Laura Kelland-May of Kentville, NS is a lifelong horsewoman who works as a hunter/jumper judge in Canada and the US who has garnered accolades as an equestrian YouTuber. With multi-decades of experience, she shares her love of learning and mentorship with viewers on her channel, which was recently ranked number two best for advice by Everything Horse Magazine.

Focused on skill building and improving rider technique, she is open to video reviews and provides clarity on things from the judge’s perspective. Her library of 499 videos explain horse riding positions, leads, and other aspects of equitation. EC caught up with the Certified Competition Coach Specialist and Senior Judge and Steward to learn more about her path and how she moved mentorship online. 

Coaching Spotlight: Sharing Skill Focused and Non-‘Judge’mental Horsemanship on YouTube

(L) Kelland-May and ( R ) Sandra Conrad stewarding at Becancour 2022
Photo Credit: Laura Kelland-May

How did you first get involved with horses?

I started riding at the Greenwood Saddle Club when my father was posted to the Canadian Forces Base in Greenwood, Nova Scotia. My mother was involved with horses when she was growing up in Southern Ontario, and when our family was posted from British Columbia to Greenwood, she wanted to get a horse. There was a strong focus on correct horsemanship in the area and a strong Canadian Pony Club, Fundy Pony Club, that was well attended and provided me with a positive foundation in horsemanship.

What was your path to competition and eventually judging and stewarding?

The Equestrian Canada Rule Book, CEF (Canadian Equestrian Federation) at the time, had the Officials listed in the back. As a “horse mad” child, I would read the rules and all the names of the officials and look at the divisions that were checked beside their names that they could judge and steward. This was how I became interested, seeing local people, listed as officials, local horseman, Mr. Lloyd Newcomb for one, and the different divisions they could judge. From Hunter, Jumper, Dressage as well as Appaloosa, Welsh and other breeds and gymkhana events, it opened my eyes to the opportunities that were available.

Local horse shows and county exhibitions were the starting point in my area. I was lucky to have an instructor who traveled to other provinces to compete and bring back and share valuable knowledge. Being involved with the Fundy Pony Club and having a strong mentor who provided clear goals and achievements meant that I was motivated to reach those goals. 

When did you know you wanted to pursue NCCP education?

Teaching and sharing information are important to me and at the time, there were no recognized programs to become a certified coach in Equestrian. One option was to travel to England to take British Horse Society Exams, which I did. The National Certification Coaching Program came on board and having recognition as a coach was important to me.

What do you enjoy about educating others?

Sharing information and mentoring people so they can be successful. I love seeing people be successful. To help someone who has been struggling and assist them in breaking through their struggle and become successful and progress and develop into someone who can help someone else. This is how we become a better rider and a better horseperson.

Coaching Spotlight: Sharing Skill Focused and Non-‘Judge’mental Horsemanship on YouTube

Kelland-May with Marble, one of her student’s horses
Photo Credit: Laura Kelland-May

Since joining YouTube in 2009 you have amassed almost 4k subscribers and posted close to 500 videos, this is quite an accomplishment! What inspired you to begin a YouTube channel? What have you learned through the experience?

I began the YouTube Channel because there are many people who do not have access to qualified instruction. This was my way to help those people who would like to improve their riding but have no one around them to assist them. As a horse show judge, I would explain “what the judge is looking for” as it relates to equitation and hunter.

During the pandemic, I “went live” every week and reviewed riding positions from photos that people sent in as well as interviewing top equestrians. It was a real success. I get photos and videos from people, and I review their position and send them feedback so they can improve.

What I have learned is that people want to improve their riding and help their horses. 

Coaching Spotlight: Sharing Skill Focused and Non-‘Judge’mental Horsemanship on YouTube

Kelland-May volunteering as a Cross-country jump judge at Toronto 2015
Photo Credit: Laura Kelland-May

Being at the in-person coach developer symposium this past March, would you recommend future sessions to other aspiring educators? What did you enjoy most?

Yes I would recommend future sessions to other coaches because it brings all coaches together in a collaborative way to help coaches develop. I enjoyed the camaraderie and the ability to be heard and give input into the development of coaching programs.  

What has been a treasured achievements in your career? Or if one of your students? One of your biggest challenges?

I think helping some of my students develop into successful coaches and trainers.

Biggest challenge is to keep focused on your goals and achievements and not be side tracked by what other people are doing. Other people are pursuing their own goals which may take them in a different direction of where you would like to go.

What are your future goals as a facilitator? As an equestrian?

To continue to grow and become an FEI Steward.

Coaching Spotlight: Sharing Skill Focused and Non-‘Judge’mental Horsemanship on YouTube

While being the feature speaker at Horse World Expo, Kelland-May took a photo with Miss USA Agriculture
Photo Credit: Laura Kelland-May

Anything else you’d like to add?

I’m a world traveller by bicycle, cycling around the world with my husband, in South America through Patagonia and over the Andes. I have also self supported six months tour of New Zealand cycling from the northern tip of the north island to the southern tip of the South Island. I also enjoy camping and wild camping when available.