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Integrity in the sport of eventing - the am/pro debate

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  • Integrity in the sport of eventing - the am/pro debate

    Bear with me. I'm going to start with some boring political history.
    (From CBS Sunday Morning) Presidential historian David McCullough has written extensively on our greatest presidents, among them, John Adams.

    "Adams wrote to his wife, Abigail, on his first night as president staying in what was then called the president's house, and some lines from that letter were carved into the mantelpiece of the State Dining Room of the White House, at the wish of Franklin Roosevelt: "May none but honest and wise men ever rule under this roof."

    "I love that because you noticed he puts honest first, ahead of wise," said McCullough. Why? "Because honesty is essential."


    Integrity makes sport worth doing. There is no point in competing if the cheats win, if the rules change in mid-game. The greatest games are the most regulated. The biggest thing people hate about riding and showing - "politics", perceived notion of dishonest competition, that only the big guys win, the little guys have no chance.

    The individual notion that the person you are competing against is the same as you is what makes eventing the attractive and popular equestrian sport it enjoys. But there's a little tiny black mark on this notion of fairness, and it's going to grow into a cancer.

    It's the amateur-professional debate, and it's not going away. It's my prediction that it will become more and more important to the health of the sport. The amateur-professional debate is important because of its negative connotation. It stirs unease among competitors who see fellow riders winning in the amateur division that does fit their known status.

    There is a clear way to stop the uncomfortable feeling I get when I read the list of the year end national award winners in the amateur categories that I know -- and you know -- are clearly professional. It is called PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY.

    The USEA shouldn't even print these lists until they clean up this problem -- it's not funny, it's not insignificant, and it's not acceptable. (Has anyone been watching the Lance Armstrong stuff?)

    When you renew your USEA membership, and you make a living in the horse
    business, even if you board ONE HORSE, and occasionally help out the owner by riding it probably 4 times a month, like I do, then uncheck that amateur box.

    Integrity matters. Honesty is more important than winning. The sport is weakened when you lie, Martha, Jane, and others who know who you are. Ignorance of the rule is. not. an. excuse. Failing to check the box on your membership renewal - not. an. excuse. Enjoying the benefits of being special, or promoting yourself as an amateur or allowing the USEA to continue to list you as one when you know you are NOT - not. an. excuse.

    If you don't know if you are an amateur or not, read the rule. (the rule http://www.usef.org/documents/ruleBo...rticipants.pdf pg. 26-31) If you don't like the rule or think it doesn't apply to you and your situation, then work to change it, but live by it until it is changed.

    Peace out!
    Proud & Permanent Student Of The Long Road
    Read me: EN (http://eventingnation.com/author/annemarch/) and HJU (http://horsejunkiesunited.com/author/holly-covey/)

  • #2
    I agree 100% with your post. However, I know of multiple people that were put in amateur divisions (who were not BNR, but definitely not amateurs either) who then alerted the show organizers. Organizers then told them all other divisions were full and had them in the amateur divisions anyway. So when you see a small-time pro riding as an amateur, don't be too quick to jump to conclusions, as it may be someone else who's being sloppy about the rules.

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    • #3
      Nicely said and I agree with all of it except where you said "there is no point in competing if the cheats win". If cheaters do compete and do win, that doesn't take away my *personal* enjoyment of the sport, which is based on getting out there and jumping the jumps. Doesn't mean I wouldn't be peeved if a situation arose where a hard-earned nice placing was lost because someone cheated, but that scenario (a nice placing) is not what keeps me coming back.
      Click here before you buy.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by caevent View Post
        I agree 100% with your post. However, I know of multiple people that were put in amateur divisions (who were not BNR, but definitely not amateurs either) who then alerted the show organizers. Organizers then told them all other divisions were full and had them in the amateur divisions anyway. So when you see a small-time pro riding as an amateur, don't be too quick to jump to conclusions, as it may be someone else who's being sloppy about the rules.
        If that's the case the show manager needs to add a few spots to the pro division and take a few away from the ammy one to make it work. Not put an unqualified person in an ammy division (unless they go HC or whatever the eventing equivalent is, in which case no one should care as they are not eligible for a ribbon).

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        • #5
          Originally posted by fordtraktor View Post
          If that's the case the show manager needs to add a few spots to the pro division and take a few away from the ammy one to make it work. Not put an unqualified person in an ammy division (unless they go HC or whatever the eventing equivalent is, in which case no one should care as they are not eligible for a ribbon).
          I agree of course, but in the end the organizer is going to do what they feel like doing. For what it's worth, this has happened to multiple people under the same horse show organizer. I wish said organizer were more scrupulous and actually addressed competitors' concerns, but there's not a whole lot we can do, as it's by far the closest and most frequently held event in our region.

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          • #6
            I agree that riders are sometimes placed into divisions that they are not qualified for (here in area 2 we don't have amateur divisions often, but rider divisions).

            However, what the OP is talking about are the year-end leaderboards which are determined by your USEF amateur status (or USEA if not a USEF member) and shouldn't be influenced by which divisions you competed in over the season.

            Comment


            • #7
              Playing Devil's Advocate!

              But then, there is the comfortably off ammy who has time and $$$ to do little but ride their several horses, purchased at a stiff price from their twice a week instructor.

              How do they stack up against the rider down the road who boards one to afford the one they own, and occasionally hops on the boarder's horse to help out the boarder. Technically they are a pro, but.........!
              Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

              Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.

              Comment


              • #8
                Actually, the clear way to end this debate, once and for all, is to do away with the amateur status.
                Amanda

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                • #9
                  Good point. Makes one wonder if "amateur vs. pro" is really important or relevant at the lower levels.
                  Click here before you buy.

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                  • #10
                    A year ago I lost my amateur status by lunging horses, which USEF considers training. Okay, so I was a pro. I was okay with this. Multiple people told me to just stay an ammie, no one would know. I said, "I'll know."

                    And actually, going pro has been quite freeing. I don't have to worry anymore if what I'm doing would make me lose my amateur status. And as soon as it was known I could ride other people's horses I've had lots of horses to ride. Staying an amateur was hamstringing me.

                    Personally, I'd love to get rid of the amateur/pro thing and go to a maiden/limit/open system. Then what division you're in would be solely on how you've performed, not based on a rule that requires self-reporting.
                    Pam's Pony Place

                    Pam's Pony Ponderings

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                    • #11
                      I don't believe it is. I've seen true ammies beat the pants off of pros on there BTDT good citizens because the pros baby was having a baby meltdown all day.

                      The sport is humbling and pretty fair, no matter what. Ammies can't have their trainer ride the horse around the course like in the hunter world. It's what makes this sport cool. It's you and your horse against the dressage test and the courses. Some days are great. Some days suck. Doesn't matter if you ride one horse 3 days a week, or 10 horses 7 days a week.
                      Amanda

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                      • #12
                        And, really, a of events, at least around here, don't offer strictly ammy divisions. You have open, rider, horse, and jr/yr, IF THAT (there's one popular secretary who does basically open and jr/yr). Ammy only typically comes into play at AECs and year end awards, at least, that's what I perceive.
                        Amanda

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                        • #13
                          I went to USEA to look and couldn't find them. They used to be on the home page over to the right. Where are they now?

                          Found them. They are under competition leaderboard archives.
                          "I'm a lumberjack, and I'm okay."
                          Thread killer Extraordinaire

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                          • #14
                            Since it is so hard to enforce/people to what they want to anyway.... The idea of 'amateur' should be eliminated from ALL the USEF sports. But.... what would replace it? Some folks are gonna have a flat out hissy fit melt down.

                            That's really the problem. It's not that everyone doesn't know that the amateur/pro divide does not really 'work.' It's that nobody seems to know what to replace it with that would keep everybody happy. I know a lot of dressage riders that very jealously guard their (totally BS) 'amateur' status because they feel 1) their horses will not score well against the fancier warmbloods 2) they themselves will not ever ride as well as some other riders.

                            It is the same in eventing, hunters, jumpers, etc. People feel, for whatever reason, that circumstances prevent them from riding at a certain level. Therefore, they want to compete at division/section where they feel they have a 'fair' shot (at winning.)

                            Which is, culturally, where the USA is comfortable.
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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by yellowbritches View Post
                              I don't believe it is. I've seen true ammies beat the pants off of pros on there BTDT good citizens because the pros baby was having a baby meltdown all day.

                              The sport is humbling and pretty fair, no matter what. Ammies can't have their trainer ride the horse around the course like in the hunter world. It's what makes this sport cool. It's you and your horse against the dressage test and the courses. Some days are great. Some days suck. Doesn't matter if you ride one horse 3 days a week, or 10 horses 7 days a week.
                              Yep, and if you do compeat against pros and do well you get extra ammie points. It seems ridiculous though that if I were to sell a horse and make money, I'm considered a pro, even though I am probably never going to get out of BN and am clearly not on a par with Boyd etc with whom I have competed against. You can make money in numerous ways and it means nothing about your riding ability. And visa versa.
                              RIP Kelly 1977-2007 "Wither thou goest, so shall I"

                              "To tilt when you should withdraw is Knightly too."

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                              • #16
                                It's not that everyone doesn't know that the amateur/pro divide does not really 'work.' It's that nobody seems to know what to replace it with that would keep everybody happy.
                                Well, if "keeping everybody" happy is the benchmark, the PTB are doomed.

                                But as another poster said (and I've been saying for YEARS) a system like they have in equitation (maiden, limit, novice, etc.) where you move up the ranks by way of placings would give as level a playing field as we're likely to get.

                                You want to ride at Novice and dabble in Training? Great. But you've earned "50" points over the past 5 years by pinning in the top 5 several times at Novice, so you are going to go in a division with riders who have also accumulated between 40 and 60 points at Novice over the past 5 years. Boyd Martin is going to ride the 4yo he got yesterday in the Novice division with the "100+ point" club. The girl just moving up to Novice this weekend is in the "under 40 Novice points" division. For example.

                                But nobody seems all that interested in going to such a system, which is fine. Logistics are complicated, organizers don't need the hassle - - I get it. Things find their level, even a blind hog finds an acorn once in a while, and even goofballs like me find a ribbon once in a while . . . any given Sunday and all that.

                                But whether I'm breaking the "amateur" rule by keeping a friend's horse at my barn for layup for a few months seems sort of beside the point when the big picture gets talked about.
                                Click here before you buy.

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                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by Eventer55 View Post
                                  It seems ridiculous though that if I were to sell a horse and make money, I'm considered a pro, even though I am probably never going to get out of BN and am clearly not on a par with Boyd etc with whom I have competed against. You can make money in numerous ways and it means nothing about your riding ability. And visa versa.
                                  Only if you sell someone else's horse as an agent. You can sell your own horses for a profit all day long and be an amateur.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Deltawave I'm with ya' on all of that. Many western disciplines are accustomed to a points or $ system. The english disciplines aren't, and trying to shoe horn that would bring the world to an end, no doubt. It's all those messy numbers, you know. Too much work to count them all!
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                                    • #19
                                      I'm pretty sure BBBBBBBBBritish Eventing works on a points system, too.

                                      ETA, I was not trying to roll my Bs! Silly bluetooth keyboard.
                                      Click here before you buy.

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                                      • #20
                                        I know a rider who rides as an amateur, while teaching lessons and training horses for money. She now has gained a sponsorship (gained after last year's season had ended) and I'm waiting to see if she declared amateur status for this year. She is by no means an amateur, even in spirit. I am appalled by it. Yet no one seems to think a thing of it around here. However, I don't have $200 to spare for a protest, and I think burning bridges is a bad idea generally. So...

                                        ETA: correct spelling, wrong word.

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