Meet a Member

Stuart Miles

Feel the fear, but do it anyway!

I’ve had a few funny exchanges with Kelly on her Facebook page, mostly about her cats, and her pyjamas on the Top Marks TV programmes…

How did you first get involved with Intelligent Horsemanship?

For most people, 8.55am 11th January 2012 would have been a pretty insignificant event.  They’d probably struggle to remember what they might have been doing.  But for Stuart Miles, the date is etched firmly in his memory.  “I was sat in the car park at the Jockey Rehabilitation Centre in Lambourn, Berkshire.  I wasn’t there for rehab, but I was probably wishing I was, as it would have meant I’d know more about horses” he recalls.  “I was there for Kelly’s Horse Psychology course, and I was so nervous, thinking ‘What are you doing here, you know nothing about horses, you don’t even own a horse.  These people will think you’re an idiot if you speak at all!’”.

But 6 years on, Stuart has now completed all the IH courses, and says he’s learnt just as much about himself as he has learnt about horses.  “If I’d never taken the plunge and booked that first course, I wouldn’t have spent the last 6 years helping out at Monty demos, being part of the team at Your Horse Live, helping on the loading courses, making new friends with the Recommended Trainers and gaining so much experience.

What are your aspirations:

I’m hoping to do my Stage 2 and move towards the Recommended Trainer route.  I see my horsemanship as a journey and am hoping to attend one of Jim Masterson’s courses (as seen in the last IH Magazine) as I think it’s a great technique that fits well with IH methods.

What are your key learning points from the IH Courses?

My biggest learning point is you have to relax when working with horses and stay calm – if you lose your temper you lose the horse.  I learnt also to do things in incremental steps as I tend to mainly work with tricky loaders.  As a helper on the leading and loading course I’ve been able to learn from IHRTs such as Sandra Williams and Rosie Jones Mcvey as they instruct the students.

If you’re sitting there reading the dates for the next set of IH courses and your inner dialogue is sending you lots of negative thoughts, “I could never do that, I’ll be useless”, then let me tell you, as I’ve been in your shoes, you’re wrong.  But if you don’t ever try you’ll never know!

Any best moments ?

I’ve had so many good times since I joined the IH world and some experiences I’ll never forget. Monty once cooked me dinner after we had spent the afternoon digging roots out of a corner of Pie’s field!  In November 2016 Kelly invited me to help at the Your Horse Live IH demo and I’m still buzzing from the experience.  It was a great weekend and I felt privileged to be there.  It ended with me being asked if I would drive Monty back to his Heathrow hotel on my way home.  Not only did I get two hours with him talking (about lots of things and not just horses!), but as we walked to the car we met Charlotte Dujardin, so I can say I was party to the two Brooke charity ambassadors’ first ever meeting!

Has Kelly Marks inspired you in any particular way?  

Kelly is the reason for sure that my horsemanship journey hasn’t stopped from the 7 years since our first meeting.  I had only bought tickets for the demo to take my daughter, as she rode and I’d seen Monty’s Shy Boy programme years ago.  Kelly has this way about her that promotes confidence and belief in yourself, and her lack of ego really gets the best out of people on the courses and at the demos.  A few times we have discussed different books we’re reading as she never wants to stop learning or improving. When working with a tricky loader I try to think “what would Kelly do?” and the first answer I normally come up with is she would say “OK and big out breath please!”

What advice would you give to other IH Members?

If you’re sitting there reading the dates for the next set of IH courses and your inner dialogue is sending you lots of negative thoughts, “I could never do that, I’ll be useless”, then let me tell you, as I’ve been in your shoes, you’re wrong.  But if you don’t ever try you’ll never know!

It’s now 5 years on and I’m sat here writing and thinking about how much my life has changed since that day I walked in to Lambourn Jockey Centre, feeling the fear and doing it anyway.    

Laura Elliot Winter

 A keen polo player, she also enjoys retraining ex-racehorses.  She is aiming to qualify as an IH Recommended Trainer, to help expand on her existing skills and knowledge, helping horses with ‘issues’

Did you have a horsey childhood?

I’ve been riding all my life. My mum is horsey, and when I was at school she joined IH herself to encourage me to follow this path. We’ve watched countless videos of Monty and Kelly, which have taught me a lot of the techniques I use. I nagged her for years to let me have a pony of my own, which she did when I was 10, a little Welsh Prince Phillip Cup games pony called Bean. I saw Monty and Kelly in a demo in Bristol when I was 15 and read their books as a teenager, practising techniques from Kelly’s “Perfect Manners” on my pony Rosie. 

A few Pony Club years later, I chose a career with horses over being an actress. I went to Sparsholt College at 16 to study Horse Management and my BHS exams. I then went to The Royal Agricultural College where I did my Equine Degree. I’ve been running my own Livery yard business since I was 20, along other jobs in Dressage, Eventing, Polo, Showing, Breeding and Racing. 

Polo is a big part of your life now?

I’ve been playing polo for 12 years now, I actually gave up Dressage and Jumping to learn!  The summer season lasts from April to September, and the Arena season runs from October to March, so it’s pretty full on if you play all year. 

Polo has taken me to Spain to play in a mixed European Tournament in Seville, to Argentina to watch the famous Open, and to Australia to work and play for 3 months which was an incredible experience! 

This winter, however, I won’t be playing as I had a very nasty accident last January when another player’s reins got caught around my leg. Nine days in hospital, surgical reconstruction, and 3 months off was a nightmare!  I played a little this summer but my leg won’t stand up to the tough play of arena polo. 

Has IH helped you in your approach to training polo ponies? 

I’ve always wanted to train racehorses for polo.  It does take time, but I like to take things slower than others. I don’t believe in rushing horses! 

There are a lot of ex-racers being trained for polo now which I think is a great new career for the smaller ones. Thoroughbreds are so clever and versatile they can literally do anything! 

This summer I bought a round pen which has greatly helped with my young horses. The IH courses I have completed this year have helped me enormously with the subtle techniques and honing of my skills.

Tell us about your own horses

I now own 12 horses, 5 of which are out on loan. They are all thoroughbreds, and a lot of ex racers. I am a big TB fan!  Currently at home I have Bushwacker, Lunita (a 4yo to back), The Boys So Sharp (6yo gelding who didn’t make a polo pony, so now schooling him for jumping), Confey (6yo ex-racer I’m retraining for polo), Jenny Sparks (9yo ex-racer I retrained myself for polo) and  two Argentine polo ponies Silva and Chela.   Where’d Ya Hide It is team chasing with a friend of mine and the others are now retired polo ponies who I loaned out to hacking homes. 

Being part of IH has been inspiring to me, becoming part of a community of people who all want the best for their horses. I am very much looking forward to completing my training with IH to become an RT to help more people with their horses.

What are your next goals?

My horsey goals are to have a complete string of polo ponies I have trained myself, and to help people with their own horses. It’s so rewarding seeing horses and people improve or gain confidence. I love to teach and have done a fair bit, so another aspiration is to teach training horses, thereby combining two of my greatest passions.

What has been your proudest achievement?

My mare Lunita came to me as a 2yr old in a sorry state. Skin and bone, covered in dermatitis and lice, sarcoids everywhere, completely shut down and wind sucking for a past time.   She started to come out of her shell and showed a very, very sharp side!   If something caused her to take fright she’s been known to flip over backwards, and blindly bolt.   Her transformation since she arrived I am so proud of. She is now healthy, (if a bit fat!), brave, curious and friendly.  She can be shod without sedation when previously she was too terrified to let my ever patient and talented farrier even in her space. 

She is still ridiculously sharp but I suppose that will make her a good polo pony in the future if she stops growing!   Every small achievement with her is a victory for me, I am so excited for her future. 

What other hobbies do you have?

My favourite non-horsey hobby is Pole Dancing (not for clubs but for fitness and fun!), Aerial Hoop, shooting and swimming. In the summer I am a bit of a beach bum!

What is the most valuable benefit of being an IH member for you?

Being part of IH has been inspiring to me, becoming part of a community of people who all want the best for their horses. I am very much looking forward to completing my training with IH to become an RT to help more people with their horses.

Seb Dawnay

A forth generation professional polo player and lives in Maidens Green, Berkshire with his beautiful wife Louisa and 22 month baby girl Sienna.  Along with 14 polo ponies, they share their home with 2 Jack Russells, a German Shepherd and a Rottweiler.

When did you first hear about Monty Roberts and Kelly Marks?

I bought Monty’s book ‘The Man Who Listens To Horses’ in 1999 and could not put it down, then I met both Kelly and Monty very briefly at one of their amazing demonstrations in October 2006

How long have you been an IH member?

I joined straight after that demo, but lost touch a bit because of a busy career and travelling. Then out of the blue I received an email about the possibility to have ‘Tea with Monty’ run by Kelly at her home last October.  I jumped at the wonderful opportunity and renewed my membership straight away.

What courses have you done, and what are your horsemanship goals?

I did the 5 day foundation course and horse psychology course this year. My goals are to better understand the horse and strive to improve the bond with them.

Any best memories at IH courses/events? 

So many… where do I begin!!!   Join-Up was the most incredible feeling and was everything I imagined it would be, loved doing long lining and working with the horses on the ground. Being with a lovely group of people all trying to go the same direction all supporting each other while being taught by professional and lovely instructors. Kelly was fantastic- she has so much knowledge and made everyone feel so welcome and calm no matter what equestrian background they had, but at the same time pushing us all to achieve goals.

You are a 4th generation polo player, tell us more about your polo heritage

My great grandfather played before WW1 but unfortunately did not return from fighting in Belgium. 

His son (my Grandfather) Major General Sir David Dawnay became a top English polo player and Captained the British Polo Team in front of Hitler in the 1936 Olympics. After the War he was made Commandant of Sandhurst and also became clerk of the course at Ascot. 

His son Hugh (my dad) became a Major in the army but left to open the first official polo school in the world in 1976 and he taught his methods in 37 different countries, he also wrote two bestselling polo books ‘Polo Vision’ and ‘Playmaker Polo’.

Funnily enough he didn’t want me to be a professional (because he knew how difficult the life actually is) but after he knew I would not change my mind, he was a wonderful support and mentor throughout my career.

Who are your greatest influences? 

My parents, Edwardo Albarracin (an Argentine Player who played with my dad and was an incredible player and horseman), Monty, Kelly and the IH Team… I’m blown away by their knowledge and their never ending pursuit to finding solutions and answers to both psychological and physical equine problems.

How do you find IH methods fit in with polo, and have you made any changes to the way you work?   

Yes the IH methods are greatly needed in polo, many horses have had difficult pasts and have many issues on the ground. I have definitely changed my approach to working with them using lots of ground work as another form of schooling.

Traditions are definitely still present but there are changes slowly happening.  Monty’s invitation by the top America and South American players is a giant leap forwards for the sport.

What have been your proudest achievements?

Becoming a dad, being the first player to have won both the Arena Gold Cup and Cowdray Park Gold Cup, to have represented both England and Ireland in the Arena and outdoor game of polo.

If you didn’t play polo professionally, what other career might you have enjoyed?

I really liked history and art at school and applied for both art college and an archaeology course plus I had the army snapping at my heels but I was totally hooked on horses and polo.

Tell us about your Country House and Stables shop

 I want to play the wonderful sport of polo all my life but at the same time be realistic, so I retired from playing internationals last season and decided it was time to do something alongside my career.  So I opened a gallery and gift shop called The Country House and Stables where everything has a nod to country living and in particular equestrian themes. The gallery/gift shop is based at the Royal County of Berkshire Polo Club, near Windsor, stocking everything from large sculptures, art and photography to smaller gifts, homeware and polo equipment.  

Instagram: @thecountryhouseandstables

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