When I first started thinking about showing, I spent a lot of time researching the rules. The first shows that I attended were CDS-Rated shows, which operate under the USEF umbrella of rules, so I had to research legal tack and rider clothing. Once I was sure I was in the clear, I began to complete my show entry. When I got to the section for indicating Adult Amateur or Open, I had to make a few phone calls and return to the USEF rulebook. I knew I was an amateur, but getting my amateur status was not something I was prepared to pay for when I first started. For those first four shows, I entered as an Open rider because I was not yet a member of USEF. Since then of course, I have joined USEF and proudly hold an Adult Amateur card.
So ... Adult Amateur or Open Rider? What's the difference? Basically, if you accept money for riding, schooling, or showing someone else's horse, you're a professional and don't qualify as an Adult Amateur. BUT. Just because you are not a professional does not mean you are an Adult Amateur. USEF requires all AA riders to apply for amateur status. If you don't want to join USEF, you'll have to ride Open.
I've copied the Amateur/Professional rule from the 2012 USEF Rulebook and highlighted the relevant parts. If you're not sure whether you're an Adult Amateur or a Professional (Open Rider), read on!
GR1306 Amateur Status.
1. Regardless of one’s equestrian skills and/or accomplishments, a person is an amateur for all competitions conducted under Federation rules who after his/her 18th birthday, as defined in GR101, has not engaged in any of the following activities which would make him/her a professional.
Exception: In the Dressage Division, individuals are only eligible to compete as amateurs from the beginning of the calendar year in which they reach age 22. See DR119.3. In the Reining Division, amateur status will be determined per Reining Division Non Pro Conditions; see amateur status RN105. (For professionals wishing to be re-classified as amateurs, see GR1308.2a):
a. Accepts remuneration for riding, driving, showing, training, schooling or conducting clinics or seminars.
b. Accepts remuneration for giving riding or driving lessons, lessons in showmanship, instructions in equitation or horse training. (Persons acting as counselors at summer camps, who are not hired in the exclusive capacity of riding instructors are excluded and persons giving instruction and training to the handicapped).
c. Accepts remuneration for employment in other capacity (e.g., secretary, bookkeeper, veterinarian, groom, farrier) and gives instruction, rides, drives, shows, trains or schools horses, other than horses actually owned or leased by him/her, when his/her employer or a member of the family of said employer or a corporation which a member of his/her family controls, owns, boards or trains said horses.
d. Accepts remuneration for the use of his or her name, photograph or other form of personal association as a horseman in connection with any advertisement or article (including but not limited to clothing, product, equipment, etc.) to be sold.
e. Accepts prize money in equitation or showmanship classes. Prize money may be accepted by amateur riders in Dressage.
f. Rides, drives or shows, any horse for which he/she or a member of his/her family or a corporation which a member of his/her family controls, receives remuneration for boarding, training, riding, driving or showing. (A family member of a trainer may not absolve themselves of this rule by entering into a lease or any other agreement for a horse owned by a client of the trainer).
g. Gives instruction to any person or rides, drives or shows any horse, for which activity another person in his/her family or corporation which a member of his/her family controls will receive remuneration for the activity. (A family member of a trainer may not absolve themselves of this rule by entering into a lease or any other agreement for a horse owned by a client of the trainer).
h. Accepts remuneration, as defined in GR1306.2e, for selling horses/ponies, acts as a paid agent in the sale of horses/ponies or takes horses/ponies on consignment for the purpose of sale or training other than those owned wholly or in part by him/her or by a member of his/her family or farm/ranch/syndicate/partnership/corporation which he/she or a member of his/her family controls.
i. Advertising professional services such as training or giving lessons by way of business cards, print ads, or internet.
j. For Amateurs in Jumper Sections, see JP117.
k. For Amateurs in Eventing sections, see EV Appendix 3 - Participation in Horse Trials.
GR1307 Amateur Certification.
1. Every person who has reached his/her 18th birthday and competes in classes for amateurs under Federation rules must possess current amateur certification issued by the Federation. This certification must be available for inspection or the competitor must have lodged with the competition secretary, at least one hour prior to such class, an application for such certification provided by the Federation. Forms may be obtained from the Federation. Certification will be issued only on receipt of the application properly signed and is revocable at any time for cause. Any person who has not reached his/her 18th birthday is an amateur and does not require amateur certification. After an investigation has been initiated, and upon request by the Federation and to the satisfaction of the Federation, an Amateur shall submit verifiable proof of Amateur status, including proof of ownership for any horse(s) the Amateur is competing in classes restricted to Amateur Owners.
If the Federation deems such proof insufficient, then the Federation may initiate proceedings in accordance with Chapter 6, Violations.
2. An amateur continues to be such until he/she has received a change in status from the Federation. Any amateur who wishes to be re-classified on the grounds that he/she has engaged or is planning on engaging in activities which would prevent him/her from continuing to remain an amateur must notify the Federation in writing.
3. There is no fee for amateur certification for Senior Active or Life Members. An annual fee of $30 will be charged for an amateur card or amateur certification for an individual who is not a member of The Federation or Equine Canada. Such certification will expire on November 30th.
4. If a person violates or does not comply with the above, he/she will not be eligible to compete in amateur classes and will not be entitled to an award in such classes and will be deemed guilty of a violation within the meaning of Chapter 7 in the event he/she does compete.
5. In the event a person is found to be a professional as a result of a protest or charge made in connection with a competition, all awards won by such person in amateur classes at such competition and subsequent competitions shall be forfeited and returned to the competition and the person shall be subject to further disciplinary action. The holding of an amateur card does not preclude the question of amateur standing being raised by a protest or charge.
6. Any person whose application for amateur status or its renewal has been denied by the Federation may request a hearing by the Hearing Committee or by such individual or committee as it may designate to review said decision. The request must be in writing and mailed to the Hearing Committee within ten (10) days from receipt of the decision sought to be reviewed and accompanied by $150.
a. The hearing shall be after ten days notice to all parties concerned. The notice shall contain a brief statement of the facts reporting the position of the Federation and shall specify the time and place at which the hearing is to be held. The person requesting said hearing may attend and bring witnesses, sworn statements or other evidence on his or her behalf. Upon the written request of a representative of the Federation or of the person requesting the hearing, there shall be furnished before said hearing any evidence to be introduced, the names of witnesses and the substance of their testimony.
b. The decision of the Hearing Committee or the person or committee designated to preside at said hearing shall be final.
c. Protests or charges brought in connection with a person’s amateur status shall be handled in accordance with the provisions of Chapter 6.
7. The trainer may be subject to disciplinary action if an exhibitor who shows as an amateur is protested, and that protest is sustained by the Hearing Committee, and it is determined that the trainer had knowledge of their professional activities. (See GR1306 and GR1308.)