For the Amateur Arabian Horse Exhibitor




On Being An Amateur

Hello and welcome.  There is "something" about being an amateur exhibitor in today's Arabian industry, and it seems like we all seem to face similar challenges regardless of what level we are working to succeed at.  How many times have you prepared for a show...taking hours to train and fine tune your horse, stretching the budget to eke out every possible penny, and hoped so hard for success that your head hurt?  How many times have you looked enviously at the other "amateurs" in the ring with you and wondered how THEY do it?

Amateur is a rather simple term referring (in this case) to those exhibitors are not paid for their equestrian endeavors, or who do not "make a living" in the horse business.  I have included at the bottom of this page, a complete excerpt from the AHSA rule book defining "amateur." 

We all know that competition itself is vastly different from one show to another...and even within a specific show.  Grass roots horse showing, more or less at a schooling level, is certainly less competitive than horse showing at the National level.  While amateur exhibitors are allowed to compete at any given level, we find that competition among our counterparts is often as varied as the types of shows we go to.  Thus, the essence of being an amateur.

Let us take a few minutes to take a look at a few riders and horses who won National Championships in amateur classes at this year's US National show:

Purebred Half Arabian

Western Pleasure

Devin Miller/Dappar Cowboy 18-39 Ion Ferrero/Hucks Klassy Khat
Karen Sparks/JK Famous 40-over Natalie Gaylord/The Cowboy Way

Hunter Pleasure

Pamela Fricke/Minnesota Spats 18-39 Megan Cassidy/Chanceofalifetime
Susan Schramm/Firenut 40-over Susan Schramm/PCF Tonka Too

Country English Pleasure

Jill Contreras/NDL Pericles 18-39 Russ Vento/Ames Queen
Sally Stanfield/AA Show Biz 40-over Carolyn Fabrici/CF Rising Star

English Pleasure

Marla Ruscitto/Hucklebey Berry 18-39 Jessica Krentz/Bette G
Darwin Anderson/RCR Absolut 40-over Cindy Shackleford/GTF Beetlejuice

Just for fun, let's compare this to results from the 1999 US National show...see if you recognize any of the same horses/riders:

Purebred Half Arabian

Western Pleasure

Devin Miller/Dappar Cowboy 18-39 Katie Russell/Tess Trueheart
Kathie Hart/Magination V 40-over Kathie Hart/Vallejo Mr. Zip

Hunter Pleasure

Jill Contreras/NDL Pericles 18-39 Katie Russell/Berried Treasure
Mary Torrenga/SJ Mikhail 40-over Kathie Hart/Vallejo Onto Fame

Country English Pleasure

Shawn Stachowski/Mulberry 18-39 Teresa Spencer/JM Marquis Spirit
Cheryl Fortun/LBA Class Action 40-over Jane Burkemper/FSR Final Cheers

English Pleasure

Susan Morey/Shadow Fire SSM 18-39 Beth Harrison/Second Editions Debut
Wanda Mitsch/Silks 40-over Cindy Shackelford/GTF Beetlejuice

Domination?  In some respects, yes.  In others, not really.  There are many questions as to whether or not spouses of professional trainers should be allowed to show as amateurs...there are also as many questions as to whether or not trainers should be allowed to serve as judges.

The fact remains that it is obvious that to be competitive at a national level, amateur exhibitors must have all their ducks in a row.  It's no cakewalk.  Politics most certainly play a role in how you get where you are, but it is possible to take part in the political game while still adhering to your own morals and values.

Did that last statement make you think that I was suggesting that the Arabian horse show industry is immoral?  Hmmm....  There are things that happen in any sport, any public activity, and any activity for that matter, that make people want to cringe.  Human beings are such that some of us approve of certain things, and at the same time there will always be those who disapprove.  That's why we have successful attorneys in our society...and unsuccessful ones for that matter.

I would like to take a step back, however, and go back to the essence of amateurism.  Regardless of what level we are working to succeed at, we are competing primarily because of our love for our horses, and because of our competitive spirit.  We are not professional horsemen for a variety of reasons, perhaps the most prevalent being that we prefer keeping our horsemanship as a hobby.  We maintain our amateur status because we have no desire to move into the professional ranks, and we don't have to make an effort to abide by amateur criteria because there is no "gray area" in our day to day equestrian activities.  For some the "gray area" is a little fuzzier, but we don't need to go there...not yet anyway.

Our horses are the reason we have been labeled amateur exhibitors.  Were it not for our horses, we could probably go around in life simply being known as "the lady lawyer who rides that horse," or "the gal who works in Sector C, Cubicle 67E, who rides the bay gelding."  Instead, we load our horses into the trailers on a fairly regular basis to shed our work facades and become Adult Amateur Owners to Ride...or AAOTR's.

That leaves us with where we want to go.  We want to succeed in our chosen divisions, and we want to continue to build on our laurels to create positive role models for other amateurs who may be pondering their fate in the industry.  Regardless of whether we are showing our horses exclusively at schooling shows, or if we are going "for gusto" at Regionals and/or Nationals, WE are a driving force in the industry.  

The vast majority of amateur exhibitors (as a whole) who are active in today's Arabian horse show industry, are normal folks.  Most of us only own one, maybe two, horses, and we scrimp and save every penny to make ends meet.  We cannot afford to purchase horses who cost more than our cars, let alone our houses, and then be expected to keep them in full time training.  Most of us are on our own...some of us have done our homework, and some of us do what we can to hook up with trainers as we need guidance.  Some of us stretch the budget even further to accommodate a full time training regime...and there are thousands of US who find a happy medium somewhere in between.

Although "most" of "us" are normal folks, there are some pretty cool "bigwigs" out there.  I want to tell you briefly about one of my very first encounters with a National Champion amateur exhibitor...

Two summers ago I had taken the "plunge" and had my horse in a trainer's barn prior to Regionals.  This was my horse's last truly competitive season, as I knew that as he got into his later teens it would be harder to keep his competitive edge.  Anyway, he came along well, and the moment of truth arrived as we jogged in the in-gate for the Western Pleasure AAOTR 18-39 class at Regionals.  There were 26 horses in the ring at that moment, of which there were no fewer than 10 National Top Tens or better...at least 6 of them had been National Champion at one time or another.

I had a solid ride.  I was happy with what my horse and I put together, and knew I really didn't have a chance to even make cards this go-round.  We'd just missed a Top Five at the previous Regional show, and I was content that this was a better ride in a much more competitive class.  Back at the barn, I was met with bear hugs from the trainers, and would have been happy with that.  From the stands came a rider who had been National Champion the previous year...she marched into the barn area, came up to me and gave me a great big bear hug.  She told me that my ride was one of the best she'd seen me put together, and that in any other class I would have been right in the top three.

Ever since that moment I knew that National Champion amateurs who have "unlimited budgets" don't necessarily have to be uncaring or cold people.

Just because we work and show our horses on a budget does not have to mean we cannot build on our competitive strengths.  By doing our homework and paying our dues, we can keep pace with the rest.  National level competition is for the elite, but we CAN work extra hard to be amongst those elite.

As we head into the 2001 show season, remember that anything is possible.  If you dream it, you can do it.  Just concentrate on what you need to do to get the job done.

In the meantime, AAOTR.com will be there for you.  We hope to offer the encouragement and guidance you need to give you that added boost of confidence when you need it most.  Have fun, and we'll see you out in the ring.

Questions?  Comments?  Concerns?  Please contact us at [email protected].  

And the full definition of Amateur:

Article 808. Amateur Status.

1. Regardless of one's equestrian skills and/or accomplishments, a person is an amateur for all competitions conducted under AHSA rules who after his/her 18th birthday, as defined in Art. 107, has not engaged in any of the following activities which would make him/her a professional (for professionals wishing to be re-classified as amateurs, see Art. 810.2.1):

a) Accepts remuneration for riding, driving, showing in halter/in hand, training, schooling or conducting clinics or seminars.

b) Accepts remuneration for giving 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 in halter/in hand, 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 to be sold.

e) Accepts prize money in equitation or showmanship classes.

f) Rides, drives or shows in halter/in hand in competitions, 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 in halter/in hand.

g) Gives instruction to any person or rides, drives or shows in halter/in hand in competitions 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.

2. The following activities do not affect the amateur status of a person who is otherwise qualified:

a) The writing of books or articles pertaining to horses.

b) Accepting remuneration for officiating as a judge, steward, technical delegate, course designer, announcer or participating as a TV commentator, or accepting bona fide remuneration for services as a veterinarian, groom, farrier, tack shop operator or breeder, or for accepting bona fide remuneration for boarding services.

c) Accepting reimbursement for expenses without profit.

d) Accepting a token of appreciation, other than money, for riding, driving or showing in halter/in hand. (Note: Horse board, prize money, partial support or objects of more than $300. are considered remuneration, not small tokens of appreciation). (Also note: accepting any amount of money, whether more or less than $300., is considered remuneration.)

e) Having the occupation of veterinarian, groom, farrier or owning a tack shop or breeding or boarding stable in itself, does not affect the amateur status of a person who is otherwise qualified.

Article 809. Amateur Certification.

1. Every person who has reached his/her 18th birthday and competes in classes for amateurs under AHSA rules must possess current amateur certification issued by the AHSA. 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 AHSA. Forms may be obtained from the AHSA. 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.

2. An amateur continues to be such until he/she has received a change in status from the AHSA. 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 AHSA 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 AHSA or CEF. Such certification will expire on November 30th.

4. In the event that a person holds an unrevoked certification but does not have it in his/her immediate possession, the competition secretary may accept a signed affidavit to that effect which must be submitted to the AHSA.

5. 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 Rule VII in the event he/she does compete.

6. 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.

7.1 Any person whose application for amateur status or its renewal has been denied by the AHSA 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 $100.

7.2 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 AHSA 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 AHSA 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.

7.3 The decision of the Hearing Committee or the person or committee designated to preside at said hearing shall be final.

7.4 Protests or charges brought in connection with a person's amateur status shall be handled in accordance with the provisions of Rule VI.

American Horse Shows Association, General Rules, Lexington, KY 2000.

(Any questions please go to www.ahsa.org/rulebook2000)

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