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.
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.
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.