Equine Canada Amateur Status

Recently a woman, who’s been involved in horses for over three decades, claimed on a forum – quite proudly – that she had EC Amateur Status.   This didn’t make any sense to me.  She’s trained TB racehorses, later trained those that didn’t make the races or retired from the races for hunter/jumper, has had boarders on her farm, has purchased PMU foals on behalf of others and for herself to raise, train and sell, has sold horses to others for personal mounts, organized clinics, currently stands a TB stallion for stud service, and otherwise would be classified as a professional having received monetary compensation for services rendered…and yet…claims Equine Canada recognizes her as an Amateur.

Upon discussion with some acquaintances, that have far more knowledge about Amateur Status rules than I, it appears as if EC Amateur Status is wholly a joke.  That one merely ticks the ‘amateur’ box on the application and it is given.  That one can *reclaim* amateur status after a two year hiatus from being *paid*.   What?  This last is ridiculous.  If you’re good enough to be hired for a job and accept remuneration for those services, making you a professional, then simply not having received monies for a two year period doesn’t suddenly make you less knowledgeable or less skilled, does it?  And let’s face it, the point of separating amateurs from professionals in classes is for fairness of competition, otherwise why do it?

Here’s the Amateur Status requirements:


1. All seniors competing in amateur classes at EC-sanctioned competitions must possess a current EC amateur card, which is purchased annually at the price listed in the EC Schedule of Fees. Competitors in FEI-sanctioned competitions must comply with the FEI definition of amateur.

2. A person competing in EC amateur classes must hold a valid EC senior sport license, have a current amateur card and adhere to the following guidelines:
a) Pilot Project: An EC amateur may hold an EC Instructor Beginner
Certificate and teach within the context of the Instructor Beginner Certificate.
b) An EC amateur may accept remuneration for instruction of or coaching of the disabled.
c) An EC amateur may not accept remuneration for training a horse or for showing a horse at any EC-sanctioned competition. See Glossary for definition of “Remuneration”.
d) An EC amateur may not accept remuneration for coaching any person to ride or drive a horse, including riding or driving clinics and seminars.
e) An EC amateur may not train or show a horse, or instruct a rider or
driver, when remuneration for this activity will be given to a corporation or farm which he or she, or his or her family, owns or controls.
f) An EC amateur may not act as an agent nor accept commissions for the sale, purchase and/or lease of a horse.
g) EC Amateurs may not use their name, photograph or any form of a personal association as a horse person in connection with any advertisement or article sold without the approval and signature of EC (e.g. product endorsement or advertisement of their activity as a coach).
h) An EC amateur may not enter into any form of sponsorship agreement
that is in conflict with the provisions of this article. See division rules for further information governing amateur status within divisions.

3. Persons who have not engaged in any of the activities in Article G108.2 (a-g) during the preceding two (2) calendar years may request reinstatement as amateur competitors. Such requests must be sent in writing to EC.

4. Application for Equine Canada Amateur Status:

a) Amateur status is issued by EC.
b) For EC members, certification of amateur status is issued annually on EC sport license cards.
c) All persons wishing EC amateur status must complete and sign the amateur declaration, which is on the sport license application/renewal form, affirming their eligibility.
d) Eligible amateurs who are not members of EC may receive amateur status issued by EC upon payment of the fee as listed in the current

I’m interested in hearing about amateur status in other countries and if it works the same as it does in Canada.  Do people regularly run across those like this woman I mention, who’ve clearly been professionals for many, many years (decades in this case) able to compete against true amateurs AND doing it proudly?  As someone who is a stickler for what’s fair, I find the whole situation and that someone would exploit an exploitable system to be on par with cheating.  Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.  And what’s happened that a professional would even want to compete against anyone other than their direct peers?  It’s a hollow win, otherwise.

44 thoughts on “Equine Canada Amateur Status

  1. Not that it’s right, but being an amateur is desirable because it gives you a MUCH better range of hunter/jumper classes to show in. Frankly, the amount of open classes pales in comparison to the variety of classes an amateur can choose to show in. It’s not like other sports where a professional athlete has a variety of events that are exclusive to them.

    Not to mention, there’s little to do in the amateur rules with regards to actuall skill level. I know many amateurs that can outride half the pros at Palgrave.

    • Is that a suggestion then that EC sanctioned shows are not properly balanced in class choices for amateur vs professional? Therefore, because of that imbalance people do whatever they can to acquire and maintain amateur status?

      Regardless of all that…if the amateurs in general can outride the professionals, then what does that say about our professionals who are offering services of lessons and trained horses to others?!?

      Or……….does that actually say that there are a number of amateurs that should have long since become ‘professionals’ and moved on?

      • It means being a ‘pro’ does not mean you are necessarily any ‘better’ rider than an amateur. It also means that some ammy’s are darn good but not professionals. I have no problem with that.

        I think we too often confuse the term “professional” with “good”. The assumption is that Pro’s are good at what they do – else they would not be able to make money doing it. The fallacy in that is that *anyone* can charge for their services and talk someone into paying them: in no way does that fact guarantee quality. The market should do that.

      • My experience is at the lower levels and classes without significant money, it’s not unusual to see amateurs beat professionals, usually because the professional is there to put miles on a green horse or school through a training issue, while the amateur, on a very nice horse, is trying her damnest to win the class. It’s relatively rare, in my experience anyway, for pros to be seriously out to win low-level, small-money classes. In big-money classes, I still see the pros consistently beating the amateurs, although of course there are always upsets when some amateur had a great day and beats all the big names.

    • If there isn’t a class you’re not eligible for then you don’t enter!

      You do not and should not reinvent yourself and lie to suit your requirements.

    • I have never counted: there are more Ammy classes than all the Open and other classes combined? Wow. The only classes Pro’s do not ‘have’ are Eq: why do they need/want more ‘range’? The Open divisions and divisions for green horses have always been the domain of the professionals: what increased options do they need?

      • In my world (hunter/jumper), the incentive to retain amateur status is to get a decent number of *lower-height* classes. There are only a few open classes at 3′ and lower, and all the “special” classes at lower heights (Mini Grand Prix, low derby, etc) are all for amateurs. So if you’re a pro you have to move up. There’s a certain logic to that, for sure, but there’s also a certain class of professionals scratching away a living at the lower stratas of the horse world, making them ineligible for amateur classes but without the horses, funds or skill for the big time either. Those are the people who end up lying to show as amateurs. I still don’t have that much sympathy; those people need to either do what it takes to be true professionals and move up, or quit the horse business, get a job and ride as a hobby. Or be happy with just doing a handful of lower-level open classes and be proud that you’re not taking ribbons from kids and hobbyists.

        • You can also turn your number and go non competitor if you want the experience of showing at the lower levels for yourself or for a young horse. No ribbons of course……

          • That’s a good point and a good option, if the show allows it. Some shows (usually popular ones with limits on entries) do not allow non-competitive entries.

  2. I can’t stand cheats and people who don’t abide by the rules of their sport.

    Well to be honest I don’t understand them.

    If you can’t win by fair means and have to resort to cheating, taking drugs, competing against amateurs when you’re a pro or breaking other rules then what’s the point. There can’t be glory, pleasure or pride in a win where there’s cheating and rule breaking.

    I’ve always had strong views on this matter and never quite think bans and fines are sufficient.

    Cheats have no moral compass and I refuse to believe anyone can be a cheat but still be a nice person. That sort are out for themselves and don’t care much about what or who gets in their way.

    The rules and requirements in the UK are similar and though it occasionally happens that someone’s fallen foul, it’s tended to be more a case of a person has occasionally been paid to ride a horse and hadn’t thought it would matter.

    The circumstances described here though is ‘just’ lying and cheating.

    In my opinion it’s despicable and needs reporting with formal complaint.

  3. So the rules say that anyone who gives instruction or takes a fee for schooling a horse, in no matter how casual or backyard a fashion, is not an amateur? Interesting! That takes in many, many people.

    However, at what levels does this start to apply? Our region has lots of EC Bronze (local) competitions, no Silver (provincial) , and very little Gold (national). I know a rider passport is needed for Gold and Silver, but no passport needed for Bronze (local). I understand that if you want to start collecting points to move up to higher level (as a coach or a rider) you would need a Bronze passport, but you don’t need one to just participate in the shows. Because few of our local riders move beyond Bronze Hunter/Jumper or low-level dressage, and there isn’t a clear path as to how you would do that, my guess is that many competitors wouldn’t bother to get a Bronze passport. So there would be no verification process for status at the Bronze level.

    When I returned to riding, I did ask some questions and even emailed EC a couple of times, mostly because I wanted to quietly evaluate claims being made by various riding schools. Here’s how I understand the levels to work. Please someone correct me if I’ve gotten things wrong!

    In EC sanctioned Hunter/Jumper, the levels are strictly applied to shows. You can have a Bronze show (mostly up to 2 foot 9, a bit of 3 foot), or you can have a Gold show, but you can’t have a mix of levels in one show. You can, however, run a Gold show with one afternoon of big jumps, and then fill in the rest of the weekend with unrated cross-poles classes, to fill out the program and earn some money. This allows riding schools to tell parents on their website that “students compete in Gold-rated shows at Famous Venue X,” when if you look at the on-line show results, you find that their kids were all in unrated short stirrups classes. OK, I only saw one riding school doing this, and the blurb has since disappeared, but still . . . .

    However, in local EC sanctioned Dressage, I understand that the levels don’t apply to shows: they aren’t distinguished by Bronze, Silver or Gold, only by the test levels (if you compare the Order of Go for a number of these shows, it’s evident that most competitors here don’t go beyond Level 2). As far as I know, Dressage shows don’t distinguish between amateur and professional: trainers, coaches and students ride against each other, and there aren’t categories like JR/Am announced. I could be wrong; if so, someone let me know!

    As well, we have several popular schooling shows in different disciplines, where no distinction is made (people have mentioned to me that the prescience of professional trainers bringing green horses to the schooling dressage shows make the walk/trot classes hard to win, though I haven’t checked this out myself). These don’t count for EC points, but can count to points for some breed associations.

    When I looked up a local Hunter/Jumper event, it is separated into Open and JR/Am classes, though the first JR/Am class I clicked on had a local trainer participating. Perhaps that was an anomaly. The other shows didn’t have any trainer names that jumped out at me.

    I have no idea how this works at the Silver or Gold level.

    • Ethically, it applies at *all* levels; technically (perhaps) it applies at the ‘recognised’ level. That means it should apply at ANY EC santioned event – which includes Bronze level shows.

  4. I find 2e above interesting. It states:

    e) An EC amateur may not train or show a horse, or instruct a rider or
    driver, when remuneration for this activity will be given to a corporation or farm which he or she, or his or her family, owns or controls.

    So if the money comes direct to the person and not a corporation or farm then it’s OK?

    I do agree that someone who holds an Instructor of Beginners License is not necessarily a professional. If you look at the requirements of that license it makes sense to me.

    But if someone is giving intermediate or above lessons, receiving money for training horses, etc, then I believe they should be regarded as a professional, as stated.

    The amateurs should have a venue to display their skills and be judged among their peers, without professionals who wanted to ‘go back’ competing against them. Otherwise it defeats the whole idea of having the separation – fairness in competition.

  5. I think items c, d and e work together; e is just shutting a loophole where your clients get away with paying daddy’s farm or your offshore numbered company 🙂

    • That’s how I took it and that’s more or less the same as in the USA and Europe.

      Put simply if you’re taking money for doing any work or activity relating to horses you’re a pro and it makes no difference if that money comes directly to you or says goes through a farm in your husband’s name.

  6. Btw, the addition of unrated low-level classes at the few Gold shows we have here also allows the sellers of horses to claim in their ads: “Showed succesfully this summer at Gold A Level Shows at Locally Famous Venue X!” but when you look at the results list it turns out the horse was entered in an unrated pre-Baby Pre-Greener than Green Hunter Walk-Trot class, or something like that.

  7. I got this from another blog (“show ring ready”) and it explains amateur status fairly clearly:
    “Possessing an amateur card will allow you to compete in divisions that are restricted to amateur riders (those divisions usually have ‘amateur’ or ‘adult’ in the name). If you are an adult, not having your amateur status will force you to compete in the open divisions against the pros. EC will take your word for it that you are an amateur once you have signed the amateur declaration unless someone complains to an official and challenges you.

    Juniors are simply juniors and are not classified as amateurs or professionals.

    Judges, course designers, stewards, grooms, etc. can all qualify as amateurs provided they meet the criteria. It does not matter that you are getting paid to do something with horses; it matters what you are getting paid to do.

    In Canada, you must pay an extra $10 when renewing your Equine Canada membership in order to receive an amateur card. The amateur card is not really a card itself, but a ticked box on your EC membership card.”

    “In order to teach lessons or coach in exchange for remuneration and still compete as an amateur, you must possess an EC Instructor of Beginners Certificate (teaching beginners for pay without the certificate negates your amateur status) or teach only the disabled. Note that remuneration is not limited to money.

    You may never train or compete on a horse and receive remuneration for it.

    If someone else gets paid when you coach, train or show, you are not an amateur.

    You may profit from buying and selling your own horses, but you may not profit from finding or selling anyone else’s horses.

    You may not endorse any products unless you are given permission by EC. Sponsorship of the rider is prohibited..

    In order to regain your amateur status after you have given it up for any of the above reasons, you must not have participated in any of those activities for a full two calendar years.”

    The above do not pertain to dressage or reining competitions but cover most others.
    According to FEI rules:

    “The Athlete must possess a valid licence granted by his NF and be registered with the FEI. Horses must be registered with the FEI and for Category A have a valid FEI passport or a national passport with an FEI recognition card.

    An “Amateur Owner’s” license would only be granted by NFs to those Athletes who have formally signed a statement that he does not earn money for riding other people’s Horses, giving riding lessons, riding sponsored Horses, or for publicity or commercial purposes, etc.

    The buying and selling of Horses, as well as receiving prize money in cash, are not forbidden providing they do not constitute the Athlete’s only source of income.

    The “Amateur Owner” status limits participation in other Competitions and Championships. Athletes having obtained or renewed the “Amateur Owner” license, will not be allowed to continue participating as an Amateur if they have taken part in international or national Competitions with an initial height of 1.50 m or greater. This means for example that a Young Rider who has obtained his Amateur license and who reaches the Individual Final Competition at the Continental Championships for Young Riders may no longer participate as an Amateur.”
    I haven’t been able to find if there are FEI guidelines for reinstatement of amateur status but the US guidelines are basically the same as in Canada. Many other sports also have a process of reinstating amateur status… a bit ridiculous if you ask me. I can see being able to apply for reinstatement of amateur status if your broke your amateur due to an oversight… the 2 years would then be a “probation” period.

    • That all seems pretty clear to me.

      Of course there will always be some low life cheat who tries to find a loop hole to manipulate their way to doing what they want to do but got to say you can’t fault the clarity and spirit of intent of the expressed rules.

  8. The first thing that popped into my head reading this post is how all kids on teams now get a trophy regardless of participation, success or talent in their respective sport. Everyone is a winner!

    The amateur status requirement is so convoluted that it makes my head hurt. As most rules and reg’s do. It has created multiple loop holes where top pro’s can manipulate their way into the blues leaving the hard working, self-funding amateur hung out to dry. I picture the amateur taking lessons when she can afford them, riding an OTTB, reading books and watching vid’s to compensate for lack of funds, but a gal with a natural ability and raw determination….up against another who has 25 years of experience, mid five-figure horses, indoor access 365, who regularly rides with and for an ex-olympian, but she took a few years away from competition to start a family.

    The only situation I see that ‘could’ allow a previous professional to compete at amateur status is when there is a change of disciplines. Someone who perhaps spent 20 years in the western pleasure breed world who wants to break into Hunters for example probably wouldn’t have the skills to compete at the top. Or reiner gone dressage 🙂 !

    I’ve been training horses for 20 years. Starting babies, fixing problems and competing here and there in open shows. The futures of these horses were various – western pleasure, HUS, trail, endurance, jumping, dressage…I am a ‘professional’ but certainly not a threat to anyone at the upper level of their discipline. I would still be ashamed to sign anything stating that I’m an amateur in any way, shape or form. I guess pride takes a back seat to the blues for some.

    • I think this is another angle – the different disciplines. My previous coach was a professional rider/ trainer for 25 years in H/J . She decided to take up dressage at which she was a total newbie, but was told she could only compete in the open classes because of her continuing to teach us in hunters. In the end she gave up her coaching entirely so that she could compete at a level commensurate with her skills. She did the ‘right’ thing according to the rules but we lost a good coach because of it – and the more good, knowledgeable coaches out there the better.
      I don’t think – and neither did she – that she could ever compete as an Amateur in H/J . IMO no-one who has ever been a pro in one discipline should be able to become an amateur in that discipline again (unless the have been out of it 20 years or something).

        • We certainly do basic dressage in H/J – in fact I have competed successfully at training level myself. My point was that a H/J , or reining, or dressage coach should not automatically be jumped into the professional or open classes of a different discipline from the get-go. Just like any experienced rider, ammy or not, she is not going to be a beginner, but neither is she going to be able to go compete with the pros with any hope of success. As I said, allowing an ex-coach or trainer to to compete in their own discipline, active or not, is really the unfair part of this.

      • I’m with you on the time out part of amateur status. It’s not like we ever ‘forget’ how to do things on horses, just like the horses don’t forget their training. If I took a hiatus from riding for a couple of years, I’d be right back where I left off when the pain in my body forgave me. I won’t forget the feel or the aids any more than I would forget how to drive a car. It’s muscle memory, not a novel.

        There are people who board, teach and train at the 4-H level….they are certainly not going to have the skills necessary to then compete in A-rated shows against the best of the best. Maybe we’d do best to have a National database of all riders who have competed at rated shows, thus negating their ability to claim amateur status based on their historical accomplishments. In reining, you moved up the ranks based on money earned. In my day, NRHA broke up the non-pro’s into an additional category “Limited” non pro which was the step between “Rookie” and Non-Pro. They subsequently added a Limited Open as well. I’m sure it’s changed even more since my day in the sport. At least it was based on something tangible.

    • I don’t know if there is anything cut and dried about who would be at what level of riding. I know a number of part-time coaches and trainers who work with OTTBs or Heinz 57 warmbloods, whose own riding is not that great and not improving with age, who can’t get a horse past Level 2 dressage, and who don’t have much in the way of funds, because they are trying to survive on horse industry wages. They don’t have much personal resources precisely because they *are* horse professionals, albeit at the lower end of the profession. But I could also imagine that there must be well-funded talented amatuers out there who can afford (or whose parents can afford) good horses, good coaching, etc. Though I think those kids would get fast-tracked out of our local show system pretty quickly and have moved closer to where the action is.

  9. Well, I will admit that I am taking a break from showing. There are numerous reasons for it, but definitely, the regulations regarding amateur status play a large part of it. In my circuit, the big winner in the amateur classes I compete in is a retired professional. She is also riding a twenty year old World Champion. Her daughter is likewise retired from instructing and competes in these classes. On one hand, I am thankful that she at least is riding a young horse she started, and is just building up his show career. On the other hand, this means that even the Novice/Junior Horse classes were often . . . predictable. Thankfully, the horse lost his novice status early on in the season.
    I understand that not all professionals are good riders, and not all amateurs are *true* amateurs, especially in the breed circuit where the quality of the horse is equally important as the skill of the rider, but couldn’t there be some sort of exception rule to even out the competition?
    My take on it:
    Any rider/horse combination with more than 5 red ribbons in the current year is ineligible to compete in Amateur classes.

    • I don’t know what discipline you’re competing in but it’s a fact that whenever you compete at anything there’s likely going to be people better than you are.

      IMO one of the challenges of competition is to aspire and drive to attain the level of the best and to beat those who generally beat you.

      Frequently it happens where genuinely retired professionals come back as a hobby to have a go again and of course if they’re no longer professionals they can enter any class they chose to and that they’re eligible for.

      That’s the way it works.

      Now IF they were a true pro in the sense that I mean it then I’d expect that they’d soon rattle up the classes and possibly even achieve the levels they’d done when they were younger and fitter and more involved.

      I’d have said that’s a good thing though not a bad thing (is that what you’re suggesting?) Good for other amateur novices. They’ve something to aim for and aspire to be.

      But then I’ve never seen the glory in winning a class with a poor turnout.

      I judged a class over here last year and the person (and his friend) I placed 3rd came up afterwards to ask why I’d done the placements as I had. It turned out that he didn’t really want to know the answer because after I’d told him he said “I don’t think you know I always win this class”. (He’d wanted to let me know he was pissed off and having a bit of a strop!)

      The thing was though I was out of my geographic area and didn’t know him from Adam and wasn’t going to be impressed by his achievements in that locality.

      I smiled sweetly at him and said “well now I’m sure you’ll be delighted that you’ve some competition and something to drive you on ” 😉

      • I compete on the breed circuit (which is a whole different kettle of fish very often). I guess I think amateur classes are so people with lower skills can be judged and possibly improve their skills. This doesn’t happen in my circuit; the pros win the open classes, and the retired pros win the amateur classes. If you have a very good ride or a small class you might pick up fourth or fifth place ribbon, but the majority of non-pro adult competitors are not able to gauge their success or lack thereof. I theorize this is the reason that most competitors are pros or ex-pros, and the non-pro competitors last a season or two before they find a different arena to compete in. The breed circuit is a pro sport, even the amateur classes.
        And judges, even ones from out of state, tend to recognize national champions, even when they retire.

        • If the top two or three ribbons are ‘always’ taken by the same group of people, for ‘lesser’ competitors the challenge is not only to get ‘their share’ of the remaining placings but to BECOME GOOD ENOUGH TO break into that top three! If first-through-third is locked away out of reach, be darn proud of that fourth place award. The ‘top’ placings *always* set the standard, regardless of who takes them: the competition is to become as good as they are or better. I believe that is what Spooks is saying as well.

          • I get that, I want to break into that top three someday,
            And “my share” of the placings seems so pointless, I’m not interested in that fourth place ribbon I got because everyone else dropped the class when they saw the big three retired ex-pros in their amateur class. I’m not even interested in the sixth place ribbon I got in that open class with ten riders, because the five ahead of me were pros, and I have no idea why I placed above the other four amateurs, or how I compared to them. I’ll ask the judge, my coach, the crowd, watch the video, and still wonder if I earned it.
            I foolishly want to be able to judge myself and my ride subjectively.

          • Well, ponyfan has just basically articulated the problem with competitions in general, all kinds of competitions. Your placing never has quite enough connection to your actual progress or level or ability or achievement to fully satisfy you if you are inner-directed and motivated. Professionally I’m in academia and the arts, which is very “competitive” in the sense that there are limited resources to go around, but if you let yourself think competitively or take things like formal awards or “best of the year” lists or anything like that seriously, you’ll go crazy, because everyone is bringing something slightly different to the table, and you can only improve on what you actually are.

            If you try to make the arts truly openly “competitive” you get things like American Idol and So You Think you Can Dance? ‘Nuff said.

            In sports the criteria are narrower, particular in things like shot-put 🙂 where there aren’t very many variables and pure drive and determination count for a lot. Riding is in a funny area between arts and sports, it’s about your communication with the horse above all, and the various disciplines run a spectrum between pure objective results (tbd racing, jumping) to quite subjective (flat classes and dressage that are judged with standards, yes, but more like figure skating). But even if you won a shot-put class or a tbd race, the most objective kinds of sports, it still might be because the reigning champ took a sick-day.

            My guess is that a truly “competitive” person would be externally driven in a way that I don’t fully understand, and that they would take the ribbons and prizes as some sort of confirmation from the universe that they were on the right track, and any other information (like, for instance, that they were crippling their horse) would be discounted, unless it was interfering with winning (truly competitive people treat themselves that way, too, and go back to competing with injuries or take dangerous enhancing drugs). But if you’re not that externally driven then the prizes are never going to give you the satisfaction you want, because they are just a snapshot of the accidents of one short period on one short day. If you did better than you expected, you don’t feel you’ve won; and if you did worse than you expected, you don’t feel you’ve really done what you’re capable of.

            One of the reasons I like watching a well-matched jumps class is that there really is suspense, in the sense that any one of those horses can touch a rail or not, go a little slower or a little faster, and the results can vary a lot with the same horses in different classes, depending on what happens. It’s humbling in a good way, I think, and it makes the competition seem more about “how well can we do right now in this five minute space in time?” not “how good are we overall in some total way?” Maybe that is the secret, seeing the competition as just a very brief moment in time in which you might exceed or fall behind your “real abilities,” which may or may not be recognized in the official results, depending on who else is there and how they did that day.

  10. I claim Equine Canada Amateur Status based on this so-called “time out” provision, maybe you all think I’m a cheat or maybe you’ll listen to my perspective.

    I used to teach riding lessons and earned my EC “Instructor” certificate. For my last two years of high school and four years of university I taught riding part-time during the school year and full-time in the summers. After graduating and getting a “real” job I continued to teach a full students here and there in the evenings and weekends. The vast majority of the riding instruction that I did was teaching basics to beginners; I have many, many hours holding a lunge line and saying “up, down, up, down, that’s it!”. I have taken a few students to compete in small local fun shows. I have never taught an advanced level rider or a serious competitive rider. I have never taken a student to a recognized show.

    During this time, as I was accepting remuneration for teaching riding, I did not show as an amateur.

    Then I went to law school and then starting practising as a lawyer. I don’t have the need or the time to extra income on the side by teaching riding. I have not fulfilled the requirements to keep my coaching certification up to date, I have not done any filings with Equine Canada of my professional development hours or kept my First Aid up to date (which are requirements to maintain coaching status). I officially surrendered my coaching status with EC about 5 years ago, because they were making me pay an extra fee every year on my membership since I had a coaching designation, and I got tired of paying extra for something I wasn’t using.

    I now claim Amateur Status and I compete in both amateur and open classes. I do not see how my background of teaching kids how to post the trot makes me in any way an unfair threat in the adult amateur hunter and jumper classes. I compete against wives of wealthy businessmen who do not work and can make their whole lives about riding and showing their very nice horses. People like that are stiff enough competition; I appreciate having some classes where I will not be up against a professional Grand Prix rider who is taking their student’s horse for a tune-up.

    And while I agree that a person does not forget knowlege… you can certainly lose riding skill and ability with time away from the sport. I don’t think my knowlege of how to teach a child to tell the correct posting diagonal ever gave me a competitive advantage… but even if it did, I don’t spend nearly as much time in the saddle as I did back in the days when my whole life revolved around riding and this affects my riding skill level. If you are not earning your living from horses, you are probably earning it somewhere else, and if you earn enough to pay for horse showing, then that somewhere else is pretty much guaranteed to interfere with your riding to some degree. (The exception being those wealthy housewives).

    Interesting, there is now a pilot program to allow people who hold the certification that I held (Instructor of Beginners) to retain their amateur status. (This was not the case when I was teaching.) This change, I think, recognizes that a typical instructor of beginners does not pose an unfair competition threat. It also removes the loss of amateur status as a disincentive from getting certification as an instructor. This solidifies to me that I am doing nothing wrong by showing as an amateur now, when it’s been at least 8 years since I last earned a dime in the horse business.

    So I save my outrage for all the people who are flat-out abusing amateur status. I’ve had people tell me that were allowed to show as amateurs because “this isn’t my main way of earning a living, I only get a little bit of extra money” or “I don’t actually get paid, I work off my board” or “I don’t teach any riders who show”. According to the rules around amateur status that still counts as remuneration, these are people who chose to deliberately remain ignorant of the rules, deliberately misinterpret them, or just flat out break them, in order to compete as amateurs. I would love to see more of a crack down on people like that, not people who have honestly ceased to earn income from the horse world.

    • I guess, Chestnutmare, my question for you would be this: do you consistently place first or podium when you compete?
      I think that amateur classes are meant to allow people to compete at a lower skill level, that is the heart and truth behind the rules. I get that not everyone deserves a ribbon for showing up that day, and ribbons should recognize talent, dedication, and success, but . . . if you are earning ribbons in other classes, and always enter the amateur classes so that you’re guaranteed a red. . . Then you are violating the heart of the class, if not the rules.

      • I wholeheartedly agree! I certaintly do not show in amateur classes so that I can always win. I try to show at a level where I have a shot at placing or even winning if I ride my best, but it’s far from a sure thing. Actually, even the idea of showing in the amateur classes to always win is funny to me, because I show a competitive circuit with a lot of talented, dedicated amateurs on expensive fancy horses. So the idea that little ol’ me is going to come in and blow them away because I used to work at summer camps is amusing. But I take your point and I believe that continuing to compete at a level where you’re consistently winning is very poor sportsmanship. Winning means time to move up. I get a lot of satisfaction from trying a more challenging division and riding my best in it, even if my best wasn’t enough for a ribbon that day. And then on the once-in-a-while occasions when I ride my best and my horse tries her best and luck is on our side and we win, it feels like it really means something.

        • (This is not aimed at Chestnutmare in any way as it does not apply to her but follows from a point in this conversation) Entering classes that are well ‘beneath’ your level of expertise simply in order to garner a guaranteed win used to be called “Pot Hunting” and was largely frowned upon if not openly sneered at. It seems to be part of the norm these days and I have to wonder when it became accepted – and even expected.

          • arrgh: second coffee clarity. That should be ‘pot *grabbing*’ – the other is a carryover from another ethical discussion, in another field, on another forum. Sorry ’bout that!

          • Aha! There’s my issue with amateur status! My circuit is all about “the Pot Hunting” and amateur status totally just give people another field on which to hunt while ignoring the idea behind it. I want to compete fairly, but sometimes it feels like I’m the only one!
            Coffee clarification: Okay, it’s pot grabbing, but pot hunting goes better with my metaphor, so I’m keeping it!

    • Chestnut mare, that’s a very long story. But I’m darned if I understand why.

      I’d say that if it’s a matter of fact that many years ago you used to do some riding lessons but you now no longer teach anyone to ride and aren’t making any money whatsoever out of horses in any of the ways described by the rules and you’re busy working as a solicitor then of course you’re an amateur.

      Why did you think you might be breaking a rule?? Why did you think anyone would think you were cheating?

      • I am not breaking a rule. But in the main post Mercedes said she did not agree with the rule of being able to have amateur status after two years of not earning money from horses. Her take appeared to be “once a professional, always a professional”. So I posted a counter-example. And yes, I always seem to need a lot of words, but details are relevant.

    • There isn’t much about the cutting horse show world that I really like, but they did have a sophisticated show structure to address amatuers/professionals/horses in training. There are classes that are strictly amatuer or professional (or non-professional to take in some folks that may be trainer spouses etc., ie, access to more training and better trained horses without the cost of buying it and amateurs who have won more than $100,000 and people who may make money off of horses but don’t actually train cutting horses) . Since recognized shows pay out money, they also use money won by horse or rider. A pro can take a young horse into a low dollar horse class and compete that horse against similar horses. Amateurs with finished horses can put a horse in a higher dollar class or a higher skill rider class or into the open and choose to compete with the trainers on high dollar horses. Some amateurs are high dollar people with great horses and show all the time, not much difference between them and the pros. So some kid just starting out but getting paid to warm up and cool down horses at a trainers, can go in the $5000 non-pro *but not restricted to amateur* rider class and compete with amateurs and be competitive but so can amateurs be competitive in that class. Then there is the $1000 amateur class for the beginners that is great to keep newcomers to the sport interested as they can place more easily.

  11. According to the expressed rules it’s not only about doing riding lessons.

    The definition is much broader. You either meet it or you don’t

    If you don’t like the definition or don’t agree with it then that’s somewhat superfluous opinion.

    If you want to compete in ANY sporting activity, the first rule is know the rules and abide by thee rules.

    If you don’t like the rules then go find something to do that you like.

  12. This issue reveals a deeper problem with the show world than mere fairness to the human participants. It focuses on what makes competitive riding, for a ribbon or a huge purse, bad for horses. People want to win, many of them at any and all costs. So if the systems are manipulated to be unfair to people, imagine what those systems are like for the horses.

    Amatuers may in fact be incredibly talented, have a fortune to spend on the best horse, the best trainers, and all the time in the world to practice. Those amateurs just have the advantage of great wealth to insulate them from the world most people live in where they are at a job/commuting a minimum of forty hours and maybe 60-80 plus hours a week and then try to squeeze in lesson time, practice and horse care hours on top of that. There is nothing fair about that either.

    There are professionals that did training a couple years or so in their youth and want to show years later, they really aren’t professionals any more, and may be more like amatuers who rode a few years as kids and have come back to horses in middle age. Nevertheless, active professionals, people currently training or showing horses for money, shouldn’t be in with amatuers. Any systems ought to make and enforce that distinction.

  13. I always thought it was baffling and a bit unfair that you can be damned good at training and whatever – in every way equivalent to a pro – as long as you are under 18, but provided you are very careful after you ‘age out’ you can be an amateur.

  14. I went down a rabbit hole of searchable databases back before Christmas and then never posted my findings. . . . EC only posts Gold, Silver, Platinum show results (not Bronze). From the results, it looks like Hunter/Jumper is always divided Amateur/Open. In Dressage, they are listed separately but it looks like if there aren’t enough entries to make all 6 places, then they judge the class together (ie, first place to an Open comeptitor, 2nd place to Amateur, etc). If they have enough to make 6 places in each, then they get separate classes.

    The top Open competitors seem to consistently outrank all the Amateurs, but there is a wide range of scores for both, so some Opens are always beat by Amateurs (and in one results list, both consistently by the lone Junior). Of course if you pick your Gold show right and the classes are small, you can take home a second place ribbon for a Dressage score of 55 (in a class with two entrants).

    HorseShowTime has all the local big-venue listings (including Bronze) for HJ, and they are divided Amateur/Open at all levels. There is no one-stop shopping for Bronze Dressage, but some of the venues list results on their own websites, and these shows seem to make no distinction between Amatuer and Open. Neither do the schooling shows that I’ve found. The breed shows have divisions, but I don’t know their criteria.

    There is no criteria for whether a rider is Bronze or Gold, you just pay more for the Gold passport, you don’t need to work your way up to it. And you can get a temporary upgrade or passport at the show itself.

    I am not 100 % sure what makes a show Gold rather than Bronze. It does have to do with whether the points are accruing nationally or locally, but beyong that it looks like you have to buy the EC rule book to get the details. In the H/J competitions, Gold shows top out at higher jumps than Bronize shows, but they both have 2 foot 6 hunters. Gold dressage still starts with Training Level, though there are more entrants above Level 2 than in Bronze.

    I personally found the searchable results databases for local competitions very very interesting 🙂 and if I were looking for a horse with “show miles” or a new competition coach (I’m not) I would definitely do my research.

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