The USEF Regulation Department reviewed a selection of common questions that flood their inbox for The Chronicle. Note: each of the scenarios assumes that all other qualifications for amateur certification have been met.
Q: I’m a 19-year-old working student who does barn work and hacks customers’ horses around the farm to keep them fit. I do not get paid cash; I do get free lessons, board and housing in exchange for my work. Am I an amateur?
A: No, your exchange for lessons, board, and housing is considered remuneration. Pursuant to Chapter 13, GR1306.2, you could do so if you were on an internship from an accredited university.
Q: I occasionally show a friend’s horse in the low hunters to give it some miles. She pays my entry fees and stabling. I do not show any other horses at the show. Am I an amateur?
A: Yes, you are permitted to compete horses and have the expenses for the horse paid for (or reimbursed to you) if you are otherwise qualified pursuant to Chapter 13, GR1306.1.
Q: I gallop racehorses two mornings a week for a small amount of money in order to round out my equestrian education. Am I an amateur?
A: No, the amateur rules do not separate disciplines. If you are being paid to ride horses, then you are considered a professional.
Q: I teach two beginner riding lessons a week. Am I an amateur?
A: No. If you receive remuneration for these activities, then you are a professional.
Q: I volunteer teaching riding lessons to inner city kids. Am I an amateur?
A: As long as you are receiving no remuneration, you may maintain amateur status; however, as always we warn about the perception of teaching lessons, and suggest you have information available validating your volunteer activities.
Q: I teach therapeutic riding lessons. Am I am amateur?
A: Yes, pursuant to Chapter 13, GR1306.1b, you may give instruction and training to the handicapped.
Q: I’m a 19-year-old college student who just got a job teaching beginner riding lessons at a summer camp this June. Am I an amateur? Explain the “summer camp exception.”
A: The exception that you are referring to is in Chapter 13, GR1306.1b, which allows for persons acting as counselors at summer camp who are not hired in the exclusive capacity of riding instructors and are permitted to maintain amateur status as long as they are otherwise qualified within Chapter 13, GR1306. In this case, the student cannot maintain amateur status because he or she is being hired in the capacity of a riding instructor. The intention of this rule is to allow counselors, who also teach arts and crafts, swimming, or have numerous duties at a camp to be able work in a summer camp without jeopardizing their status.
Q: In my spare time I ride sales horses and hack friends’ horses for them around the farm. I do not get paid, reimbursed or receive any gifts for this. Am I an amateur?
A: Yes, as long as there is no other financial connection to this friend.
Q: I am taking some time off from riding after an injury and am leasing out my horse, effectively making a profit. Do I lose my amateur status? What if it’s a “free lease,” i.e., someone else rides the horse and pays his bills?
A: Leasing out a horse does not affect your status as an amateur, as long as you are otherwise qualified pursuant to Chapter 13, GR1306.
Q: I own a busy boarding barn. I hired a trainer to run a lesson program and take lessons from him. Am I an amateur?
A: Yes, you may maintain amateur status and own a boarding stable. You are permitted to take lessons from the trainer on your horses; however, please be aware that pursuant to Chapter 13, GR1306.1f, you cannot ride, drive, show, etc., any of the horses that are boarded at your facility or for whom your trainer trains through your facility.
Q: I am employed by Mrs. Smith as a bookkeeper/baby-sitter/personal assistant. May I show a horse owned by her? She is not paying me to ride her horse specifically.
A: No, pursuant to Chapter 13, GR1306.1c, an amateur cannot accept remuneration in another capacity and ride, drive, show, etc., any horse owned, boarded, or trained by the employer (payer) or any member of their family or corporation owned or controlled by them.
Q: I braided/shod/clipped Mrs. Smith’s horse one time this year. May I show a horse owned by her? She is not paying me to ride her horse specifically.
A: If you are not currently receiving remuneration for the activity and will not receive such in the near future, then it should not be an issue, but as stated in the Federation’s introduction in this matter, should a protest or charge be filed, it would be up to the Hearing Committee to note the payments and financial relationship of the individuals.
Q: Can I groom, braid or clip and still be an amateur?
A: You could do the above, but not ride, drive, show, train any horses owned by the payer.
Q: I am a veterinarian/farrier/equine chiropractor. Am I an amateur?
Q: I am the office manager/barn manager of a large show stable. Am I an amateur?
A: Yes, you may maintain amateur status, but, as stated above, pursuant to Chapter 13, GR1306.1c, an amateur cannot accept remuneration in another capacity and ride, drive, show, etc., any horse owned, boarded, or trained by the employer (payer) or any member of their family or corporation owned or controlled by them.
Q: I photograph/write about horses professionally. Am I an amateur?
A: Yes, as long as you are otherwise qualified pursuant to Chapter 13, GR1306.
Q: May I accept commission on a horse?
A: It depends on who owns the horse. Pursuant to Chapter 13, GR1306.1h, you cannot act as an agent in the sale of horses or receive a commission on the sale or lease of horses that are not owned or owned in part by you or a member of your family.
Q: I bought a young horse, worked with him for a year and sold him for a profit. Am I an amateur? How many horses may one sell a year and still be an amateur?
A: As stated above, you may sell your own horses (or those owned in part by you). There is no limit to the horses you may sell.
Q: May I have an LLC and still be an amateur?
Q: I teach Pony Club. Am I an amateur?
A: If you receive remuneration, then you are a professional.
Q: I am a USEF judge. Am I an amateur?
Q: I teach mid-level dressage and decided to try my hand at eventing. May I enter an amateur division?
A: No, the amateur rules do not separate disciplines. If you are receiving remuneration for professional activities as defined in Chapter 13, GR1306, then you are considered a professional in all disciplines with the Federation.
Q: I have a sponsor. Am I an amateur? What may I not do?
A: No, you may not have sponsors and maintain amateur status. There are exceptions for young riders competing in the championship competition; however, in all other cases, pursuant to Chapter 13, GR1306.1d, an amateur is not permitted to accept sponsorships in connection with their association as an equestrian and the promotion of a company and/or its products.
Q: I have a website advertising my riding and training. Am I an amateur?
A: If this is a personal website where you are simply showing your accomplishments as a rider and do not have any sponsors and you do not advertise for any services on the website then it would not affect your amateur status. If you offer any professional services as defined in Chapter 13, GR1306.1, then you could not hold amateur status. If you are using your personal connection as a horseperson to promote products or services, then again, you could not hold amateur status.
Q: I have been riding a friend’s horse for free for a year, with the promise that when she sells the horse she will give me a percentage of the purchase price. Am I an amateur?
A: Technically you would be receiving remuneration (eventually) for your riding of the horse and thus, no, once you accept the money you would not be considered an amateur.
Q: I do barn work in exchange for board for my horse. Am I an amateur?
A: As long as the barn work is not included in Chapter 13, GR1306.1 as a professional activity, then you could remain an amateur.
Read more about how the amateur rule works in the article “Confused About Amateur Rules?“
Please be advised that this office only gives advisory opinions, not binding opinions, regarding the rules. Ultimately, when a protest or charge is brought to the Federation, it is the Federation Hearing Committee that applies facts and circumstances to the relevant rules and determines whether or not the facts constitute a violation of the rules.
The Federation is often asked to provide guidance regarding the rules, and we do try to be of assistance when the rules seem to have clear application to a described situation. It should be noted, however, that the opinion expressed by a Federation staff member, of any capacity, would not be binding on the Hearing Committee.
There are often many varying circumstances behind each person’s status, and it is difficult to make a definite determination on a person’s status if the Federation does not have all the relevant information regarding the matter.
If anyone has questions about his or her status or would like to have a clarification on the specifics of their situation to stay in compliance with the rules, we recommend that he or she send an e-mail to email@example.com, where we can take the facts of the situation and make a determination with the facts provided, if he or she would be considered an amateur or professional.