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Divergent Paths

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  • Divergent Paths

    For those of you that chose to pursue your passion for riding and competing through means other than making horses your profession, tell me about your journey. I'm not talking to the traditional adult amateur, but the riders out there with big goals who decided the financial demands of the sport were better met through income provided by career other than riding and training horses.

    I decided very early that I didn't want riding to be my job and competing to just be a goal. I refused to let my passion become a burden. I didn't come from a horsey family but have always known that riding and competing was and is a very serious priority. In a way, I'm incredibly thankful that this was something I understood before I was truly ready to understand it. I'm financially independent with an enviable career that has been meticulously planned for a very long time, with my riding goals the axis of that planning. I've worked very hard to set myself up with a career that can fund my goals and also provides the flexibility I know I need. That doesn't mean I can head out to the barn whenever I choose, but it does mean that I can be there once a day (albeit often at 5:30 AM) to get the rides in I need to be competitive while not going broke in the process.

    Now in my early 30's, I'm understanding that my peers in the sport almost exclusively do this full-time. They work hard, they ride 10 horses a day, and they struggle financially;but, they are taken seriously. I choose a different path than they did, but we have the same goals. We can ride the same horses, produce the same results. Our skills are on par, but I'm starting to feel like a dollar sign for a lot of the trainers I've worked with because they know I'm not a struggling up-and-coming trainer.

    For those of you that took the fork in the road that I did, how do you fight the perception that you're just another AA out there doing this as a hobby?


  • #2
    You *are* an adult amateur out there doing this as a hobby. It is not your profession.

    Whether people take you seriously or not is an entirely separate issue.

    But I understand where you're coming from. I took a similar path to you. Had a great career, but that never dimmed how seriously I took the horses. I bought my own farm and always kept the horses at home. I did my own thing at shows and slowly brought my horses up the levels, and really wasn't satisfied until I got into the FEI classes. Maybe it's because I've kept myself surrounded with good horsemen (and have mostly stepped away from those who aren't), but I haven't ever felt that people didn't take me seriously. But I do think how seriously they take you correlates more closely to the level you ride at than it would if you were a serious pro. I think having the horses as a career makes people more willing to give you the benefit of the doubt.

    I do struggle sometimes talking to my trainer friends about things - e.g. the cost of the industry and the cost of showing because everything they do is paid for by their clients. Or the number of shows they go to (again, dictated by their clients, not their own checkbooks). In many ways I feel like I straddle both worlds (ammy and pro) and don't quite fit in either.

    Back to your post, I also hear from my trainer friends that other trainers treat them the same way they treat adult ammies. Whether it's through clinics, the help they give at shows to the young trainers, or horse sales situations, I think that what you're talking about affects pretty much everyone at every level.

    I guess my question for you is, if your skills are on a par with a trainer then why are you relying heavily on trainers? I've worked with many trainers over the years. Some treat every single person they work with like an ATM machine. Others are entirely respectful regardless of your bank account. But at the end of the day, you are good enough to run your own program, then do it. That takes a lot of that element out of it. I would rather prove my worth with my riding and my horses than try to tell people what I can do. And maybe that's because I've always been an "ammy in a pro's world" and gave up on trying to explain it many years ago?
    __________________________________
    Flying F Sport Horses
    Horses in the NW

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    • #3
      Obviously not all horse pros are riding, competing, at a high level. There are lots of pros that maxed out at two foot nine and are teaching beginner kiddie lessons, or who competed higher for a few years, then gave up competing to make an income bringing along their students. So it's not that all pros are riding better or competing higher than all ammies.

      But it is true that at whatever level you analyze, the difference is that the pros have got to a place where other people will pay them to teach and train. And if someone is actually making a living from being a horse pro, that's quite an achievement. Lots of coaches are part time, especially at the lower levels.

      OP, you note that the pros ride ten horses a day. Do you hold down an "enviable career" and also ride ten horses a day? It's something about the sheer amount of experience and responsibility that good pros take on *in order to become good* that gives them strong problem solving skills, etc.

      I would say that if you are doing your own training and then competing in Open rather than Amatuer divisions and consistently beating the better pros in your area, people will take you seriously.

      But what does "take you seriously" mean? What is it you want from the trainers that would change if you were an aspiring pro? You don't have the inclination or the free time to be a working student or a catch rider or a junior coach, all the ways that young pros get rides on good horses that they don't own or pay bills for. You either pay with apprenticeship labor, or you pay with the cash from your enviable career.


      Comment


      • #4
        Not sure what you mean by "taken seriously". Winning generally speaks for itself. Pros need to make a living so ammys need to support them. It's the way the economy works.

        It hurts my heart to write checks for services, so I built a fantastic facility and partner with an amazing trainer. I haven't stopped to wonder if the horse community takes me seriously. I'm not sure if I take me seriously.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Benchmark View Post
          For those of you that chose to pursue your passion for riding and competing through means other than making horses your profession, tell me about your journey. I'm not talking to the traditional adult amateur, but the riders out there with big goals who decided the financial demands of the sport were better met through income provided by career other than riding and training horses...

          ...For those of you that took the fork in the road that I did, how do you fight the perception that you're just another AA out there doing this as a hobby?
          Know what you mean but going by how you worded this, you are complaining about being looked down upon for being an AA yet you seem to be looking down upon the " normal AA" yourself.

          IMO, no matter the experience level, there is a HUGE difference between having to make decisions based on your business and financial survival versus a hobby activity. The pressures of being a full time Pro mean the decisions are often very different then the decision of an AA or part time Pro with outside income has to make.
          When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

          The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.

          Comment


          • #6
            There are many a horse professional who *I* do not take seriously. What you do for a living is irrelevant. Hell I was a damn good rider when all I did was ride...10+ a day. I'm still a better rider than most even though I am older and more out of shape and only riding 1-3 a day.

            If you have "trainers" who are suppose to be helping you not taking you and your goals seriously.....then change who you get help from. As to rest....I could care less what others think.

            My trainers all know what I'm capable of...and a few have higher goals for my riding than I do ....as I really could careless about competing. But most good horsemen/women don't care or notice if someone gets a pay check as a horse professional or other ways. The horse most certainly doesn't know. They just know if you are a good rider and trainer.
            ** Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip. ~Winston Churchill? **

            Comment


            • #7
              I understand and deal with some of this myself.
              I started out pursuing a full-time career riding and teaching. In college, I built up a small program of about 15-students, took on some client horses, and we traveled on a local circuit, while I funded my competition expenses of my one upper-level horse. Upon graduating I took my dream riding position in Area II, with my dream horse, and a few months in was lonely, depressed, and quit. I think there was a turning point for me where I had to decide do I want my life to look like the path of a band of students, clients' horses, and running the barn, or do I want to take on a job that would allow me to compete my own horse on a much larger stage plus the advantages of a semi-normal family/social life. And I chose the latter, among other reasons.

              Now almost four years after, still in my 20s, I have successfully negotiated an amazing job, that allows me to do this. But I'm in a strange similar limbo. I do have one additional horse funded by an owner, some small, comparatively, sponsors but in no-way is riding my full-time job.I am overall so, so, so much happier and fulfilled doing this, than when I was "in" the riding realm. But, there are several times I do feel a tinge of jealousy, or at least insecurity, at the barn or on social media. I chose to train in an upper-level program that has a history of producing upper-level riders. But, in these barns I do feel almost out of place in that there are two classes of riders that I don't seem to find myself in: juniors still funded by their parents and older adult amateurs who are more advanced in their careers/family. I also work on the weekends at the barn, which means most of the barn only sees me in my muddy boots mucking stalls not the early/late hours I ride during the week, and I do sometimes wish I could raise my hand and say, "Hey, I wear pencil skirts and heels in the week and negotiate overseas deals!" to substantiate that I'm somehow a successful and accomplished citizen. But, that's very, very, petty, and at the end of the day I'd rather be a little under-estimated.

              For me, my advice is surround yourself with trainers and people that build you up. My barn is very competitive, but in an atmosphere where we all want each other to succeed. We all want each other to win, and if one wins it feels like the team has won. Don't surround yourself with pettiness or those that put you down. You can't change the values of others, but you can resonate in what makes you happy and do that. And at the end of the day, I think most people aren't even thinking about you, or your status/job, it's just in our head. So keep up your hard work. You've got this.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by AskMyAccountant.17 View Post
                I also work on the weekends at the barn, which means most of the barn only sees me in my muddy boots mucking stalls not the early/late hours I ride during the week, and I do sometimes wish I could raise my hand and say, "Hey, I wear pencil skirts and heels in the week and negotiate overseas deals!" to substantiate that I'm somehow a successful and accomplished citizen.
                Don't you love that about the barn, though? One of the best things about the horses is that they don't care if you negotiate overseas deals, or if you hold the keys to a city, or if you manage a team of a hundred other people. They care that you bring them their breakfast on time, that they have a deep bed to tuck into at night, and that you are empathetic and responsive when you ride. As others have said, they also don't care where your paycheque comes from, or if the jumps you aim them at have two *s or four on the little signs.

                In my experience, one of the reasons many people who spend their "other lives" negotiating deals overseas love to enter the horse world is because they want to be treated truly and honestly. Humans will see your business card and start blowing smoke every which way in pursuit of many a motive, but the horses (and the other people alongside you in the muddy boots) will treat you based on the sum of your parts on that day - and maybe a little on previously demonstrated work ethic. At the barn, as on your deathbed, the rest of that crap just doesn't matter. I love that there is a place to remind me of that

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by findeight View Post

                  Know what you mean but going by how you worded this, you are complaining about being looked down upon for being an AA yet you seem to be looking down upon the " normal AA" yourself.

                  IMO, no matter the experience level, there is a HUGE difference between having to make decisions based on your business and financial survival versus a hobby activity. The pressures of being a full time Pro mean the decisions are often very different then the decision of an AA or part time Pro with outside income has to make.
                  I don't when adult amateur became a bad word. I am not sure what a "traditional adult amateur" is and what sets them apart from the non-traditional amateur. I also don't understand why its important to be taken seriously by the pros in the industry.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Last edited by bornfreenowexpensive; Dec. 3, 2018, 04:57 PM.
                    ** Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip. ~Winston Churchill? **

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Yes, good points.

                      But of course all the younger "pros" the OP will be running into are also in the same dilemma of to a large extent basing their sense of self worth on the amount of "respect" or "recognition" they get from those around them. Ideally respect and recognition shouldn't be a zero sum game, and among experienced adults it isn't . But in reality, especially with young women who don't yet have very much on their resumes, it very much is a zero sum game, and if I respect you, then I assume you don't respect me. But if you don't respect me, then I don't respect myself. So I have to move fast to show that I don't respect you first, because that will make me a better rider in the eyes of the world. Or something like that.

                      Not specific to milennials, just to all adolescents who don't have enough on their resumes that their accomplishments speak for themselves.

                      The way you get around this is to concentrate on doing your own thing, taking responsibility for your own advancement, and not trying to constantly feel out if you are being "respected" or not. And if you get blown off by a junior pro, just remind yourself that you are making a good salary indoors (I assume) and have money to do anything you want, and the junior pro is going to be crippled with arthritis and working in a convenience store in 15 years when her horsey dreams run their course and end. Or whatever flavor of schadenfreude floats your boat.

                      The point being, the young pros who look like such a unified force from the outside are all doing the same fake it til you make it, I won't respect you first, game of uneasy one upmanship that the OP thinks they are only directing at her,

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Benchmark View Post
                        (snip)

                        Now in my early 30's, I'm understanding that my peers in the sport almost exclusively do this full-time. They work hard, they ride 10 horses a day, and they struggle financially;but, they are taken seriously. I choose a different path than they did, but we have the same goals. We can ride the same horses, produce the same results. Our skills are on par, but I'm starting to feel like a dollar sign for a lot of the trainers I've worked with because they know I'm not a struggling up-and-coming trainer.

                        For those of you that took the fork in the road that I did, how do you fight the perception that you're just another AA out there doing this as a hobby?
                        Reading this, I get the impression that you think pros are throwing more opportunities, more "freebies" etc to those aspiring pros/working student types, while they expect you, as a working amateur with a big job, to pay the freight for every lesson/ride/clinic/show. And if that is the case, well... I'm here to tell you that you are correct. They are absolutely doing that. But it's not a show of disrespect; it is the way this business works from an industry perspective and to some extent it is a function of the informal apprenticeship type of model that we have in this sport.

                        Most pros rely on amateur clients to pay the bills and as you know, the margins aren't typically particularly lucrative. As someone with a day job, you ARE a dollar sign to the professionals you work with. Just as your clients are to you in whatever business you happen to be in. Other "up and coming" pros may trade work or rides or whatever... there is always an informal network out there and that certainly does present opportunities that you, as someone working outside the sport, won't be offered. And you likely won't see the give and take that goes on in those relationships. (Most of them would perhaps envy the ability you have to write those checks, have an day/evening off/paid vacation/health insurance etc that you do.)

                        There is nothing wrong or lesser about being an amateur; it's just different.
                        **********
                        We move pretty fast for some rabid garden snails.
                        -PaulaEdwina

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Well, first I think the best way to fight the perception that you are doing this just as a hobby is to achieve your goals by being competitive in high level open competition.

                          Second, if the people you are paying to work with you are making you feel like a $ sign rather than a person with serious competitive ambitions and the ability to achieve them, maybe they are not the right people to be the recipients of your hard earned money - or maybe a frank conversation is in order. Do the people you are paying really believe you have what it takes (both in terms of ability and horsepower) to achieve your stated goals? I think it happens at all levels that a horse pro is only too happy to keep cashing checks rather than have a frank conversation.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I think most people in the horse world have a bit of imposter syndrome going on. And whether we are treated more like pros or amateurs has as much to do with what we believe ourselves to be as it does how full-time our involvement is.

                            I have a full-time career and when I boarded felt much like a fish out of water because I was neither fish nor fowl. Neither 'dependant' enough to blindly follow a program nor with my own facility where I could call my shots. Now we have a farm and program-wise I'm much happier. I'll be happier again if I figure out how to get a mirror set up. I don't need a trainer or lesson every week to drive my progress, I can do most of it myself with mirror or eyes on the ground or video. I don't need or want that much hand-holding.

                            So, now we have a farm and a boarding business with growing positive reputation. But, I still have the career. People can call me an amateur if they want but I act professionally, hold myself to a high standard for customer horse care, develop my own horses and will be doing some teaching in the spring.

                            I think of myself as a professional, and I act accordingly. Not all professionals are upper-level, sponsored riders. Frankly, most aren't.
                            The stories of the T-Rex Eventer

                            Big Head, Little Arms, Still Not Thinking It Through

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Benchmark View Post
                              For those of you that chose to pursue your passion for riding and competing through means other than making horses your profession, tell me about your journey. I'm not talking to the traditional adult amateur, but the riders out there with big goals who decided the financial demands of the sport were better met through income provided by career other than riding and training horses.

                              I decided very early that I didn't want riding to be my job and competing to just be a goal. I refused to let my passion become a burden. I didn't come from a horsey family but have always known that riding and competing was and is a very serious priority. In a way, I'm incredibly thankful that this was something I understood before I was truly ready to understand it. I'm financially independent with an enviable career that has been meticulously planned for a very long time, with my riding goals the axis of that planning. I've worked very hard to set myself up with a career that can fund my goals and also provides the flexibility I know I need. That doesn't mean I can head out to the barn whenever I choose, but it does mean that I can be there once a day (albeit often at 5:30 AM) to get the rides in I need to be competitive while not going broke in the process.

                              Now in my early 30's, I'm understanding that my peers in the sport almost exclusively do this full-time. They work hard, they ride 10 horses a day, and they struggle financially;[B]but, they are taken seriously[/B]. I choose a different path than they did, but we have the same goals. We can ride the same horses, produce the same results. Our skills are on par, but I'm starting to feel like a dollar sign for a lot of the trainers I've worked with because they know I'm not a struggling up-and-coming trainer.

                              For those of you that took the fork in the road that I did, how do you fight the perception that you're just another AA out there doing this as a hobby?
                              By whom are they taken seriously? Their horses? Their trainers? Their barnmates and their friends? Themselves? Because nobody else's opinion matters.

                              Again, whose perception? Your own? Your horse's? Your friends'? Your family's? Because no other perception matters, except that of your trainer, and if your trainer doesn't take you at least as seriously as she takes your money, then she is not a good trainer for you no matter how many BN pros she has worked with.

                              You are an eventer, not a hunter-gatherer (of ribbons and others' opinions), and not a Congress showmanship horsewoman.

                              Ride for yourself and your horse. For the thrill and the fun (which of course means having a trainer who is good for you and your horse).
                              Rack on!

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                I'm also the classic AA; I have ridden the better part of my life in several different disciplines finally settling on eventing. I work with a very talented trainer, have a nice horse, and compete several times during the season and ride at least 5 days a week. However, I still don't think I'm taken seriously by my trainer. She's significantly younger than me by at least 20 years and most of her students are younger than she with one in my age bracket. I haul in for weekly lessons and just feel like I don't quite fit in with any of them because I don't have a lot of disposable income like they do and have to budget for any events I want to enter. Even though I work as hard as they do on my riding, I still feel like I come up short.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by Benchmark;n10284487

                                  [B
                                  For those of you that took the fork in the road that I did, how do you fight the perception that you're just another AA out there doing this as a hobby? [/B]

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by 16 Hands View Post
                                    I'm also the classic AA; I have ridden the better part of my life in several different disciplines finally settling on eventing. I work with a very talented trainer, have a nice horse, and compete several times during the season and ride at least 5 days a week. However, I still don't think I'm taken seriously by my trainer. She's significantly younger than me by at least 20 years and most of her students are younger than she with one in my age bracket. I haul in for weekly lessons and just feel like I don't quite fit in with any of them because I don't have a lot of disposable income like they do and have to budget for any events I want to enter. Even though I work as hard as they do on my riding, I still feel like I come up short.
                                    What do you mean by come up short?

                                    Do you mean that they ride faster, jump bigger, and win more at higher levels than you because they are younger, fitter, have more free time, and are better funded?

                                    Thats just life. You are on a continuum that at one end has international competitors and at the other has a nervous walk trot adult beginner.

                                    If you want your riding to improve in quantifiable ways (bigger jumps, faster times, better scores) then you need to identify the things that would make that possible (improving your seat, your nerve, your horses dressage training if its eventing, etc,) and then make a plan to work on these issues. Tell your trainer you want to be showing at the next level next summer. Or want to be getting ribbons at your current level. What steps can you take this winter? Then show you have done your homework.

                                    If by coming up short you feel like you aren't part of the barn family because you only trailer in once a week, that's going to be true because no one knows who you are. And honestly from the inside it probably doesn't really look like a family either.

                                    If it matters to you that you have social relationships with these people at competitions you are going to need to put in time to build those relationships. You could go to watch them compete and fetch and carry, hold horses, groom if that's not already provided, cheer. Be genuinely interested in them, praise them, see what you can learn from them.

                                    Honestly with any endeavor I figure you can either be in a very good program where everyone is ahead of you, or you can be the star of a program where you are the most advanced. You learn more when everyone else is a bit ahead of you, but being the star is more emotionally comforting to many.

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      I do think though, that in some ways what the OP feels is a bit of human-nature. I'm as much a proponent to "buckle-up," in dealing with insecurities like this, but it isn't limited to this equestrian lifestyle. And, I don't think anyone can say that validation doesn't feel pretty great. Whether it's from a trainer, my boss at work, or whomever. But when we, you, take your self-worth as the validation from others you are ALWAYS going to fall short, because someone will ALWAYS screw -up or let you down. (That's their own human nature.) I've really had to settle on my own worth as a rider, and self, because even the very best and lovely trainer who says she admires your hard work to drive hours to the barn every day will forget to invite you to go schooling or maybe another professional doesn't warmly say hi when you pass on a cross-country walk. And, it's frustrating to keep your self worth based on a rising and falling tide of validation. (I've blogged a good deal about my own case of the insecurities. Cheers to being a millennial with blog!)
                                      I don't think anyone can tell you that what you're doing isn't just as hard. Only you know the hours, funding, and sacrifices you've made to reach the upper-levels of this sport. To have a full-time career and keep upper-level horses going, mostly on your own, is really, really hard. It's hard for lower-level, or any rider too. So just don't get frustrated with yourself for feeling this way sometimes; I think it's normal. Take some solace in that. Enjoy and be proud that you've made a career for yourself and are a talented rider.

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        Just to add.....when I say I was aiming my comments to millennials...it is really just a point on age. EVERYONE has to learn this lesson about ego, self worth and self reliance. And that we create our own happiness. Just the age of most Millennials now is the age when this generally comes to up the most...and also when you are most ready to deal with it. Sure some learn it at a younger age because of different life experience (some never do).....but right now, most Millennials are hitting this point in their adulthood.
                                        ** Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip. ~Winston Churchill? **

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