Friday, Apr. 19, 2024

Amateurs Form The Backbone Of Our Sport

Let’s make sure that amateurs receive the respect they deserve in the sport.

In my last Between Rounds column (May 2, p. 30), I focused on the seat in my article “The Seat Is The Foundation Of Dressage.” As part of that article I mentioned the amateur bracket of competitors/enthusiasts in our equestrian world and challenged them to work on their dressage seat.

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Let’s make sure that amateurs receive the respect they deserve in the sport.

In my last Between Rounds column (May 2, p. 30), I focused on the seat in my article “The Seat Is The Foundation Of Dressage.” As part of that article I mentioned the amateur bracket of competitors/enthusiasts in our equestrian world and challenged them to work on their dressage seat.

With that challenge in mind, in this column I’d like to recognize amateurs and their importance in the sport of dressage.

Let me first point out that it frustrates me when the amateurs say that they feel as though they’re a classification below the professionals or the “big-time riders” and their sponsors.

I don’t believe our sport has classes of people or tiers of people; I think we’re all the same, and it takes all of us to bring this sport the prominent attention it gains and deserves. And in no small way, the amateurs are an extremely important part.

For example, I just finished a clinic with Michael Klimke at our training center in Maryland where an amateur asked a question about how to work on her seat. I believe amateurs are sometimes insecure about working on themselves by themselves and are often afraid to ask questions from professionals, such as Michael Klimke. This shouldn’t be the case.

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And, as another example, just a few weeks ago I heard another rider say, “I hope you never get too busy for us folks,” meaning the amateurs.

Within our sport, the amateurs contribute so much. I realize that many of us are aware of what the amateurs do, but it’s imperative that the amateurs feel important and a part of the whole in all facets of the sport. If an amateur has an opinion about something, it’s equally as important as anyone else’s opinion, and I think it’s extremely important that we keep it this way.

The amateurs actually make up the largest bracket in our sport in competition. And probably our largest volunteer base comes from the amateurs as well. Those new to the sport or who become involved later in life are most often in the amateur ranks.

Sometimes the amateurs put too much pressure on themselves and believe they’re not important. As a result, I think professionals should take it upon themselves to strive to include the amateurs in every part of the sport. We professionals need to be especially cognizant to recognize their feelings and not treat them as a separate tier but instead inspire them in all aspects of dressage. We’re here to help them. We’re here to keep them involved.

I think our current system does a terrific job in addressing the needs of amateurs in the sport. The U.S. Dressage Federation and the group member organizations provide tremendous recognition for amateurs in awards and other different programs.

But I don’t think it ever hurts for professionals to focus on including amateurs in the limelight. Many professionals were amateurs before they made the choice to focus on horses as a profession, so it’s important to remember how it felt, that an amateur can feel just as proud of his or her accomplishments
no matter the level. And these riders have the right, as anyone else does, for anything we have to offer in this sport.

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The more we can focus on this, then the more engaged, involved and inclusive we become. I think there’s a tendency for dressage to appear a little bit unapproachable.

We must be careful to remember that because of the attire it looks formal and may not appear inclusive, comfortable and friendly. For the benefit of our sport we have to be sure to keep dressage fun and inspiring.
Jumping and eventing have a bit more of an advantage because these two sports are more fun, a little less
formal and a little bit less subjective.

The scoring is generally easier for amateurs to understand, and you can usually get a more measurable result than dressage offers.

We must be careful to remember this perception and ensure that these riders don’t feel defeated or uncomfortable, especially when they’re new to the sport. Dressage is an inclusive sport, and we need to include anyone who has a passion for this sport.

In all equestrian sport, our amateur base is vitally important. It’s important that our amateurs remain secure in their position and that professionals remember to keep amateurs inspired, to value the time they contribute and appreciate what they bring to the sport.

Scott Hassler


Scott Hassler, the National Young Horse Dressage Coach, resides in Chesapeake City, Md., and has trained many horses to Grand Prix. The U.S. Dressage Federation Sport Horse Committee chairman since 2001, he helped establish the sport/breeding record-keeping system now active in the USDF and U.S. Equestrian Federation. He began writing Between Rounds columns in 2005.

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