Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Amateur Hour

The winter has given me a bit more time to write and more time to think.

In the US, horse people over the age of 21 are seperated in to two categories: Professional and Amateur.

When I turned the magical age, I was no different. I made my decision to stay amateur.

At the time it wasn't a tough decision.

I was with a newly minted bachelor's degree, a real job and a number of things that distinctly defined being an amateur.

As the years went on, I really started to resent my status.

I disliked the fact I couldn't compensate my time and what time I did have in the saddle was limited. I had to be careful about riding and always constantly aware of my boundaries. Finally, that the game became one of money and not of ability.

I also thought that having scores at training level actually equated to something and being a newly minted twenty something I also thought I ruled the universe. 
I was on the verge of burning my card, going pro and making a big mistake.

Then I woke up and smelled the cupcakes.

Being an amateur isn't about limitations, it's about opportunity.

Collectively, there isn't an expectation for amateurs.

If anything we're expected to pay our dues, take a few lessons, volunteer, go to a couple of shows and potentially progress. If we're lucky we'll get our bronze, a few good scores and great memories.

Therein lies the joy: no expectations. 

While a lot of us don't have money, we do have time and choice.

AA's are in a unique situation. I don't know of any place else in the world where a person can be picky about what they choose to bring through the levels, who to train with, openly making mistakes, taking Pudding Head to a show or responsibilities we would like to take (or not) on.

I personally do not have to answer to students. I do not have to take on horses that I feel that wouldn't go through the levels or benefit me in some personal way. I don't need to get on a horse that may kill me or was sent to me for a thirty day fix. I don't need to sell my best horses because I need to pay my bills. I'm content staying competitive or non-competitive. I don't need to qualify for anything I don't want to. I can still be an official. I don't have to play too many politics.

I ride, I train, I clean my stalls, I go home. I have a steady income with insurance.

In my own amateur way, while it seems like a cop-out, it's not about who got here first. It's how long you can last, and there are many things that I needed (and still needing) before I make a leap into that realm. I can be far more protective about my record, my ponies' records, I can build things up at my pace without too much hassle.

So while I will not be able to earn individual sponsorship, or be paid, I can still train effectively, still learn from the best, choose my shows wisely and be far more in control of my equine career. 

It's good to be an amateur, for now. 

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