
Don’t be worried about the dress code for the day as there is lots of information and guidelines on what to wear for your assessment in your Skills Record and below. Please don’t go out and buy anything specific or special, we just want you to feel comfortable and relaxed. As long as it is practical, safe and helps you feel at ease, then it is OK.
- Your clothing should be safe, practical working attire and suitable for the given weather conditions. Please do bring extra clothing, such as waterproofs, warm jackets or a cooler top with sleeves if the weather looks as though it could be unpredictable. It is not compulsory for you to wear a jacket, although tops should fit well and have sleeves. If you are taking part in a riding session during your assessment long sleeves are advised for safety, even if it is a hot day. You can change out of your long-sleeved top once your riding section has finished. For jumping sections, you should wear a shirt with sleeves and either a tie or stock
- Either breeches or jodhpurs are fine. Plain colours are usually more practical for assessment days. If you are only taking a care assessment, you can also wear a practical pair of trousers rather than breeches or jodhpurs if you would be more comfortable
- Long leather riding boots or boots with leather gaiters are suitable for the riding sections of the assessment. You can choose to wear suitable shoes or boots for the care assessments if you would rather
- For safety reasons we ask that you wear gloves for any riding, leading or lungeing activities
- Spurs are not usually required until Stage 4 and beyond. If you do require them during your assessment, they would need to be short and blunt with the shank set centrally to the rear. Spurs should only be used when the need arises, and you may be asked to remove them if this is not the case
- Throughout the ridden assessments you are asked to carry a whip. At Stage 1, your whip should not exceed 30 inches or be less than 14 inches. The same measurements apply to all following jumping assessments as you progress up the stages, but for any flatwork stages your whip should not exceed 39 inches in length
- Jewellery within a practical environment can often cause injury or safety concerns, so for this reason it is advised that no jewellery, apart from a watch, is worn or is covered up during your assessment. It is also advised for safety reasons that hair of shoulder length or longer is tied back and a hairnet is worn
Probably the most important item you will need to remember on the day is your hat. You are required to wear your hat during any mounted, lungeing, leading or loading assessments. Unfortunately, hats with fixed peaks are not permitted for the cross-country sections of assessments, in line with British Eventing standards.
Please ensure your hat has been correctly fitted and meets the current safety standards. The current requirements state your hat should bear EN1384 or BSEN1384 along with one of the following other standards:
- PAS015(1998 or 2011) + a BSI Kitemark
- VG1 01.040 (2014-12) + a BSI Kitemark
- ASTM F1163 (2004a or 04a onwards) + SEI mark
- SNELL E2001 + SNELL label and number
- AS/NZS 3838 (2006 onwards) + SAI global mark
Body protectors are strongly recommended by the BHS in all aspects of ridden activity, but it is compulsory for any assessments that include cross-country jumping and could be required during a showjumping element of an assessment depending upon the centre’s insurance policy. Please note your body protector should comply with the following specifications:
- A BETA level 3 (purple label) displaying either a 2000 or 2009 label
Don’t be afraid to talk to your assessor and ask them questions as you go. There is no such thing as a silly question! If you are unsure or worried about anything, it’s best to raise it as soon as you can – please don’t dwell on anything.
Our assessors have all been candidates too, so they know exactly how you’re feeling and will want to reassure you and support you to do your best. If at any point during the assessment you are unsure about what has been asked of you, just ask your assessor to repeat or rephrase the question – this will in no way go against you or your overall assessment outcome.
We want you to get the most from the day and enjoy the experience.
OK, we haven’t gone mad! Try not to focus on feeling anxious or nervous, although we know this is easier said than done. We understand you will be anxious and this is totally normal before an assessment, although we have ensured that our assessment days are friendly and professional and the BHS Assessors you meet will want to support and encourage you to do your best.
Before you begin, you can try taking a few deep breaths and as you exhale imagine your nerves leaving you with every breath... and then put them in a box and forget about them. Refocus your energy on the task in hand and reassure yourself with what you know and what you can do.
Most importantly, remember to enjoy your assessment! Our assessors are excited to meet you and help you take the next step along your career pathway.