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Do Amateurs Above Grassroots Level Get Enough Recognition?

One of my absolute pet peeves is the complete lack of recognition that amateurs get at the higher levels. For me any rider who is doing a full or even part time job with maybe only one or two horses and is competing at the highest level deserves some kind of recognition. There are always awards for riders who are under 25, local rider, biggest rise after dressage etc. but there is never an award to an amateur rider who has managed to complete at the end of the competition.

I am more inspired by amateurs who manage to combine working alongside competing at a high level than professional riders who have a serious set up and backing behind them. I guess it’s because I realise I will never be a professional or achieve that kind of standard but that with a really amazing horse I could maybe one day just be at the competition competing. A small token of recognition, a rosette or a trophy, would be a small gesture that their achievement has been recognised even if they were far down the leader board.

GOOD: side on showing great shape and technique over a large corner.

In the USA they have separate amateur and professional divisions and it can often lead to a lot of peering over people’s shoulders. The rules for amateur status are:

USEA members must declare their amateur status upon reaching his/her 18th birthday. A member may compete as an amateur as long as he/she accepts no money for riding, showing, training, schooling, or conducting clinics or seminars. 

The rules are very clear and distinct in the US, but I enjoy competing against professionals. I find it a challenge and it raises your game. I do not want this aspect of BE to change and I do not think having separate sections is the answer. It is one of the few sports I have competed in where professionals and amateurs are competing on equal terms. All I am asking for is a small bit of recognition within a sport which is becoming increasingly professional.

One of the groups I feel most hard done by is that of the ambitious amateur. For those who work full time but have an ambition to have a go at Intermediate level you are almost punished for daring to show some ambition. As soon as you set foot on that Intermediate course you are no longer eligible for Grassroots Championships for ten years. I feel that this is a very long time for a rider to be effectively punished for attempting to go up the levels. I would rather see the time frame moved to 5 years which is still a fair amount of time and in that time a lot can still change in people’s lives.

While Under 18s have championships at BE100 and Novice with a final at Weston Park for those who have shown good performance in Junior classes, there is nothing at Novice or Intermediate for a competent amateur. There used to be an owner/rider final held at Charlton Park many years ago but this seems to have disappeared. I don’t think it is asking to much of the sport to maybe run a special section at an end of year event with some decent prizes maybe at somewhere like Dauntsey or Aldon which have both Novice and Intermediate tracks. The qualification could be to have been placed within twice within the top 10 of a normal section. If it proved to be successful then you could look at altering the parameters of qualification.

WBP_2204

The dream for many to jump that final fence at Burghley

I appreciate the arguments that a good amateur can qualify for Gatcombe but when I looked through the results of the Novice Championship, I could only find about 4 amateurs there at the final. For most amateurs, getting to Gatcombe is just not that achievable, but for those who make it then it would be nice for BE to recognise the achievement with an award.

Amateur riders are the backbone of BE and I would argue that those amateurs who work hard and play hard invest very heavily in the sport with time and money. I do not think it is asking too much for the time and effort that amateur riders put into the sport at the higher levels to be recognised in a small way.

In case you are interested in the top amateurs at this year’s Badminton and Burghley (disclaimer – as far as I can check!)

Top Amateurs at Badminton -Anna Warnecke on Twinkle Bee 39th (works as a Doctor) and Megan Heath on St Daniel 44th (works full time in banking.)

Top Amateur at Burghley – Anna Warnecke on Twinkle Bee 26th and the only amateur to complete.

About the author

Lucy

An amateur rider who produces all her own horses. I have competed at novice level and sadly never got further due to bad luck with horses but I am still ambitious to achieve a lot more. I have a riding qualification in UKCC2 and a diploma in NLP. Sports science and particularly the mental game fascinates me. For a day job I work for a large multinational brand.

13 Comments

  • I couldn’t agree more!! Like many one horse amateur eventers, I really struggle to balance the competing objectives of a demanding full time job alongside training and keeping an eventer fit…. let alone the fact that once you get to Novice you seem to have to run during the week much more (something which is not always possible due to the aforementioned job!). I would like to see those few who manage to thrive in high-level eventing alongside working in another field getting the plaudits they deserve!

  • This is a brilliant topic to bring up!!! One I totally agree with!!! As an ambitious amateur who competes 2 horses – one at intermediate/2* whilst working as a full time teacher I feel that I get discriminated against as I cannot compete in the wk during term time…which is when most of the intermediate and above classes are. I do honestly think that this is something BE need to think seriously about!!! As us amateurs we pay just as much as the professionals and don’t always get the same advantages!!! E.g we are more likely to be balloted!! As a professional within teaching I have to be a member of several extra unions/associations…maybe this is something that BE need to consider!!! In addition there are very few professionals who volunteer at events and they quite often forget that these events can only be run if people kindly give up their time…so without the amateurs competing and volunteers helping the professional would not fe able to make a living from the sport!!!

  • Yes I agree.

    However in Oct 2004 Oasby ran a championship as mentioned above for PN and Nov. You registered 10 ten results for the opportunity to enter.

    It ran in 2004 and 2005 but I don’t think ran again after that. The dressage was on one day and the XC then SJ on the second, with the SJ in reverse order.

    Sadly I don’t think it was that popular so did not run again………..

  • Great article! I also thinks it makes it quite hard if you have managed to get a horse to Int as an amateur as you get excluded from the grass routes champs for 10 years! I have 8 years and counting till i can even think about qualifying!

  • There is only 1 event in the US that I know of that actually has separate Amateur divisions and that’s the American Eventing Championships. Otherwise, divisions are either split Jr/Sr or Horse/Rider. So here in the US, we amateurs DO compete against the pros.

    That said, the rules aren’t as black and white as they appear as if there’s a way to get around it, people do. Plus, other than year end awards and the AECs, we don’t have recognition for Amateurs any more than it sounds like you do. But I do agree… there should be some recognition. When I was competing at the CCI* level (12 years ago), I attended a number of clinics with upper level riders. It was fascinating to be riding at that level and seeing how the top professionals treated riders differently. The up and coming young rider with the talented horse definitely got more attention than the 30 or 40-something amateur with the full time job and 1 horse. Can’t see where much has changed in the last 12 years… which is a shame.

  • I really agree with this…I evented my two horses up to intermediate/2* whilst working full time as a secondary school teacher, and used to find it really frustrating when organisers didn’t understand mid week events were a no no. Good point about professionals volunteering…some do but not many. In fact their attitude towards the weekenders sometimes leaves quite a bit to be desired. I was starting at a local BE event the other week and we had a backlog of riders waiting to start XC later in the afternoon. A number of professionals turned up and, because they were riding multiples, expected the single entry riders, to give way to them….time and time again. Their attitude towards the amateurs was sadly rather arrogant, expecting to be able to push in in the order, just because they were “names” (not very big ones, I hasten to add!) They really did believe they were more important because they were full timers. Not a very good show….

  • I think something similar to BD would be good, where you all compete in one class but there’s two classifications within that, Restricted and Open. Us amateurs could then get a real idea where we’ve come against those in a similar situation to ourselves.
    I also really like the idea of a special class or championship for true amateurs, I have no ambition of going any further than Novice but for those who do and hold down a job that’s a massive achievement.

  • Perhaps there should be best Amateur special rosettes at all CCI / CIC events? Eligibility defined as someone who does not derive their principal income from equestrian activities? It is undoubtedly hard to be competitive at Int & upwards while holding down another job too, but more people than you think make it work.. and the recognition might encourage others.

  • Great discussion and one which is discussed in detail in our house!

    My sister would fall into this, she was lucky enough to qualify for Gatcombe Nov Champs this year on a home bred and produced mare and finished in the top 25 which, had she not had a dressage test to forget 😉 it could have been a lot better.
    The mare then had a very good 2nd in the Intermediate at Richmond inbetween a lot of professionals which prompted a phone call from Horse & Hound and she is convinced that they only rang because it was a name they had never seen ;). Whilst this is great, she would agree that as you go up the levels, there is nothing to promote/recognise the amateur unless you stress it in the comments box and hope that the commentator reads it out. She, like Lucy mentioned above thrives on competing against all the PRO’s as she gets great satisfaction of competing on the same terms, especially if she has a good day. She does also manage to volunteer at our local event

    25 years ago, Subaru used to sponsor an owner/local rider championships at Novice which ran at Weston Park, I still have my Subaru rug and I’m very proud of it as it meant an awful lot at the time, again on a home bred/home produced horse, could BE not push an owner/rider class/section as you go up the levels? or encourage events to give some sort of recognition to these pairings

    I also agree that there are huge amounts of things to do for juniors, U18, U21’s etc and I think BE should encourage the older, amateur rider more, to show what is achievable, possibly an over 40 thing to. BE are missing out here I think.

    The volunteering is also a v good point, don’t Ireland have a mandatory system in place for riders? As others have mentioned, no BE Events would exist without volunteers and for that we are v grateful

  • “I think something similar to BD would be good, where you all compete in one class but there’s two classifications within that, Restricted and Open. Us amateurs could then get a real idea where we’ve come against those in a similar situation to ourselves”

    Even if there was not a prize and this was just identified in the programme it would be nice. I wondered how many amateurs, on average compete in a Nov section and how many in an Int section? Anyone ever tried to work it out?

  • Great article and very worthwhile – there needs to be loads of encouragement and recognition for the youngsters in our great sport which there is and they have fantastic support and coaching and there is also a fair amount of help and targets set for those at BE80T, BE90 and BE100 for the amateurs – but then,…….. nothing! There are a fair few who manage to make it with just the one horse (or maybe two if lucky) but some sort of recognition would be good. As a mid 50s amateur dabbling aroung the Novice er ooh er do I try an Intermediate or stick where I am – it may encourage me to go for it! A prize for the highest placed amateur (just a rosette would do) in each section Novice and above should not be too hard to police and would make a huge difference. That leads on to my niggle of the year – prize givings – we need to attend – dressed appropriately – if the organisers are doing an official prize giving. If not then it doesn’t matter but if they are then it matters to the organisers and their sponsors. Interstingly though it is usually the amateur riders who collect their prizes and smile for the cameras and the professionals are too busy getting to their next event to say thanks in public!

  • I remember the Subaru Owner/Riders champs, I won a lovely gilet in 1989 and still use it! Bringing something like that back would be excellent.
    The Oasby idea was good in principle but flawed – by definition, a true amateur is usually going to find it much harder to be at an event on two consecutive days.