August 3, 2021

USEF Proposed Amateur Status Changes

As some of you may remember, several years ago I went pro in the USEF because I monetized this blog as an ambassador/influencer in order to help pay for showing costs at a time that I was making hardly any money at work. Earlier this year, I went through the process to get my Amateur Status restored, and am now legally showing as an AA again.

I say all that to remind you why I was so excited for the USEF's proposed Amateur Status change webinar last night, and I'm going to recap it with my thoughts below for you guys.


The USEF recognizes that three of the biggest challenges facing them are how to make participating in equestrian sports more affordable, how to attract new people to the sport, and how to keep people participating in the sport once they've started. To that end, they are proposing some early draft changes (that they know they will fine-tune over time, so get your comments in!) to help with those challenges:


Change #1: Allow amateurs to get paid for barn duties at home and at shows.

This change would allow amateurs to get paid for grooming, tacking, clipping, lunging, bathing, braiding, stall cleaning and tack cleaning, but they still couldn't get paid to ride. It would take effect this December.

USEF rationale: By eliminating the $300 rule and making these activities explicitly allowed, this would help amateurs defray some cost.

My thoughts: A lot of this is permitted already as long as you're not also riding horses that aren't your own, but removing the limit changes things.


Change #2: Allow amateurs to teach up/down lessons for money without being a pro.


This change would allow amateurs to teach "introductory level lessons" at their "home barn" under the supervision of a professional. They would have to work no more than 20 hours a week in this role, would not be allowed to coach at rated shows, and would have to keep a work log book so that if they were ever challenged, they could prove they were compliant with the rule. It would take effect this December.

USEF rationale: This benefits the USEF because it gets more people teaching intro lessons, something that is sorely needed in many parts of the country, and it benefits the amateur because they can teach some lessons to defray the costs of riding as a side hustle.

My thoughts: I have friends in this exact situation, both friends that went pro to teach up down lessons and friends that are amateurs but would jump at the chance to teach up down lessons if they could. I do think this rule is the one most likely to get abused, but I applaud the USEF for putting a 1.0 version of this out there, because it's needed.


Change #3: Allow amateurs to act as social media influencers and brand ambassadors and receive money and free product.


First two would be allowed for amateurs, but you could not be a sponsored athlete.

This change would allow AAs to act as social media influencers and brand ambassadors, but not sponsored athletes. You could receive free product and commission checks from manufacturers and still be an AA, with no financial limit. What you can't do appear in actual ads for the manufacturer, have them foot the bill for your showing/etc directly, or walk around the showgrounds with a big after-market embroidered logo on your saddle pad (standard manufacturer's marks are okay though).

USEF rationale: We need to introduce more people to our sport, and that means taking advantage of publicity, including leveraging the reach of social media influencers. This benefits the AA because they can now accept an unlimited amount of money and product in exchange for promoting it.

My thoughts: It's about freaking time! I am so happy with the way they wrote this one. They very clearly laid out when an activity is "being sponsored" and when it's not. I've seen people pick apart this rule for being complicated, but as someone who has done this stuff, I think the lines are bright and clearly marked and make a lot of sense.


Change #4: Raise the age limit for juniors to 21


USEF rationale: They said they lose a LOT of people permanently when they go to college, when kids have to decide whether to buy a new horse in order to be competitive in the adults (sounds like H/J probs) or go to college, not both. They want to make it easier and cheaper for kids to stay in the sport longer, through a time in their lives when it's very hard to stay in horses.

My thoughts: This one had the least resistance from everyone in the chat, except - and I laughed my butt off at this - one Zoom commenter who said, "This puts undue financial strain on the parents who would normally sell their kids' eq horse to pay for college". That's the most risky college fund investment I've ever heard of, but okay!


All in all, I love these changes. I expected the USEF to be a lot less self-aware than they proved they were at least on this topic, and I think it's a great start. Since these topics affect us as bloggers directly, I strongly encourage you to send feedback both positive and negative to the task force at

What are your thoughts?


  1. When the Zone Committee selection group interviewed me for USHJA they asked me what I thought about the amateur rule and I told them that my personal feeling was we needed to start telling amateurs what they can do, instead of continuing to make a longer and longer list saying what they can't do, and that Equine Canada had already come up with a solution to 'teaching and being an amateur' and I felt that USEF/USHJA should actually reach out and see how that has been going for them for the last several decades.

    I'm glad some movement is FINALLY happening in making life easier for amateurs in such an expensive sport.

    1. That's a great response. They did say they've done a ton of panels and interviews in developing this rule where they just listened to people, and I think it shows. I usually don't feel this SEEN by the USEF lol.

  2. I loved hearing your thoughts on it as someone who has both been a pro as a brand ambassador and then gone back to being an AA 🙂 it's nice to see some acknowledgement that accepting the occasional free product doesn't actually make us better riders 🤣

  3. This sport is SO expensive and USEF has always made it harder for many amateurs to participate. As a non-USEF member who taught up/down lessons for years, I taught simply to cover my horse expenses so that I could PARTICIPATE in the sport. First I taught to cover board. Later I taught to cover other horse expenses so that my real paycheck could cover silly things like rent/mortgage, food, student loans, and stuff like that. I wasn't making lots of money and getting rich teaching. I rarely showed and when I did, it was in local non USEF shows so pro/non pro didn't matter (I mostly showed in pleasure which tends to be an open division). But, as someone who struggled to pay for 3 shows a year and 1 lesson a week and taught to cover these expenses, I am thrilled to see these proposed changes...even if I doubt I'll ever teach (or show) again!

  4. I'm very pleased with these proposed changes, especially the one about up/down lessons! I've been showing as a pro for the last few years because I teach a group of Pony Clubbers in rural southeastern Oklahoma two or three times a year. It's always felt like a dumb rule to me- I don't make a living doing this (nor do I want to)! I'm also glad to see the proposed changes around influencers!

  5. Thanks for the great breakdown. Those changes sound like great ones, imo. I do hope that seeing them implemented goes well. It's expensive to ride and there is such a huge difference between doing stuff to pay for what you do and being a pro rider.

  6. I like most of it, except I really don't think amateurs should be able to teach. The up/downer part isn't terribly enforceable. To me, if you want to make money teaching a sport, that does make you a professional. Sounds like I'm in the minority though. I am glad they're looking at the ambassador stuff. That's long overdue!

  7. The whole pro/am thing in the USEF is pretty foreign to me! In South Africa pros and ammies compete against each other in most events, but some do separate riders into pro/am - not in any way related to how you earn a living, but by level. In dressage normally a pro is classified as having ridden our equivalent of 4th Level or higher, and an ammy is anyone who has ridden up to our equivalent of 3rd. This makes me an ammy even though I run a riding school, manage two barns and start youngsters for a living. I feel like this does make sense (whether more or less than the US's pro/am system, I don't know). I may make money working with horses but that doesn't mean that a 24-year-old riding school teacher and baby horse trainer who has ridden up to 3rd level can't compete against a 45-year-old accountant who is riding PSG.

    1. Yeah, that does make sense, and that kind of echoes what US Eventing already does which is separate people out into Open (anyone can enter), Horse (horse has not competed above this level before) and Rider (rider has not competed above this level before/in a while). They do still have AA status but it doesn't matter nearly as much. Basically my feelings on this whole thing are that I don't like AA status, but if they feel we must still have it, these are positive changes.