I’m a rule person. I like structure, I like clear expectations, I like when people DON’T SIT IN THE LEFT LANE FOR NO REASON OR TALK IN THE MOVIE THEATER LIKE HEATHENS. I like rules. I like when other people follow rules.
So naturally, I have the USEF Rulebook app on my phone, have read my pertinent sections back to front several times, and avidly follow rule changes or new rule proposals.
Because rules control the fun.
I don’t know how closely y’all stay up to date on rule changes, but a new USEF rule for 2018 has literally changed my life. Like, I got shivers because I could see my future track of competitions changing. Here’s the rule:
JP117.2: Amateur Jumper: A horse that is ridden by an Amateur. Classes are restricted to riders who are no longer eligible to compete as junior exhibitors.
- (For Amateur rules please see GR1306)
- Dividing Classes. Sections may be offered divided by either specific height or age of rider.
- Level of Difficulty:
- 1.40/1.45m Amateur classes will have courses set at either 1.40m (4’7”) or 1.45 m (4’9’). The maximum height for the first class of this section, and for any classes in which time is the deciding factor in the initial round, is 1.40 m (4’7”). Note: Only Amateur classes set at either 1.40m or 1.45m will be pointed toward HOTY awards in the 1.40/1.45m Amateur category.
- 1.30/1.35m Amateur classes will have courses set at either 1.30m (4’3”) or 1.35m (4’5”). All Amateur classes set at either 1.30m or 1.35m will be pointed towards HOTY awards in the 1.30/1.35m Amateur category.
- 1.20/1.25m Amateur classes will have courses set at either 1.20m (3’11”) or 1.25m (4’1”). All Amateur classesat either 1.20m or 1.25m will be pointed toward the 1.20m/1.25m Amateur category for purposes of HOTY awards.
- Local competitions – no minimum course requirements and no points towards National Horse of the Year awards.
In case you haven’t fully grasped the significance of this yet, it means that USEF shows can now offer classes from 1.20m that are limited to amateurs who do not need to own the horse.
I’ll say that again: there are now classes for amateurs to compete against other amateurs without needing to buy an AO horse.
Ho. Lee. Crap.
Does this have potential for abuse by shamateurs who will be basically professional and riding a string of horses like a pro? Yes. I’m not naive, there are always people who skate around the system like this.
But there are also people like me. Who can’t afford an AO horse and likely never will, who don’t want to take the time to find a talented baby or diamond in the rough to develop (more power to those of you who do, I just don’t want that). Who know that leasing a horse for that height is likely the only feasible way to do it with their time and money constraints, but also knew that meant competing in the Open classes against pros.
It may not be a perfect solution, but this is a real bridge to the upper levels for riders who might not otherwise be able to afford it. To my eyes, this is a fantastic way of creating greater access to higher levels by not restricting the pathway to those who can afford either the price tag of an established jumper or the time investment to bring one along.
I’m still in no rush- I’ll get there when I get there. It’s just extremely exciting to me that when I do get there, I have options to progress on my own terms.
Tell me your thoughts! I know the amateur rule is a very touchy one (with good reason) and I’d love to hear what you think- agree or disagree- about the new Amateur Jumper divisions.