September 24, 2021

USEF Amateur Rule Changes, Part 2: The Survey Results

This is way too much thought and effort for the Friday of one of the toughest weeks of work I've had in a long time. But I'm too emotionally invested in this USEF amateur rule stuff to let this sit til next week. So let's do it!

On Wednesday, the USEF held a second webinar on the 5 proposed changes to the USEF amateur rule. (To see the highlights of the first one and to learn about all 5 rules in detail, see my post here.)  The purpose of this one was to go over the results of the survey they held over the last month asking for the public's opinion on the rule.

To start: they got almost 10,000 responses! I don't know what the usual response level to a USEF survey is, but they seemed shocked and delighted to get that many, so I'm guessing it's nowhere near 10,000. 

I'm happy (and kinda shocked) to report that Dressage brought it and took the top spot:

Sorry for the crappy screenshots, I was at the barn waiting on my virtual lesson to start.


And even the Welsh people showed up, with 31 respondents:

The TL;DR here is that people generally had no issue with the things I thought might be controversial, and they had issues with the things I think are no brainers. Let's start with Proposal 1, which allows amateurs to be paid for grooming, lunging, tacking horses, etc. By the way, everything in P1 is ALREADY LEGAL (up to the $300 limit) except lunging, so this one isn't a huge change, and was the most well-supported out of all the changes.

Proposal 2, which would allow amateurs to teach up-down lessons with a laundry list of guardrails around it, was much less clearly supported.

And this gets even more interesting when you drill down into which disciplines did/did not support this one. Bet you thought H/J would hate it the most, right? Surprise!

The H/J people may have complained the loudest about this one, but the Dressage folks were the most evenly divided in terms of yes/no. You'll note that the breed disciplines covered on that slide were actually strongly in favor of it, and as a result, they are going to submit this proposal to the rules committee stating that this rule will only go into effect for certain breed organizations that want it, and the disciplines (USDF, USHJA etc) will look at how that works out for those breed orgs in 2022 and then make a decision for themselves.


I'm split on this one. On the one hand, I love this rule. I like that they're admitting amateurs have a lot to teach the next generation, and that teaching up/down lessons doesn't make you a GP rider, and that there's a not insignificant number of AAs that show open so that they can earn the money it takes to show at all. On the other hand, I think it's cool that they listened to their members and they're allowing different groups to show under different rules. More of that, please.

Next up, my pet rule, the social media ambassador rule. This one is complex in a way that makes sense to me, as someone who has lived this life and went pro (and then AA again) over it. I think they nailed the differences between a sponsored athlete, a brand ambassador and an influencer. As a reminder:

Just to clarify, because I've seen a lot of people get lit up about this for the wrong reasons, you CAN wear maker's marks (like the giant Fairfax plaque on my new bridle), or barn logos (a polo shirt with GP trainer's logo on it) at shows, you just cannot also be accepting renumeration to do so.


This one passed but not by nearly as much as I think it should have. I really don't get the negativity here, unless it's just jealousy or not understanding how brand ambassadorship works.  How on earth are you more okay with AAs making money for working with horses directly, but not okay with someone sitting behind a keyboard making money and staying an amateur? If this rule is all about leveling the playing field for non-pros, I really do not understand why the votes went the way they did here. I am not a better rider because I accepted some free boots a few years ago.

(I will not blame Boomers, I will not blame Boomers)

The last one to "pass" (not that the survey was a vote) was the one that will allow anyone under the age of 25 to try being a pro after they age out of juniors and then if they don't like it, go back to being an AA without the current one year waiting period. Straightforward, and got broad support:

Those four will be put to the extraordinary rules committee this December for the 2022 season. If they get approved, they will also have to (and plan to) strike the $300 limit entirely:

The only one that is entirely on hold is the rule moving the age limit for juniors up to 21. See my previous post for the absolutely hysterical H/J peoples' comments on how this will affect parents' ability to use their daughter's big eq horse "investment" to pay for college. Which is apparently 1. A Thing and 2. A Common Thing, or at least they made it sound like it was. As a risk-averse investor, let me tell you how that makes me feel, lol.

Anyway, this one brought out a lot of hand-wringing from people. I, personally, voted for it. Whatever we can do to keep kids in the sport through one of the toughest periods of their lives to stay in it, let's do it. But it's on hold for this year and will not be presented to the committee.

I wish they've have broken these out by discipline because this one really would have been dominated by the H/J folks for sure.

If you didn't get to take the survey but you want your voice to be heard on this topic, there will be a public comment period between these rules being added to the extraordinary rule change list and the vote that will happen in December, so keep an eye out for that (and I'll try to share it if I see it). Unlike the survey, you will have to be a USEF member in order to comment.

What are your thoughts on these rules?


  1. I know I'm in the minority but I still hate the idea of AAs teaching lessons 🤦‍♀️ love them considering expanding the social media/brand ambassador stuff. Accepting a free THT halter to review 5+ years ago doesn't make me a better rider by ANY means 🤣

    1. Yeah, totally, I just cannot square my brain with how anyone is opposed to that on the grounds that it makes you competing as an AA unfair. You're allowed to be opposed out of like, jealousy or whatever, but that's it.

    2. I'm with you. I just don't think you should get paid to train in any capacity if you're an ammy. (Though to be clear, I don't consider lunging to be training.)

  2. You know how I feel about it - burn all this amateur vs pro shit down to the ground and lets be done with it. Glad to see some steps in the right direction.

    1. Yeah, and you know I agree, lol. I feel the same. I think eventing has it figured out and all this amateur rule stuff is just noise, but god forbid we actually get rid of it, so in the meantime, these changes are a step forward.

  3. In the USHJA specific meeting over this in Zone 10 the Pros were the loudest majority against all of it. I know several AAs on the call and while we spoke up, we were very careful with our word choice. These same Pros are judges and most have clients who are rich enough to not work and ride full time so I'm shaking my head over it. So out of touch.

    1. That's wild, and so frustrating! You should be able to make comments without it affecting judging for sure.

  4. I wonder if the no's on social media influencing were people who wanted amateurs to be able to accept MORE remuneration. I voted no on one of the lesson questions (about hours per week) because after I thought about it, the hours they suggested weren't enough. But they didn't give a good option for that opinion.

    1. Yeah, I think your justification on the teaching thing is fair (although I think the point is whoever is doing this isn't doing it as their full-time employment), but there would be no limit at all to the social media rule, if passed. They specifically called out "an influencer could make $10,000 a month and would still be an amateur".

    2. Ahhh I didn't catch that part.

      I want amateurs to be able to "teach full time" at some points -- like summer camps, for example. I do agree that it shouldn't be your full time job, but I'm also pretty generous about the idea that someone can be an AMAZING low-level and horsemanship trainer and still not be a great rider at a higher level. It will never be perfect, and maybe we just end up with a system where people report if they are a pro or amateur based on an honor system (e.g. "you might be a professional if you do x, y, z"). I'm not sure how much it matters OR how much I care in the long run.