Hi everyone! I’m very excited to be able to join the team for another year of FUN. 2017 is just around the corner, and I can’t be the only one over the moon about the possibilities a new year brings. As 2016 comes to a close, so does my first year of competing as an adult amateur through the USDF and a thousand more lessons I have learned while watching the world through a pair of red ears. I’ve decided to share the top 4 things I’ve taken away from this new era of my riding career.
- What an adult amateur is:
Per the USEF General Rulebook: an adult amateur is someone 21 or older that does not accept monetary or gift compensation for competing, training, breeding, or coaching. Those between 18 and 21 are Young Riders and compete as such. It gets a lot more complicated than that, but the general gist of it is that if any type of compensation over $300 is being traded for services, you are deemed a professional. Anything under $300 is not considered remuneration, but the situation can get sticky if people believe you’re receiving money for services. Make sure to keep immaculate records of donations or brand ambassadorship (hint hint, insta ladies!) that way if necessary, you have proof you’re following the rules. Sponsorship can be very tricky too, so make sure to clarify with the USDF/USEF before accepting any sponsorship you think could be questioned. The last thing you need is trouble from your governing bodies!
- Take every educational opportunity you get.
Get in contact with your local competing body and GET INVOLVED! I try to get as much time to watch tests or volunteer as scribe to continue my education. As an AA now, automatic educational opportunities have begun to wane. The USDF has done a fantastic job of building an AA program to help foster more learning, but I still believe it takes a lot of personal initiative to continue your own dressage education. So scribe, gate keep, audit, clinic, with open ears and a principled heart. You’ll know what’s right and wrong, and even if you can’t afford to show or be in every clinic, you still take away lessons that you can bring back to your personal riding. One of my favorite things is have a riding friend of yours (that you TRUST) come and ride your horse. Give them a lesson or ask them what they feel. Listen to what you’re saying and what they’re feeling, because with every word you’re learning something. You might not agree 100%, but you’re still learning, and as my trainer told me, “when you think you’ve learned it all, get off the horse and don’t get back on.”
While financial management is a HUGE life skill for the rest of your life, it’s especially essential to understand just what a mountain you’re going to have to climb when paying your own bills and your horses. During college, I was EXCEPTIONALLY lucky to be able to have my horses on my parents’ property, where I was spoiled to live rent free and for the most part, bill free, while working part time to accumulate savings and have money to pay horse bills – vet, farrier, feed, tack, facility fees for the stable that let me use their grounds to train, and shows. Eventually, that transitioned to still living at home, but boarding full time but working off some with manual labor and helping around and working full time. The next step was moving out of my house for the first time, working full time, and boarding two horses. Rent on top of board on top of day to day expenses make you really realize what a luxury having a horse is, much less two. Suddenly paying all the expenses for both horses (my retired show pony and my completion horse) means living on a shoestring budget with not much wiggle room. We made it through this year with heavy competing, not without financial pitfalls here and there. Going into 2017, I’ve definitely revamped my finances, especially going into a brand new training program at a new boarding stable, and limited my showing expectations in lieu of just enjoying my horses.
- Horses First, No Matter What
This might seem like a no brainer, but if you’re like me where you’re used to being able to check on your horses 3x a day, not including riding, the adult ammy lifestyle comes at a bit of a shock. Sometimes doing what’s best for your horse means sacrificing your time with them, either to work and get money to keep them fed with or sacrificing riding to make sure stalls are cleaned and you have their feed mixed for the evening properly. It’s not great. It limits your riding time, leaving you a little nonplussed at how to juggle all the things in your life when suddenly, riding cannot be your main focus in your life. Training wise, this often feels like you take a step forward and three steps back, especially if you can’t afford a trainer to ride your horse in the days life gets in the way of you riding. With all that in mind, time with your horse becomes even more precious and pure. A good grooming or some grazing should mean the world to you, even if you can’t afford a clinic or the weather rains out the arena so you can’t ride the one day you have off. Again, horses are a LUXURY we are lucky enough to enjoy, and they need to be treated as such. So many people dream of riding, or even someday leasing a horse, but we get the opportunity and the privilege to call these animals our life partners. They deserve all the hard work we can provide and all the love we give, so enjoy any moment you get no matter if it’s a brief curry or a ride down centerline.
If anyone has any questions, feel free to reach out to me and I’m happy to help. My AA career is in full swing as a college graduate, working full time, two horses, and now, law school applications for fall of 2017. Keeping horses through college isn’t impossible, especially if you have a job or with your parents’ help, but if you need any advice, I’ve got your back.
Happy riding, ladies!