To begin, let’s just get this off the plate: I’m a nobody. I trained one of the top junior rides in her short-stirrup days; I put the pre-show ring miles on a lot of nice, now competitive horses. But my name has never been on the jumbotron as a winner. Now an amateur, I enjoy my quiet five-stall barn, my Appendix mare and my borrowed warmblood. I still ride a lot of nice horses for my trainer. For free. For my education. That’s all.
But I’m tired of reading all the responses to Katie Prudent’s podcast, and as an amateur, I thought I would chime in with the opposite view of most other amateurs.
I’m not talentless. I’m not fearful. I’m just broke. But I ride because I love the horses, just as Katie did when she started riding. I take my mare out bareback and go galloping through the field, like a kid again, because well, that’s just more fun than hacking around the ring. And sometimes we all need to clear our heads.
If my horse was boarded with some big name trainer, I’m sure I would be forbidden from climbing aboard without tack to go romp through some tall grass, breathing in the sunshine and feeling my horse under me. That’s no reflection on me. That’s a reflection on that big name trainer. That’s a reflection of the “professional amateur” who boards with the big name trainer, to show up for a lesson, have the horse handed off, climb on, climb off and hand the horse back off to that groom. (That groom, who goes home to her backyard horse, climbs aboard without tack and goes romping through the field.)
The show ring has been dummied down to accommodate those professional amateurs…the “fearful, talentless amateur.” How does the big name trainer continue to make money if that amateur is losing?
The solution, make it less complex. Make the jumps smaller, courses less complex. The amateur wins, the big name trainer can breathe a sigh of relief, trainer doesn’t have to adjust their budget now. That “rich, talentless” amateur will continue to provide Madame Trainer with a paycheck.
It’s the kids (even at heart) who can climb on anything and take it around the ring. We may not win against those six-figure professional amateurs, but Katie will be smiling at our drive, our motivation. We are the great riders she references. We may not be able to afford blue ribbons, but we can say we didn’t buy our sixth place, or our eighth, or the top 10.
I will keep my response short and sweet. It wasn’t us Katie Prudent was calling talentless. She would pat us on the back and tell us to keep working. It’s the manicured, clean woman who climbs out of her Lexus SUV to pick up the reins of her six-figure import, to have a 45-minute lesson, and hand the reins back to climb back behind the wheel in the air conditioning and drive away.
To all my fellow broke, offended, amateurs, wipe away that offense. Katie Prudent wasn’t referencing you. She’s applauding you. She’s praising your drive to try to get there (even though we may not ever). She’s telling you that you are the roots of this sport for the rich, and without roots there would be no flower.
So throw your leg over another off-the-track Thoroughbred, muck a few more stalls to pay for that lesson. Ride through more bucks. You’ve got this.
Love, The Not-Talentless Amateur