Horse Show Schedules are a Jab at the Working Amateur

Photo © Lauren Mauldin


After turning down my third show this year due to working-amateur insensitive scheduling, I reached a breaking point and posted a rant in the Plaid Horse Adult Amateur Lounge. It’s impossible to remain competitive in the national standings as an amateur who works a full time job with limited vacation time. Within minutes comments started rolling in. Along with the hundreds of “agreed!”s “100%”s and “so true!”s were some points that really got me thinking:

“This is my rant for all things sports-related once you hit adult amateur status. Tennis, riding, whatever. Even preschool mommy “coffee” meetings are scheduled 10am Wednesday mornings. Women work these days people! Time to shake things up!”

“Agree, another example of how horse shows are not run like a business that caters to their customers, they treat customers like it’s a privilege for them to show, instead of trying to be customer friendly and provide a service.”

“So this has been a huge issue for me for DECADES. Our horse show system has essentially been set up to create a ‘professional’ Amateur division of Uber wealthy non working Ammys. With costs today and the huge addition of lower level divisions, I’m not sure changing the schedule will create a larger division today. When you see 36 qualifiers at Devon and only 18 riders, each with 2 horses who have competed throughout the week all winter long, it does not create any opportunities for anyone other than those few.”

“Further proof that it is the organization’s intent to cater to the wealthy owners who enjoy a life of leisure or the flexibility to make their own schedules. Either way, it is a conscious ding to the working amateur. The USHJA’s recent In Stride feature of Jimmy Lee illustrates the origins of the problem — the amateur divisions were specifically created to cater to wealthy owners, not to expand participation opportunities for the working class horse lover….”

Photo © Lauren Mauldin

Full disclosure, I am not one of those super impressive ammys maintaining a full time job while doing all of their own riding and grooming and finding success on the AA circuit on a tight budget. My horse is in a full service program with a top hunter professional. My riding time is extremely limited due to my work schedule, and my career is the only way I am able to afford to do any of this. 

But how can I work to show if the majority of the shows’ schedules don’t allow me to work? 

In recent years, I have barely been able to show in the summer. I’m in that time of life where weddings and all of the related festivities dominate my social life and therefore my vacation time. Although I could certainly set aside a few Friday vacation days for horse shows, taking a half a week off is not feasible. Due to the overwhelming response from my post, I know I am not alone. 

I can understand horse shows prioritizing juniors during the academic year, but what sense does it make to have Amateurs scheduled Wednesday / Thursday and Juniors Saturday / Sunday in the middle of July! This is yet another roadblock for non-“professional” amateurs to attempt to navigate. Something has to change.