From Endurance to Dressage
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.
We all know I am an amateur. In the horse world, being an amateur isn't about your ability or talent or what you have accomplished. Instead, amateur status is determined by US Equestrian. According to the USEF rule book, riders who accept no remuneration (compensation) can apply for amateur status. That's why I am an amateur; I have paid the fee and declared that I don't receive any money, gifts, or quid pro quo as I ride and show.
Overall, I support the amateur rule. I want to compete against other amateurs, not professionals who ride and train for a living. Of course that doesn't mean that there aren't amateurs who ride as well or better than professional riders. There are, and I have competed against them. In general. amateurs are less proficient than professionals which is why we have three divisions: Open, Adult Amateur, and Junior/Young Rider.
The thing is, the rule about money is pretty outdated, and in some respects, unfair to the typical scraping-by, yet resourceful adult ammie. Many of us aren't good enough to hang out a shingle, but we are good enough to lunge horses, give beginner lessons, groom, clip, etc. If we could get paid for these low level tasks, it would make our experiences a little less stressful.
The rules for differentiating professionals from amateurs were created at a time when the wealthy competed for "fun." There were no professionals until someone saw that paying someone else to compete full time might make that competitor "better" than rest thereby setting that person up for a greater likelihood of a win. That's a super simplified explanation of course, but that's generally how it happened.
US Equestrian knows that the Amateur rules needs to be updated. For the past year or so, USEF has sent out surveys and conducted meetings asking for member input. I have completed every survey on this topic. A new, very specific survey came around yesterday. I completed it and thought it important enough to share. In my opinion, I think adult amateurs should be permitted to teach beginners and receive "benefits" from promoting products related to the sport. This sport is expensive, and most of today's amateurs are not wealthy. Any little extra helps.
Here's a link to the survey. Take the two minutes and share what you think. You don't need to be a USEF member, but it does help if you have experience with the topic. I'd love to hear your thoughts on making changes to the adult amateur rules. If you're reading on Facebook, leave a comment as I think we'd all like to hear some different viewpoints. If you're not on Facebook, you can always email me your thoughts. I'd really like to hear what other riders think.
I voted yes!
Last year, on September 1, SafeSport sent me a letter saying I was no longer eligible to compete in dressage events because I had let my SafeSport training lapse. I was seriously annoyed because it felt as though the banishment came out of the blue. I wrote about it of course, and then lots of riders told me they had received reminders that their SafeSport Certification was due to expire.
This year, I've been paying attention, and I have seen the reminder emails. The renewal date is even on my calendar. The problem is that I have just returned to teaching after our very short summer break. In early August I started my district's LONG list of required training. I participated in four, full days of in-person training, and I just finished NUMEROUS hours of video training that covered:
The 31st is very quickly approaching.
Small number 1: I finally finished my SafeSport annual refresher course. Man I hate that thing. It's probably not as bad as I make it out to be, but on the heels of just having completed HOURS of training on that very subject for work, it's easy to see why YET ANOTHER training irritates me. And before you get all up in my business, know that I am already a MANDATED reporter and could potentially lose my job for NOT reporting. Even at a horse show. I take this stuff seriously. I am trained to spot bullying, cyber bullying, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, and on and on. I've been receiving annual training for nearly three decades.
Enough of that. I will will throw US Equestrian a small bone though. Last year, my "refresher date" sailed right on past, and without warning, US Equestrian declared me ineligible for any and all USEF events. Later, several folks reached out to me and gently explained that there had been reminder emails. I get so much junk from USEF that I no doubt deleted them. This year, I received a very polite reminder notice about once a week for the entire month of August.
My very OCD self had to be restrained multiple times as she tried to take the course IMMEDIATELY. Common sense self urged patience. The sooner you take the course, the sooner you have to retake the course. It makes more sense to wait until it's actually due.
Small number 2: In the ongoing battle to soothe Izzy's skin, I bought yet another product, this one recommended by a Facebook friend. I checked out the product at their website. One look at their landing page hand me convinced.
In my enthusiasm, I neglected to search for a better deal. Yes, Ecovet will sell it to you directly, but I don't recommend it. I paid more than at other retailers, and the shipping was EXORBITANT, and I am not exaggerating. I think I paid $15 in shipping, and it took at least ten days to arrive.
Once I came to my senses, I realized that it was also available from my trusty favorite online retailer, the Riding Warehouse. Well, rats. Either way, it finally arrived yesterday afternoon. It's a lot smaller than your typical quart at only 16 ounces, so I sure hope it works as well as it claims. It may be too late to save Izzy's skin and hair this year, but it may still offer him some relief.
So there you have it; two small things. There is a third, but it's irrelevant to dressage or horses, but here goes. Along with the Ecovet, my new office chair arrived last night so I am off to assemble it. My back needs some relief. So there you have it; two smalls and an even smaller small.
Sometimes it's the small stuff that gets us through the day.
I don't know if I am simply the last person to discover Your Dressage, but I am sure enjoying it. I am not sure how USDF describes the site, but it feels like a better version of a magazine. It's a dynamic platform, changing all the time, loaded with all kinds of (what we in education call) multi-media text. There are videos, articles, polling questions, Words of the Week, Photos of the Week, and on and on.
Besides the landing page and a link to the USDF website, there are five other topics to browse: Education, Competition, Achievement, Community and Quick Reads. Within in each section, there are tons of articles, videos, and other things related to that general idea. If you haven't checked out the page, you might find it worth your while.
I am not joking when I say that I am quite possibly the last person to appreciate (and even notice) what USDF is sharing. Recently on my radar is USDF's eNews. I never have time to read everything, but I like being able to scroll through quickly to see if there's anything I need to know about. Like yesterday, when I saw the July 2020 "issue," my curiosity was piqued about what's going on in my own region - Region 7. You can obviously read it for yourself, but I was quite proud of how my own Group Member Organization (GMO), the California Dressage Society (CDS), has responded to COVID-19. I know I am lucky to have such an active and enterprising GMO.
As if all that weren't enough, I opened my July/August edition of the USDF Connection to read about a "new" face on the Executive Board, CDS's own Kevin Reinig. His election to the position of Vice-President wasn't news to me of course, California's not that big, but it was great to see someone I know and recognize, representing my interests at the national level. I know Kevin will do a great job.
One last thing. Speedy and I are headed to a CDS/USDF/USEF show this weekend. While I know that many states are probably not allowing equestrian shows to happen, I am ever so grateful that CDS, along with help from both USDF and US Equestrian, has persevered through the governmental red tape in order to provide a safe way for many Californians to still compete this year.
So, USDF, thank you!
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 Second Level. 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%
2021 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
(Q) Must Qualify
2021 Pending …
8/7-8 SCEC (***)
10/30-31 SCEC (***)
2021 Completed …
10/24-25 SCEC (***)
11/7-11/8 SB (***)
4/10-11 SCEC (***)
5/16-17 El Sueño (***)
6/26-27 SCEC (***)
7/17-18 El Sueño (***)
2021 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
2nd Level Qualifying
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%:
Score 1: 60.610% Bhathal
2nd Level Qualifying
5 Scores/4 Judges/61%:
Stuff I Read