Saturday, May. 25, 2024

Amateurs Like Us: Three Cheers For The (Professional) Adult Amateur

My alarm went off at 5:15 a.m. the other morning, and as I drug a brush through my hair and threw food into my dogs’ bowls, I began to wonder, why it is that I do this?  

While everyone else was enjoying a Sunday on the couch watching football, or doing a girls’ brunch with a mimosa, I was layering long underwear under my breeches in order to spend another frigid day at a winter schooling show.

PUBLISHED
CFedorka020316a.jpg

ADVERTISEMENT

My alarm went off at 5:15 a.m. the other morning, and as I drug a brush through my hair and threw food into my dogs’ bowls, I began to wonder, why it is that I do this?  

While everyone else was enjoying a Sunday on the couch watching football, or doing a girls’ brunch with a mimosa, I was layering long underwear under my breeches in order to spend another frigid day at a winter schooling show.

I drove to the barn in the dark, slurping coffee and listening to sad country songs. My high beams on, my truck and trailer the only rig on the back country roads to the barn. And as the caffeine began to seep into my veins, I started to feel the same adrenaline and enthusiasm that come along with every other morning like this. The excitement over the possibility of the perfect round, the perfect test, the flawless transition, or maybe even the simplest happiness—like observing a horse putting equal weight on all legs.

And I realized: THIS is why I do this. Not for the fame, not for the money (HA), but simply for the love of the horse.

That weekend I went to a local hunter/jumper show, and realized that not everyone is like me. Horses were warmed up by trainers, and handed off to competitors. Everyone had at least two people on the ground, and one to hold a crop or a blanket. And smiles were not exchanged as we trotted past each other; everyone was consumed by the drive to obtain that $3 ribbon. It didn’t seem like many others were in it for the love, at least, not the love of the horse.

I knocked a rail in warm-up and had to get off my 17-hand horse to put it back up even though 10 people stood around the fence.  It was no big deal, rather a small inconvenience, in which I took the chance to tighten my girth and check my horse’s boots.

But I asked someone about this phenomena, and she politely asked me who I was riding with, and where was my trainer? Why did I not have someone to set my fence? To hold my crop? To cool out my horse?  

ADVERTISEMENT

I stared dumbfounded at her, wondering what happened to the horse showing world. Where did the strong-willed, independent horseman go? The person who worked 9 to 5 all week just in order to be able to show on the weekend. The amateur.

And this got me to thinking—I am surrounded by some pretty amazing men and ladies. They are not only phenomenal riders, but more importantly, they are amazing horsemen. And do you know what they all have in common? They are all amateurs, like me, and yet devote their lives to these animals like professionals.

In my mind, these people are not any lesser of a horseman than a professional when I think of general animal health, or passion for the sport. In fact, at times, I believe that they actually love it more. They don’t have to be A Professional Rider to be The Most Professional Competitor. And they certainly don’t have to have stars next to their names or money in their bank accounts to be accomplished horsemen

These metaphorical professional amateurs are the first that I call when I need to ask for advice. They are the first to lend a hand at a show. They are the first person that I know I can count on after a bad ride or a bad day.

And they are the first I would reach out to if I ever needed help. They are usually the first person at the barn, and the last to leave. They are the one who knows that their horse is off three days before he takes a lame step.

They are the Amys of the world, who braid everyone else’s horse just to afford to show her own. Or the Sarahs, who ride in the dark at 6 a.m., just in order to work full-time to support her habit. Or the Leahs, who haul other peoples’ horses to Aiken just to get to train with a big name trainer.  

The Kellys, who wake up an hour early just to get her horse his second dose of SMZs. And I guess, they are me, the person who shows yearlings, body clips racehorses, and pulls manes just to afford the two events that I get to do every year.

ADVERTISEMENT

You can usually find these people at the shows quite easily. They are the ones smiling at their fellow competitors, whether they know them or not. They are scurrying to their friends trailers, holding a horse or lending a hand. They are sitting ringside at warm-up, giving thumb’s-up to their friends as they take a big oxer. 

They are sprinting to the stall to grab a medical armband or a crop. And they are high fiving their “competition” as they leave the ring while entering themselves.

And why are they like this, these mutant show people of the world? Well, it’s quite simple. They’re like this because they actually love it.

Every. Single. Moment. Of. It.

So at your next show, don’t look over at the lowly amateur, standing alone on the ringside, and judge her. Realize that that person has sacrificed so much of her life to be able to stand by that arena. And don’t think that just because she doesn’t have a famous last name, or is standing by a big name trainer, that she is any less than you.  

In fact, maybe, just maybe, she might actually be the best. The best at braiding a mane, the best at packing a trailer, the best at putting on a spider wrap, the best at pulling on a bell boot, and the best of all?

She might just become your biggest support system. Your biggest ally. Your biggest fan. Your best friend.

So I ask all of us—let’s not judge those amateurs. No no. Instead, let’s give three big cheers to the most passionate people I know. The ones that do it for the true love of the sport, and not the fame or the money. Because, quite honestly, these people are the most (professional) riders that I know.

When she is not riding her horses, Carleigh is a racing enthusiast, and helps her boyfriend on his own farm while also enjoying their two Labradors. She doesn’t like to admit it, but she is also an avid needlepointer and a closeted 80-year-old. You can read all of Carleigh’s COTH blogs here and more on her personal blog site, A Yankee In Paris.

ADVERTISEMENT

EXPLORE MORE

Follow us on

Sections

Copyright © 2024 The Chronicle of the Horse