Cross Border Horse Show Judging

Well I did it!

After almost 30 years of judging across Canada I had tho opportunity to judge my first United States Equestrian Federation horse show. And what a great weekend it was! Lots of horses, riders and chocolate made the day. (Not necessarily in that order)

You know you are in the right place when… Fill in the thing that you can do all day and not really think about what time it is. This is the way I felt at Lehman Farms horse show. I really forgot to look at the clock. Sometimes it is better not to see how long a horse show is running but I know I am in the right place when I can watch horses “go”, and not be concerned about eating (although not being hungry may be due to the fact that show organizers had copious amounts of chocolate, cake, pizza and candies on hand).

hunter Jumper, horse show, what the judge is looking for, thistle ridge stables, Laura Kelland-May

Horse Show Schedule


Getting there

Getting to Pittsford, New York was easy. Straight down I81 and hang a right at Syracuse onto the I90 and Pittsford is just off the I90 Interstate.

I surreptitiously went to the show grounds on the Friday evening before the start of the horse show to scout out the competition. As the manager on duty at the hotel said, “Watch out for deer”. After a near collision with a deer I arrived pulled into the only available spot left for a mid size sedan.

There were trailers, not the two horse tag-a-long variety I see at the weekend shows in my local area, but rather the six horse+ goose neck type with heavy duty trucks, most of them white. What had I gotten myself into? Thin blonde teenagers were hauling in huge tack trunks with their stable’s name proudly adorned on the side. Stacks of horse blankets (it was cold), tack hooks and saddle racks were piled into each “tack room” and set up for the weekend of festivities.

Horses stood quietly and obediently as professionals preened and gooped their manes. My first thought was, “Wow“. My second thought was – “Wait a minute, this is a weekend “C” rated show. Holy smokes!” – or words to that effect anyway! :)

Let the Horse Show Begin

hunter jumper, equitation tips, what the judge is looking for, Laura Kelland-May

View from the judge’s box 

As a horse show judge you get to see at a glance, the entire ring. This show was no different in that regard. The judge’s box was half way down a bank of permanent stabling and in a heated viewing area. With below freezing temperatures that day, I was thankful for the heated room.

The “warm up” rounds were wonderful and I felt immediately at ease when the first couple of horse-rider combinations presented their schooling jitters. Spooky high headed horses and unfamiliar territory resulted in some “drive bys” and “stutter steps”.

As the weekend progressed there were some very nice hunter rounds and some well accomplished riders.

Being invited to judge in the US was an honour (notice the “u”) and something I don’t take lightly, BUT once you get immersed into the horse show scene, it is hard to distinguish where exactly you are. You are at a horse show. There are horses. There are riders. There are young women backing up massive trucks and trailers into bumpy parking lots and hauling tack trunks on furniture dollies. There are riders and there are long days being able to do what you love, watching lovely horses and excellent riders show their horses. In any country that is an honour and a privilege.

View from the judge’s box



About Laura

Laura Kelland-May is the founder of Thistle Ridge Skill Builders Development Program. She more than trains horses, she trains people to train their horses. In addition she is a Sr. Judge and can offer insight into What the Judge Is Looking For. Follow her here and get more tips.
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2 Responses to Cross Border Horse Show Judging

  1. What a small world, Laura. I bought a horse more than 20 years ago from Lehman Farms (they were trying to use him in the lesson program – he was NOT suitable for that, but could jump the moon). The farm I recently sold was located about 20 miles from there. Would have enjoyed providing a home for the night if I was still in the area. So glad to hear you had a grand time. That area of New York State is very interesting, isn’t it?

  2. Laura says:

    Thank you Nanette… It was fun and a great experience.

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