The Ludwig’s Corner Horse Show Association History
In 1943, Chester County, PA was a predominantly rural area with a strong tradition of foxhunting, horse sports and farm ownership. Hunts like Eagle Farms, Pickering, Mr. Stewart’s Cheshire Hounds, Rose Tree and Kimberton had followers from throughout the county who kept their horses stabled at their own farms. With a thought to legging-up their horses for the coming season as well as to gather neighbors and friends for outdoor entertainment, a group of local property owners, including Mr. Frank H. Ellis III, Dr. Paul Jepson, Mr. Calvin Unger, Mr. Roy Rogers, and Mr. Joseph Myer planned a horse show to be held on Labor Day.
The group rented a property from Mr. and Mrs. Brunner on the corner of Route 100 and Birchrun Rd., paying $100 for the use of the land for the show. All of the members contributed time, effort and money to purchase supplies and build a ring, and invited their friends to get involved. In this first year, 88 horses competed in the show under sunny skies, netting $688, which was contributed to the local Boy Scouts troop.
Pleased with the results of their inaugural effort, the founding committee opened membership to the general public and became an organization focused on hosting the annual Labor Day weekend horse show. For the first five years, the show continued to be held at the Brunner Farm.
By 1947, the show had become very popular with the local community, with spectators standing 4 and 5 people deep to watch the riding. When the Brunners decided to no longer rent the property for the show, a committee was established to find a suitable permanent home for the show. In 1948, the show purchased the McBride property, constituting 18+ acres, for $3,500. This parcel currently constitutes about half of our current show grounds. Promissory notes, sold in $25 increments, were purchased by members to make the land acquisition possible. All were repaid within 5 years. Additional revenue was used to install a 275’ x 150’ ring and for fence improvements.
Attendance at the 1948 show, the first at its own show grounds, was reported to be very large. The spectators cheered on the 150 horses in competition. We do not know the exact number of spectators, but board minutes show that 3,000 admission tickets and 500 patron passes were printed.
In the 1960’s, when the show lasted for five days, Mary Warner Brown inaugurated the carriage-driving competition which attracted carriages from throughout the east coast. Ring 2 was dedicated in honor of the many contributions of Ethel Shaw.
Today, the Ludwig’s Corner Horse Show Association owns 33 acres on the corner of Routes 100 and 401 in Glenmoore, PA. There are three rings for competition and one for warm up. The now three-day annual event additionally features a country fair with horse-drawn carriages, an antique car show, rides, games, concessions and vendors, and will often attract up to 15,000 spectators, weather permitting. The show has become a beloved tradition for riders and visitors alike, drawing on average 425 competitors from across the Brandywine and Delaware Valleys over the 3 days.
Maintenance of the facilities and grounds is ongoing. A master plan for improvements to the property was developed in 1998, and the most recent improvements include: the completion of ring 3 with improved footing and fencing in 2005, replacement of wooden bleachers with aluminum bleachers through a matching grant from the Chester County Tourist Bureau and the Rosato Foundation, the addition of a permanent jump storage building in 2009, the addition of the schooling ring in 2011 with a matching grant from the Berry Foundation, and the addition of a permanent announcer’s stand and sound system in 2014, thanks again to a grant from the Berry Foundation.
In 2010, the mortgage on the property was satisfied, leaving the grounds unencumbered for the future. With the loan satisfied, the focus of the Board is to continue capital improvements while maintaining the existing facilities. Rental of the show grounds from April thru November each year supplements income from show entries and sponsorship.
In 2011 LCHSA was confronted with a challenge from The West Vincent Township Board of Supervisors, in the form of a vote to take possession of the show grounds under eminent domain. Public support for the show was immediate and resounding in the form of heavy participation in two public rallies and open supervisors meetings and from the County Commissioners. The Township backed off of its initiative, and there has been no further attempt to condemn the LCHSA grounds.
In 2014, the Board focused on re-invention of the Country Fair portion of the annual show, with increased rides and games to attract families as well as a fresh look at the vendor area. The Pet Parade was a hit, bringing many new people to the event.
In 2015, recognizing increased competition from new horse shows, our planning included significant changes to the prize list, with additions of Jockey Club Thoroughbred Incentive Program classes, Hunter Derbies for horses & ponies, additional Jumper stakes, Marshall & Sterling classes, and in-hand classes. As well, we continue to innovate the country fair, bringing in new rides and activities. Publicity via both traditional media, social media & email marketing take place year round.
In 2016, we were approached by the Brandywine Valley Convention & Visitors Bureau to be considered as a site for a major country music festival, along with two other potential locations. Our show grounds were chosen in 2017 as the site of the “Citadel Country Spirit USA” August 2018 three-day show, featuring major acts like Alabama, Toby Keith and Brad Paisley. This event returned in 2019 with headliners of Little Big Town, Brothers Osborne, Old Dominion, Billy Currington and others, with plans to return in 2021 with similar big name artists.
While 2020 saw the cancellation of so many events due to the COVID19 pandemic, the show grounds was able to offer closed equestrian competition hosted by local association and recognized licensees in Hunters, Jumpers & Dressage. LCHSA also hosted popular Open Schooling days over the summer for owners to safely “get off the farm” during COVID19 and school in our rings.
2019 included the purchase of a large tractor & ring drag courtesy of the Rosato Foundation, improvements to our show office and judge’s booths, and in 2020 the addition of a complete course of Jumper fences to our inventory, courtesy of the Berry Foundation.
Maintenance and improvements to the grounds and competition rings are continual, with upgrades around the show grounds to enhance the exhibitor experience uppermost in our plans each year.
Our mission, as we enter our eighth decade, is to continue as a traditional horse show & country fair, an equestrian competition venue, while providing year ’round open space for habitat and for local sports teams, Pony Club, community events, movie nights, fairs & festivals — as well as for area residents for dog walks and kite flying.
Sara Jane Lubrano
President, LCHSA Board