From Endurance to Dressage
I know that Dover isn't everyone's favorite tack store, but you have to admit, they run good sales if you're willing to dig through the sale emails and/or settle for something other than your favorite color. I've been doing a lot of Dover shopping these past few weeks which means I've been watching my email pretty closely. That's where Dover slips in all those good deals. Here's one I saw last week.
I am already a USEF member of course, but if you don't show, a fan membership might be just the ticket. And of course, 10% off every Dover purchase makes the price of that free membership even more attractive.
I hate US Equestrian, but I love saving money.
It's not often that I come up with a new idea that makes life much simpler, but this weekend, I did. And even better, it's a hack to make my equestrian life easier. Win. Win. Win.
I don't know how you all keep track of your membership cards, but up until this weekend, I've always squeezed them onto a single piece of paper and made photocopies. When I first joined USDF (and all the rest), they would send laminated plastic cards that were not so easy to photocopy. Since then, membership cards have become a self service kind of thing where you have to print your own. I would print them, cut them out, tape them to a piece of paper so that I could keep them all straight, and then I made enough copies to last all year.
Over the weekend, I sat down to print all of my cards so that I could tape them to a piece of paper and photocopy them. Just as an aside, I decided to show Izzy at our localish CDS show later this month. That was what prompted me to gather my membership information. Anyhoodle, as I was on USEF's site getting ready to print my cards, it occurred to me that it might be easier to screenshot the cards and save them to a Google Doc. OH MY GOD, I thought, I am a GENIUS. Or possibly an idiot in the case that everyone else has been doing that all along.
If you're new to Google Docs - I know some of you are, the beauty of using it is that since your document is stored in the cloud, you can access the file on any of your devices and make changes on the go. Rather than starting from scratch each winter, I can now add the most current membership card without a printer, paper, and tape. All I need to do is screen shot the new card, do a quick crop, and paste it into my document. Mic drop moment.
Even better is that you can resize the cards to make them all fit better. As an added bonus, you can also screenshot the Doc and save it to your phone as a jpeg so that you can flash it to a show secretary. They would prefer a printed copy, but in a pinch, this will do.
I do not know why this hasn't occurred to me before, but it is my new favorite idea. For someone who lives in the world of Google Apps for Education, it doesn't speak too highly of my intelligence level that I only think to use Google Apps for work. Sheesh!
Better late than never!
The other day I went to USDFScores.com to look up a score. Hello, my name is Karen, and I am a score stalker. I can't help it. First of all, I like to keep track of my scores, no matter how good (or low!) they might be. Second, I like to verify the scores of people who are offering advice or selling a product. I am less likely to trust the advice (or product!) of someone without the experience they might be claiming to have.
Last week, someone sent me a friend request on Facebook. I don't accept most friend requests, but since this person was somewhat known to me, I accepted. The first posts that popped up were those with horses to sell. Hey, I get it. Facebook is about making connections. Who knows when I'll want to buy a horse, or maybe I have a friend looking. Facebook is a great way to promote your business, and I don't mind being friended for that purpose.
After seeing the posts of horses for sale, I decided to check out the rider's dressage scores. There was no malice intended. I just wanted to see how much show experience this rider might have. Not that dressage scores are the only way to ascertain someone's riding experience, but it is one place to look. I logged in to USDFscores.com to take a quick peek. After typing in a name, this screen appeared.
I am not going to lie; I freaked out. Since when did it cost members to look up their score reports? I stewed about it for several days, but last night while in bed, it occurred to me that maybe my membership hadn't yet reached the USDF office. I renewed with my GMO, the California Dressage Society, but it does take time for that information to make it to USDF; I always join as a Group Member, not Participating. When I decided to write this post, I went back to the USDF Scores login page and saw this ... Whoops! It would seem that I am not (yet) an active member.
While doing some research for this post, I discovered a new-to-me page on the USDF website. If you log in, there is a great dashboard page that I had never seen before. You can see at a glance which horses you own, what awards you have earned, and information about your region. According to the USDF dashboard, my membership has not yet been renewed. I promise I did renew it.
When I clicked on the view all horses button, a screen popped up showing all three horse I have on file with USDF. When I clicked the tiny buttons below each horse's name, their USDF Lifetime Certificates popped up to print.
I feel pretty bad that I immediately jumped to a very negative conclusion in regards to how USDF operates. With inflation climbing steeply (or so it feels), it seems as though everyone is raising prices and finding ways to squeeze out yet another dollar from consumers. My own GMO just started charging for things that were once free which is why I erroneously assumed USDF had begun charging me for score reports. I owe them an apology.
USDF, I am truly sorry for assuming the worst of you.
Is it just me, or does it seem like it's getting more and more expensive to show? Here in California, December is membership renewal time. Earlier this week, I renewed both my California Dressage Society (CDS) and US Equestrian (USEF) memberships. While the cost hasn't risen per se, it seems as though I'm getting less for my money.
I've mentioned no less than a thousand times how much US Equestrian annoys the heck out of me. I get absolutely nothing from that organization other than the "privilege" of showing as an Adult Amateur. Oh, and I also "get" to take an annual course on recognizing sexual predators. Never mind that the FBI recently covered up reports of child molestation by at least one coach in gymnastics - one of the Olympic sports that made SafeSport necessary in the first place.
I've written about this a number of times, and each time I get blasted for being insensitive by those who insist that all athletes, even dressage riders who are mostly middle-aged women, should undergo training designed to teach them about child molesters. Never mind that I am a mandated reporter (as are so many others) and undergo extensive training each year as part of my job. As we all know, SafeSport has yet to be proven effective, especially if Larry Nassar was SafeSport certified. Maybe he skipped the training?
Darn it, I didn't mean to get so far off topic. What was I complaining about? Oh, yeah, how expensive riding my horse at a show is even before I've sent in an entry. US Equestrian's cheapest option, the one that lets me compete without any extra fees but doesn't make me or my horse eligible for any awards, runs $80 a year.
Membership in CDS has always felt like a bargain. It gives me Group Membership in the United States Dressage Federation (USDF) which does make me eligible for all rider performance awards (over half of which I have earned). Membership in CDS also makes me eligible for all of its awards as well, many of which I have earned.
Each year though, the awards that I earn from CDS seem to cost more to actually receive. For the twelve years that I have been a member, year-end plates have been free. Plates are earned when a rider scores 60% or higher. The plate is a small metal plate that sticks to a plaque. The plaques must be purchased; when I bought mine, I think I paid $35. It now costs $50, and in all honesty, it's not like it's all that fancy. I am pretty sure a nicer one could be ordered from your local trophy shop for less money. It might not have the CDS logo on it, but I don't think that would have discouraged me if I were to need one today.
This year, I discovered that the plates are no longer free as they have been since I joined. I know many trainers who are eligible for multiple plates - you get one for each eligible horse. In 2019, I received two plates. This year, the plates now cost $12. Yikes! That's pretty steep if you have two or three or five horses that you competed. Izzy earned one qualifying score for the 2021 season, so I feel compelled to order the plate. If I want him to be eligible for horse performance awards next year (different from the plates), I need to pay another $10 for that eligibility. In the unlikely event that we do earn enough scores, I'd be super annoyed if I hadn't coughed up the $10.
Maybe riders have indicated they'd rather be charged a la carte, not me. Just charge me whatever you think will cover the cost of the awards, and we'll call it even. If I win something, great, and if not, I've just subsidized someone else's trophy. And if we all win something, CDS can boast about the banner year its membership enjoyed.
As of right now, I'm looking at over $200 in membership and eligibility fees. That's seems like a lot, especially since Izzy and I aren't enjoying any success in the show ring.
Yesterday I wrote about US Equestrian contemplating rule changes for Adult Amateurs. As I had hoped, a number of people commented and shared their thoughts and concerns. On the USEF survey (it closes on Thursday), I voted for change on every question. I don't know exactly what those changes should look like, but it never hurts to take a look at current practices. After reading the comments that were shared on my Facebook page, I decided a few things.
1) It is impossible to get everyone to follow the rules. I am sure we all know of someone who has violated one USEF rule or another. In life, not just in sport, we all break rules. We do it because we think we won't get caught, we think a rule is unfair, or we disagree with the rule. It doesn't really matter what the rules are regarding amateurs, someone is going to disregard them. So not changing the rules because not everyone will follow them doesn't seem like a good reason for maintaining the status quo.
2) What does it mean to be an amateur anyway? Truly, I think this is the real question. Before USEF begins deciding what amateurs should and shouldn't do, maybe we need to rethink what we mean by being an amateur. The generally accepted definition for an amateur is this: a person who engages in a pursuit, especially a sport, on an unpaid rather than a professional basis.
That's not very helpful. If you get paid, you're a professional; If you don't, then you're not. The reason this definition doesn't really serve us anymore is because of the Olympics. For many, MANY years, amateurs could participate in the Olympics, professionals could not. The rules were simple. If you received any payment for playing your sport, you couldn't compete. In the 1980s that began to change. Television realized a lot of money could be made if the world's actual best athletes could compete (NBA players for example). The world's best were quite often professionals, not amateurs. So, things changed. No one cared that Michael Jordan was not an amateur. People wanted to see the world's best play, so that is what happened. This is a good article about this very issue.
I guess my point is this: if professionals are allowed to dominate the Olympics, a place once reserved for amateurs, what does being an amateur actually mean? If it simply means doing something you enjoy without getting paid for it, that seems like a poor division to have in sports. World's best, you play over here. People with deep pockets, you play over there. You poor people who like doing this just for fun, you're in right field.
This idea is especially frustrating since having lots of money is one way for amateurs to stack the deck in their favor. More money means better equipment (aka a nicer horse), better training (aka a world class coach), and probably more time to practice your sport (aka a full time trainer with a full service barn where you aren't doing all of the mucking, cleaning, feeding, etc.).
So really, what it comes down to is that the people most limited by the amateur rules, no remuneration or compensation, are the working amateurs who generally have the least amount of money to spend. And in many (most?) cases, it's those same working amateurs who don't have the best horses or even the finances to compete as regularly as they'd like.
3) I already give lessons. Giving lessons seems to be one of the things opponents of the rule change are citing as proof that the rules shouldn't change. I don't get paid for my lessons, but I still give them. Does that make me a professional? Not according to the definition of amateur. So whether I get paid or not doesn't change the fact that should one choose to, one can still give lessons. What does the act of giving lessons have to do with being an amateur? Nothing. It's the receiving of payment that seems to be causing the issue.
I think what people assume is that if someone is good enough to give lessons, then they should be competing as a professional. Aha! That's where the trouble lies. That's what we need to consider. Maybe being a professional or an amateur shouldn't be determined by whether you get paid or not. Maybe it should be determined by your skill level.
If the world's largest stage for international competition, the Olympics, now demands that competitors be the best of the best regardless of their amateur or professional status, maybe there isn't a need for the amateurs of old. Maybe the current definition of amateur is no longer valid in the world of sport.
I definitely don't have the answers, but I know that with way the system is currently set up, there will always be those with more talent, more money, better horses. In the whole scheme of things, what does it matter if someone makes $25 a weekend teaching someone else to ride? Or $125 to ride? Maybe we need to rework our divisions and not base them on how much you make, but rather how much you know.
You know what? I think they already do it like that in a few other countries. Does it work? I don't know, but it's worth considering.
About the Writer and Rider
I am a lifelong rider.
I began endurance riding in 1996 where I ultimately completed five, one-day 100 mile races, the 200-mile Death Valley Encounter, and numerous other 50, 65, and 75 mile races. I began showing dressage in 2010.
Welcome to my dressage journey.
About Speedy G
Speedy went from endurance horse to dressage horse. After helping me earn a USDF Bronze medal in the summer of 2020, he is now semi-retired. Speedy is a 2004, 15'1 hand, purebred Arabian gelding. His Arabian Horse Registry name is G Ima Starr FA.
Izzy was started as a four-year old and then spent the next 18 months in pasture growing up. I bought him as a six-year old, and together, we are showing at the lower levels. He is a 2008, 16'3 hand warmblood gelding. His Rheinland Pfalz-saar International (RPSI) name is Imperioso.
National Rider Awards
State Rider Awards
State Horse Awards
CDS Sapphire Rider Award
Third Level: 63.514%
Third Level: 62.105%
2022 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
2022 Show Schedule
2022 Completed …
(*) Tehachapi 5/22/22
(*) Tehachapi 7/24/22
(***) Tehachapi 8/28/22
2023 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%:
Score 1: 62.115%