Hello, my name is Melissa Brown. Welcome to my blog about my newest adventure, becoming a recorded hunter/jumper judge. I’m excited to take this journey and share it with you! Get ready from some ups and downs as I write about my experiences from my first shadow judging to handing in my application to Equestrian Canada.
A little about me to start; my first riding experience was at summer camp at the age of eight and I was hooked instantly. My non-horsey parents were not sure what to do, but we found some great coaches along the way to help. I grew up riding ponies and hunters on the Trillium circuit with my sister, Sarah. When I was a teenager we both moved up to A circuit and we travelled together as a family all over southern Ontario. I had success in the children’s hunter, junior hunter divisions and the hunter medals. Once I decided to make the move to the jumpers, I began training with Mark Hayes. From there my jumper career took off, we got to go the 1999 North American Young Riders’ Championship with my junior jumper Answer Me. In January of 2000, we purchased Karolus K and my life changed. Team Karolus had years of success including another trip to the North American Young Riders, a leading Canadian Rider award at Spruce Meadows Masters, qualified for two World Cup Finals and the 2002 World Equestrian Games in Jerez, Spain.
Following the end of Karolus’ grand prix career, I went back to school to finish my undergrad degree in Kinesiology and went on to get my master’s degree. I kept riding during this time developing some really great young horses with the help of Mac Cone and Robin Howard. In 2011 I had twin girls, Kate and Penny. Parenthood lead to less time for riding, so there were some years that I didn’t have any barn time. In order to get my life back to the barn, I started teaching at the Trillium level. As a coach, I now have a renewed love for the school horse and the naughty pony. There is a certain joy in seeing a kid win their first red ribbon or seeing them meet a goal of moving up a division or getting the naughty pony around the ring.
My love of the jumpers is obvious, but many people might not know about my love for the hunter ring. As a competitor, a sister (my sister Sarah is a very accomplished hunter rider), a coach and a spectator I love the hunter ring too. I think that judging was always something that I would do eventually, and I find myself at that age where you want to give back to the system that inspired my love for horses and competing. The actual process of becoming a judge is a little mysterious and I would like to take some of the mystery out of it with my blog. The first contact to help me with this process was Christine Reupke, her incredible enthusiasm for this sport is infectious and I’m very grateful for her help and encouraging words. I’m really looking forward to the beautiful sunny days watching athletic hunters gleaming in the sunlight (yes this is a dream), I know that most of my shadow (unpaid) judging days will be long and cold (and or wet), but I am really keen for the opportunity.
So, join me as we start with some indoor Trillium shows in the Central West zone. Luckily, Christine has prepped me as much as possible with cards and systems of scoring to help keep track of the numbers. Even with all my prep and reading some old school hunter books I’m nervous and excited at the same time. When was the last time as an adult you started something completely new…what am I going to wear? Do I have to develop my own system/symbols for the judges card? What happens when a cat runs into the arena? What happens when I drink too much coffee and I have to go pee (those who know me know I love my coffee)? Or, my biggest fear in judging….all the short stirrup kids are ADORABLE and how do you choose?!