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A Day in the Life of a Winning Amateur ...

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  • A Day in the Life of a Winning Amateur ...

    ... what does it look like? How much riding do you do in a week? How long do you ride? Are you moms, dads, students, middle class workers? What were or are your sacrafices? What's your story of success?

    Patience and Consistency are Your Friends

  • #2
    Define "winning"


    • Original Poster

      I am looking to hear from those who consistently place in the top three.

      Patience and Consistency are Your Friends


      • #4
        top 3 where? Schooling shows? regular shows?big shows? regionals? end of year USDF awards?
        RoseLane Sportponies
        Golden State - 2012 Bundeschampion & 2014 USDF Horse of the Year
        Golden West - 2014 & 2015 Bundeschampion Pony Stallion
        Petit Marc Aurel- FEI Dressage Pony Stallion


        • Original Poster

          Originally posted by honeylips View Post
          top 3 where? Schooling shows? regular shows?big shows? regionals? end of year USDF awards?
          All of the above.

          Patience and Consistency are Your Friends


          • #6
            There is a HUGE difference between placing Top 3 at a schooling show at Training level and placing Top 3 at Regionals at 3rd or 4th level. The time it GENERALLY takes to accomplish those 2 things are vastly different.

            I can take about any nice moving, well broke horse to a schooling show and get Top 3 at training level in my area. If the horse has a nice temperament and "7" gaits, I could probably do that just riding 2-3 times a week.

            NOT going to happen riding 2-3 times a week if I am trying to place Top 3 at Regionals at 3rd level.

            So, unless you narrow it down a little as far as what you mean, answers will probably be all over the place.


            • #7
              Sometimes in the top 3, perhaps if I showed a level lower, I would be getting higher ribbons, but I sometimes get the top 3.

              Now, for a day in the life....
              5:30-6:30am, get up, have coffee, waste time on internet/news sites.
              6:30a, grab beet pulp and go outside, grab first horse.
              7-8am, groom, tack up, ride, untack, wipe down
              8am-9, groom tack up, ride, untack,
              9am - should be sooner, but inevitably, I've wasted too much time, get the water buckets filled, speed walk to get the remaining horses (4) into the barn, throw their food at them.
              9:20a - race inside, stripping as I go, I'm super late. jump into the shower
              9:30am - wet hair into pony tail, inhale breakfast that saintly husband made for me, climb into car and drive to work.
              10-6 work...except I'm often late, so it is really until 7 most days.
              7:30pm, get home, run inside, change out of work clothes, run to barn and throw horses out.
              clean stalls
              put hay in stalls for next day
              blow aisle
              mix breakfast for next day
              scrub and dump water buckets
              9-9:30pm, go inside, make dinner
              10pm eat dinner while wasting time in the internet or visiting with husband.
              11-12...get to bed...likelihood of getting up earlier increases with going to bed earlier.

              read a bit in bed on Kindle, sleep less than I should, get up and start all over.

              Somedays, I'm too late to ride two in the morning, so I'll ride one in the am, one in the pm. Or I have an early meeting, so it is only one.

              I rode 502 times last year. I have 3 horses I ride. The other 3 are boarders.

              My goal is to earn USDF Rider medal scores. Not "win". Someone will always have nicer horses and a bigger show budget. I've gone to 11 USDF Licensed shows in the past 5 years (thanks Centerlinescores.com) and have my 1st and 2nd level scores.

              In the winter, the schedule is different and riding is usually 7x a week. Summer, 10-14x a week.

              This week, I did not ride on Monday.


              • #8
                I'm a pleeb. I work 40-45 hours at my primary job and I have my own company that I'm managing (so add another 10 hours). I have two horses, one going through the levels and one just starting his career.

                I ride six days a week, of that time four days are spent in the arena working and the other two are spent conditioning over hills. The young guy is played with just about everyday in some capacity.

                I go out and train once a month with my coach, and occasionally get help in town. I try to get on as many horses as I can, and when I'm out training I watch others. I show maybe once a month now.

                I have an extremely supportive SO and team behind these horses who want me to do this.
                It is rare to see a rider who is truly passionate about the horse and his training, taking a profound interest in dressage with self-abnegation, and making this extraordinarily subtle work one of the dominant motivations of his life.\"


                • #9

                  From my experience, every AA has their own "story" and no two are alike. that's what makes everyone's journey so interesting. I agree that every time we raise the bar in terms of quality and level of difficulty, the time, effort, and money required to be consistantly in the "top three" is exponentially larger....but that's true whether you are a pro or AA.

                  I have been blessed with more than my fair share of success as an AA, both in national shows and CDIs, while balancing the usual job (actually two), volunteer activites, daily radio broadcasts, and other stuff (not married, no kids). I have learned that to navigate the juggling act well, I need to be crystal clear about my priorities (horses do not come first believe it or not), have excellent time management skills, maintain good physical fitness/suppleness, have a support team that is willing to help out when I get overwhelmed, and a sense of humor. It also helps if you have flexible hours at work, a short commute to the barn, and don't need much sleep....and you have to be OK with not doing everything well.

                  I wrote an article in Dressage Today that was published in April 2010 about what it was like to try to qualify for the USEF Int-1 National Champs at Gladstone as an AA. If you have access to DT's archives, you might find it interesting.

                  I'd love to hear more about how others have managed the AA balancing act.


                  • #10
                    Interesting post, I hope more people reply. SaddleFitterVA, if you don't mind- what level(s) are you competing at?

                    Curious to hear as I have a hard time just riding 4-5 times a week between a full-time job, a husband and a kid. I realize what I put into it isn't enough for competitive success, so I have often wondered what is.


                    • Original Poster

                      Papony I look forward to reading the article.
                      Swgarasu I'm in the boat with you. I ride 4 days a week, work full time, married with two kids and I will be back to school at the end of August. I desperatly want to be competitive at shows but the 4 days a week doesn't seem to be cutting it. I am increasing my riding to six days for the remainder of the summer but I don't think I will be able to keep this up when school starts.
                      I love to hear from all levels of riders so please share

                      Patience and Consistency are Your Friends


                      • #12
                        Well again, I guess it really depends on what you consider as "winning" and being competitive. I own and ride several horses; so, the amount I ride varies. The horses I compete are ridden anywhere from 4 to 5 times a week (each). I work full-time, 50-60 hours a week (I'm on call 24/7). I am married and have two children though since they've become teenagers they are much more help now. Fortunately for me both of my kids ride/show too. I've been in the top 3 at USDF Regional championships for both 2nd and 3rd level with this type of schedule. I've earned several Dover medals with this type of schedule. I've earned my bronze with this type of schedule and won at PSG. However, the shows I attend are local recognized shows consisting of 2 - 6 rings and not CDIs; so, I'm not sure I really meet your definition of successful. It is enough for me in the sense that I'm very happy with my horses, my progress and plan to continue. I train my own from the ground on up; but, again I meet the USEF definition of an amateur. Currently I am competing two horses, my stallion at training level and one of my section Cs at second level. I have had up to 6 actively going under saddle at one time where I was the sole or primary rider. In the fall I will be back up to 4 that I am riding/training regularly; so, currently my riding schedule seems a bit light with just the two. Still I spend a lot of time in the saddle overall, riding at night after work and during the day on my days off. We keep our horses at home; so, riding is juggled with chores and work. I also workout - weights and running and have spent a few miles at the end of the lounge line sans stirrups and reins. My version of success has been limited primarily by my own lack of natural talent and money. I do not fit in the ranks of papony or honeylips; but, I feel I have managed some reasonable and positive progress with my riding since switching to dressage with the more typical bumps in the road that most amateurs face.
                        Ranch of Last Resort


                        • #13
                          I have been showing 2nd level this year. I think I'm done showing for this year. I have my 2nd level scores, so I'll spend my money on lessons and clinics until I'm ready to show at 3rd.


                          • #14
                            I've done the USDF Regional Championships as an AA over the years and placed well at Training, First, Second,Third and PSG. This has been on a TB, DWB, and Friesian. The TB and Friesian I trained, the DWB was a schoolmaster. Only one horse at a time. Horses kept at home. Also earned my bronze. Married, working full time self employed, one child. For me, riding 5-6 days a week, with lessons with a good instructor twice a month. Occasional clinics too. Having my husband video me helps too. Keeping in shape with other forms of exercise like biking and working out. I just love dressage education and love to go to audit clinics, read books and watch my other friends have lessons. I also went through the L program.
                            Friesians Rule !!


                            • #15
                              While every AA's story is different - all of the successful ones that I have heard start early in the morning, end late at night, have food stuffed in face for at least one meal, and include a flexible work situation.


                              • #16
                                I don't have flex-time and work a job with "lower middle income" pay.

                                I get up at 4:30 to feed horses, dogs and cats. Shower, eat breakfast.

                                At 6:30 I'm in the office - there until 4:00, sometimes as late as 6PM.

                                Go home, ride 4 days/week. I have 22 acres so I also tend the land in small "bites" otherwise it's overwhelming.

                                I live in a remote, dressage-unfriendly area, so I haul 3 hours (one way) to a trainer every other weekend for lessons.

                                I'm showing at 2nd level and are qualified for Regionals at 2nd Level and 2nd Level Freestyle this year. Last year I went to Regionals at 1st level but did not place in the top 10. I did get Reserve Champ AA for All-Breeds SWB at 1st Level.


                                • #17
                                  For those who work and ride . . . who does the laundry, grocery shopping, banking, dry cleaners, cooks dinner, children's activities etc. in your house? I don't get it, how can you have quality of life when you're rushing from one event to another on a daily basis? I would be exhausted after a month, not to mention a riding a broom, not a horse.

                                  SaddleFitter, I read your post twice, when do you have "real" time with your husband? Go to a movie, out to dinner, socialize with friends or family? Weekend vacation? I'm not being judgemental, just trying to understand. I love my horse life, and work in a family business, but balance is everything to me.

                                  For those who lead this life, did you sit down with your spouse and divide duties? Did you explain your passion and ask them to help share the work load in order to fulfill your dream? My husband is supportive, but would never throw away his sailing hobby so I could compete. He would think it's all one-sided. He would also never bring home the paycheck, so I could ride and compete my horse. I would have to contribute to the equation.

                                  This post is soooo interesting, I am curious how others respond. Good thread.
                                  "You gave your life to become the person you are right now. Was it worth it?" Richard Bach


                                  • #18
                                    As for me, I am an amateur and I work full time (professional) and train my own horse with a weekly lesson. I have trained the horse from about 90 to 120 days (w/t/c but no balance and no halt) to schooling grand prix in 5.5 years. The horse is 11 and we just did our first recognized I1 and scored 62.6%. We have won numerous year end awards, regionally and also nationally. I have my bronze and silver medals, earned on my self-trained horse.

                                    What it takes is six days a week, consistent riding and training, never accepting anything less than the best effort, having excellent instruction so you know what is correct and taking responsibility for my own and my horse's fitness. In my case, I learned the levels on a schoolmaster and stayed in full training for four years to learn the levels. The current horse, I bought as a foal and imported at age 5, but she had not been ridden much before I imported her.

                                    A day is pretty typical, and I am self employed (attorney) so I have some flexibility. Generally I work all day (am able to largely work out of my home office and only occassionally go into my official office), and then leave for the barn between 5:30 and 6 p.m. (it is a large metro area and the later I leave, the better I avoid traffic). It takes me 45 minutes + to get to the barn and I usually arrive around 7ish. I groom horse and put her massage pad on, then pick her stall and refill her hay bag and water buckets and make her an after ride mash (with electrolytes and msm), get tack out, and put boots on. I am on her by 8 and I ride for at least an hour, sometimes an hour and a half, depending on what she needs. I walk for 15 minutes to start as she's been standing in the stall. The horse has daily turnout in a small paddock, but comes in at 1 p.m., and ideally I would ride her twice a day (once a hack) but life is not ideal. So about 9:30, I am off the horse, she is untacked hosed down and gets ice boots on for a half hour while I clean the tack, put it away, check her supplements stock, clean up after ourselves (it's a boarding barn), clean the arena. Then horse gets her mash (as well as a bucket of carrots). I am on the road by 11:00, sometimes earlier. Usually home by 11:30 - midnight. This is every day during the week. Monday is her day off and that day, she gets handwalked, a full body massage, and my IceHorse continuous flow treatment to her legs.

                                    On Saturdays, I have my lesson mid-day. The last two years, I trailered out for them and it was an all day thing; this year, I am back in a boarding situation where my coach can help me here. After my lesson, the horse gets an IceHorse treatment and hand grazing. I also do things on Saturdays, like wash the exercise boots, saddle pads, etc. Sundays is my last training ride of the week.

                                    Horse shows require that I take days off from work. I usually leave on a Thursday and return Sunday, but I'll take Wednesday through Monday off as there is so much prep and cleanup work to a show, and I'm usually staying in a hotel and have loads of laundrey after. Because I am by myself usually, I am exhausted and worthless the following Monday. So I try not to do more than four shows a year, and a couple of schooling show efforts early in the season (usually one day gmo shows, to try out a new level).

                                    I know other amateurs who don't work, but have to work their riding around their kids' schedules; other amateurs who don't work and have full training and lots of help. That is not my life; I have to earn a living. I decided years and years ago that I wanted to ride and train my own horse. I cut back on my professional work to do so (I work about 30 to 40 hours a week instead of 70) and consequently, I cannot afford the level of help that other people get to arrive at this point. If I returned to a 70 hour work week, there is no way that I could do what I do and I'd be back to full training, but I could afford a second horse coming up. I just wouldn't enjoy it as much as I do when doing all the work myself.

                                    I cannot explain the satisfaction, but it is such joy, I have received training my horse up the levels. She learned one tempis this past winter and we are working on piaffe and passage. When she learns something new it is the biggest high in the world for me. And I also enjoy the relationship I have with her, doing all her riding and care myself.

                                    I could not do this without an excellent coach. I am very lucky that way. What I would add to my life, if I could, is some form of aerobic exercise outside of the horses, but I simply do not have time.

                                    I spend all of my vacation time (and money) on the horse and shows, so I don't really have too much going on (friends and family aside) outside of my dressage endeavors. I used to really miss some of my old interests, but when you work full time, you are lucky if you have time to do any hobby. I think about my dad, who worked a professional job his entire life, and really didn't have time for much else. I work in time to go to dinner, movies, whatever, with friends. I have to admit though that most of my current circle of friends are also dressage riders.


                                    • #19
                                      My "winnings" - I went almost a whole year undefeated at 2nd level, and with the exception of our last show with our debut at 3rd, my horse has won a High Score prize at every show since I got him as a 7 year old in 2004. I don't show every year do to his injuries, but I think that's more than 10 high scores. We have won Training level and First level Regional Champs (as a YR) and were 11th in the nation at 2nd level in 08 as amatuer (missed the last 3 years for injury). Just got the Bronze medal last weekend.

                                      I get up at 4:45am
                                      Drive 30 minutes to barn
                                      Feed, tack up, Ride, finish one horse by 7:30
                                      Drive home, shower, change
                                      Be at work by 8:30
                                      Work for insurance company 8:30 to 5
                                      Drive to barn
                                      Feed horses (own a boarding barn, I have someone help with morning chores, evenings and weekends are all me)
                                      Either ride the other two horses, or sometimes trailer my young ottb eventer out to a jumping lesson (45 min away)
                                      Mow/Repair Farm
                                      Leave by 9ish
                                      Home, shower by 9:30

                                      This would be a very busy day, I usually do this a couple times a week.

                                      I don't ride every AM, but I do ride every PM and 3 a day on weekends if not showing.


                                      • #20
                                        hahaha I don't fit into the definition in which OP requests, meaning, consistently winning top three, and yet, I kind of leading the life others have posted. Sad, huh?

                                        I can't remember the last time we went to a movie, or shopping, or dinner. I tend to make two pilgrim trips to mall a year and that is it (I really really hate shopping). Weekend or vacation? All my vacations are used trailering to one clinic after another. Training IS my vacation. Cooking? I cook one "HUGE" meal on weekend, which is then consumed throughout the week so I don't have to cook on weekdays.

                                        The thing is, I don't particularly like movies, and hate shopping. Dinner? marginally tolerable to me.

                                        I have to admit though, I'm blessed with an extremely supportive husband (bless his heart), have no children, and have a somehow flexible work schedule.