Rethinking How We Define Professionals



The USEF amateur rule has been a topic of hot debate lately. The powers that be seem overly concerned about what does and doesn’t make an amatuer while the amateurs in discussion are just trying to afford this increasingly expensive sport. With that in mind, I know I’m not the only one who thinks it’s time to rethink the amateur rule. 

I have a burning desire to make a difference, and make things easier for riders trying to be successful in this incredibly difficult sport. Here’s what’s on my mind:

I taught for over 25 years. All levels, from beginners to national levels. Even a college team. It was an incredibly difficult job, but I made it work even when I didn’t have a barn. I loved watching people interact with horses. Loved seeing the horses be therapy for most. I helped bring along some pretty beautiful riders that were also such beautiful people.

But just because I made over $300 a year doesn’t make me a professional that can ride against the greats. 

I’m on a mission to change the amateur rules, and I have some questions. Why can’t we have a level system where you have to earn a professional ranking? In such a dangerous sport, why can just anyone suddenly call themselves a pro? Since when are riding skills equivalent to teaching skills? I have to be a professional, because I want to teach people how to ride and love horses. 

I do see both sides of the argument. Maybe I should be able to ride against the best if I want to call myself a pro, but the system is backwards. Teaching and riding are two different things. I would like to see USEF consider two different classifications—one to teach as a pro, and one to ride as a pro. 

I know USHJA tried to get the certificate-program going, and can see why it hasn’t taken off. Those that have been teaching for years don’t need a certificate. They have a reputation and client base that speaks for themselves. The certificate was time consuming and costly. It involved money, passing a test, and auditing a mandatory clinic for 3-4 days. I did it, but it cost me lesson money at home as well as time away from my family.

These days, I don’t teach anymore. Even though I loved it. Even though I was good at it. It wasn’t only what I did, but something that gave me a purpose. I know I can go back to teaching at any time, and I may, but that’s not the point. 

It’s my opinion that adding some nuances to what does or doesn’t define a professional could improve the sport for many different kinds of riders. If you think the amateur rule should change, I encourage you to share your ideas. By starting productive conversations, we can work to better our sport. 

Daphne Boogaard started as a professional trainer since 1996. She worked out of Tulip Pond Farm in Maryland until 2014 and then moved her business to North Georgia. Daphne was head trainer and owner of a barn in Canton, GA until 2018. She then continued to offer freelance instruction as a contractor for local barns and an IEA team. In 2020, Daphne decided to wait a year off of teaching to become an amateur. Although her passion for teaching has never subsided, she wanted to get back in the ring to further her own riding and competition record.