*Please refer to USEF GR1306-7 for official rulings!! We aren’t USEF Officials so make sure you take your wording from them!!*
At a show I recently saw a friend ringside watching a division go by. I asked her “Why aren’t you in that division!?! You’re a good equitation rider and the class is small, why aren’t you in there?” She simply said “Because I’m not an amateur”.
I paused and looked at her wondering how on earth she could be a professional. She reminded me that she was at another local show which had an amateur division. Believing she was an amateur, she entered her green 4 yo horse and was sharply called out by another competitor as a professional. After what I would think is a super embarrassing moment when someone publicly behaves like that, I began to investigate the rules.
I chose to give up my amateur status a few years ago. While most assume that I must hold some pretense that I think myself great enough to “train” and that’s why I did it – and the commentary I’m sure lurks ringside – I gave it up because it’s in the rules. In USEF licensed competitions, I’m the definition of amateur, with just one licensed show under my saddle. But in non-USEF equine disciplines, as well as the equestrian community, I am considered a Pro and therefore to support the fairness of our sport I gave up my amateur status.
It’s not something to do lightly, as it’s a LONG road to come back from if you change your mind, but for me it’s a peace of mind that I can’t and won’t be called out for being ineligible. I train, judge, and groom, of which not all violates my status, but I don’t have to worry about someone being so rude as to call me out like that, and to face penalty if it’s a rated show. So let’s look at what it takes to be an adult amateur.
3. Permitted activities by Amateur. An Amateur is permitted to do the following:
a. Accept reimbursement for actual expenses associated with conducting classroom seminars for a not-for-profit organization, therapeutic riding programs, or programs for charitable organizations approved in advance by the Federation.
b. Act as a camp counselor when not hired in the exclusive capacity as a riding instructor; assist in setting schooling fences without remuneration; give instruction or training to handicapped riders for therapeutic purposes.
c. Appear in advertisements and/or articles related to acknowledgement of one’s own personal or business sponsorship of a competition and/or awards earned by one’s owned horses.
d. Accept prize money as the owner of a horse in any class other than equitation or showmanship classes.
e. Accept prize money in Dressage.
f. Accept a non-monetary token gift of appreciation valued less than $300 annually.
g. Serve as an intern for college credit or course requirements at an accredited institution provided one has never held professional status with the Federation or any other equestrian National Federation. In addition, one may accept reimbursement for expenses without profit, as prescribed by the educational institution’s program, for the internship. In the Hackney, Roadster, American Saddlebred, Saddle Seat Equitation, Morgan, Andalusian/Lusitano, Friesian, Arabian, and National Show Horse Divisions, college students may also accept a stipend during the internship served under this paragraph. At the request of the Federation, an Amateur shall provide certification from the accredited educational institution under whose auspices a student is pursuing an internship that he is undertaking the internship to meet course or degree requirements.
h. Write books or articles related to horses.
i. Accept remuneration for providing service in one’s capacity as a: presenter or panelist at a Federation licensed officials’ clinic, competition manager, competition secretary, judge, steward, technical delegate, course designer, announcer, TV commentator, veterinarian, groom, farrier, tack shop operator, breeder, or boarder, or horse transporter.
j. Accept reimbursement for any bona fide expenses directly related to the horse (i.e. farrier/vet bills, entries). Travel, hotel, equipment, and room and board are not considered bona fide expenses.
k. Entries for non-under saddle classes in amateur sections at hunter, jumper or hunter/jumper competitions, must be paid either (i) directly to the competition by the Amateur or by the Amateur’s family or (ii) by someone whom the Amateur or the Amateur’s family reimburses within 90 days of the last day of the competition for which entries were paid.
l. Accept educational competition or training grant(s).
4. Professional based on one’s own activities. Unless expressly permitted above, a person is a professional if after his 18th birthday he does any of the following:
a. Accepts remuneration AND rides, exercises, drives, shows, trains, assists in training, schools or conducts clinics or seminars.
b. Accepts remuneration AND gives riding or driving lessons, showmanship lessons, equitation lessons, trains horses, or provides consultation services in riding, driving, showmanship, equitation, or training of horses.
c. Accepts remuneration AND acts as an employee in a position such as a groom, farrier, bookkeeper, veterinarian or barn manager AND instructs, rides, drives, shows, trains or schools horses that are owned, boarded or trained by his employer, any member of his employer’s family, or a business in which his employer has an ownership interest.
d. Accepts remuneration AND uses his name, photograph or other form of personal association as a horseperson in connection with any advertisement or product/ service for sale, including but not limited to apparel, equipment or property.
e. Accepts prize money unless permitted in paragraph 3d or 3e above.
f. Rides, drives or shows any horse that a cohabitant or family member or a cohabitant or family member’s business receives remuneration for boarding, training, riding, driving or showing. A cohabitant or 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 his cohabitant or another person in his family or business in which his cohabitant or a family member controls will receive remuneration for the activity. A cohabitant or 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 AND acts as an agent in the sale of a horse or pony or accepts a horse or pony on consignment for the purpose of sale or training that is not owned by him, his cohabitant, or a member of his family, a farm/ranch/syndicate/ partnership/corporation/business in which he, his cohabitant or a member of his family controls.
i. Advertises one’s equestrian services such as training or instruction.
j. Accepts remuneration AND acts as an intern, apprentice, or working student whose responsibilities include, but are not limited to, riding, driving, showmanship, handling, showing, training or assisting in training, giving lessons/coaching and/or schooling horses other than horses actually owned by him.
k. Accepts remuneration in excess of rental fee for use of a facility, ring or school horses.
l. Accepts remuneration for such use AND uses commercial logoed items while on competition grounds unless expressly permitted by applicable division rules.
So let’s look at some situations and play True or False.
I can’t be an amateur because…
I board horses. FALSE, per GR1306. You are still an amateur.
I won money in the dressage musical freestyle. FALSE, per GR1306. You are still an amateur.
I write for HJU. FALSE, per GR1306. You are still an amateur.
I braid other rider’s horses at shows but don’t ride them or anything. FALSE, per GR1306. You are still an amateur.
My mom helped pay my vet bill. FALSE, per GR1306. You are still an amateur.
Won the local dressage chapter’s educational grant. FALSE, per GR1306. You are still an amateur.
My friend gave me $500 for helping sell her horse . TRUE, per GR1306. You are no longer an amateur.
I teach beginners walk/trot in my backyard. TRUE, per GR1306. You are no longer an amateur.
I put “Mileage rides” on my trainer’s horses and she pays me $20 a ride… I’m not “training”, just exercising. TRUE, per GR1306. You are no longer an amateur.
My husband’s an Olympic Eventer (hehe…yeah, right!). TRUE, per GR1306. You are no longer an amateur.
I’m sponsored by _________ they pay me $200 per 3* show to have their logo on my saddle pad. TRUE, per GR1306. You are no longer an amateur.
Always Check the Rules! If you are not sure, email email@example.com for help.
So my friend happens to be a pro as she’s an exercise rider.
I am a licensed judge through several organizations, which is “AA-legal”.
I work as a groom for a lot of people in the industry, horses I don’t train but groom = AA Legal.
I manage many shows and am paid to manage, secretary or announce = AA Legal.
Where I snag the AA line is when it comes clinics. I give clinics for 4-H kids on showmanship and turnout which have evolved into many private lessons. Therefore, I’m a professional now.
When at any rated show, it’s important to make sure your USEF card and other cards reflect your status and you enter the right classes.
When you are at schooling or local shows check the rules, and if there are no posted rules go ask management. As a show manager I WANT you to ask me!
Most local shows don’t have rules on that and you could be eligible for divisions you weren’t aware of. Open shows with open classes are for all and AA and Jr riders who enter them SHOULD have been prepped by their coach to understand that!
Happy riding, my friends! Stay legal and always ask for help! USEF is super friendly.