Could Being a Barn Manager or Groom Affect Your Amateur Status?

Suppose you are a barn manager or groom showing your horse in the Low Adult Jumpers. You consider your riding skill level far from that of a professional, so you have no doubts as to your amateur status – until someone complains.

The person complaining states that you are violating the U.S. Equestrian “amateur rule” and should be considered a professional as they have seen you riding other clients’ horses at the barn where you work and helping to instruct younger riders at horse shows. Is the complainer just trying to stir up trouble? Or do they have a legitimate point? Depending on your specific circumstances, they just may be correct.

Let’s walk through the U.S. Equestrian rule book, rule GR1306 (a.k.a. “the amateur rule”) to understand why.

First, the rule reads:

“3. Permitted activities by Amateur. An Amateur is permitted to do the following:

Accept remuneration for providing service in one’s capacity as a: clinic manager or organizer (so long as they are not performing the activities of instructor or trainer), presenter or panelist at a Federation licensed officials’ clinic, competition manager, competition secretary, judge, steward, technical delegate, course designer, announcer, TV commentator, veterinarian, groom, farrier, tack shop operator, breeder, or boarder, or horse transporter.”

While barn manager is not specifically listed among the permitted activities, groom is, and it is a safe assumption that barn management falls into the same “safe” category.

However, there is a caveat. The rule also states: “…a person is a professional if after his 18th birthday he does any of the following:

Accepts remuneration AND rides, exercises, drives, shows, trains, assists in training, schools or conducts clinics or seminars.”

Let’s first address the riding of client horses at home. If you are receiving any sort of payment for your riding of these client horses or if you are actively training them, it would be in violation of your amateur status.

The exception would be if you are riding them for fun or with no direct compensation.

Armand Leone of Leone Equestrian Law explains: “If you are not receiving remuneration for exercising horses at the barn, and hacking is an informal arrangement for your enjoyment and not part of your ‘job,’ you may be able to ride barn horses and not be considered professional. Again, it all depends on the context. Activities such as grooming, office paperwork, or barn maintenance work are permissible and do not affect your amateur status.”

In this situation, instructing younger riders is likely where you are more apt to find yourself in violation of the rule.

Leone further explains, “The most important thing to keep in mind is that instructing even the youngest, most beginner riders at your barn or helping to train any of your other barn mates would again render you no longer an amateur. Even something as simple as walking a course at a horse show with a younger rider and providing them with input on how it should be ridden while your trainer is tied up at another ring could put you in violation of the rules. Again, the facts matter. Such a scenario could be fine were you not receiving remuneration from your trainer for this activity, because you are…this sort of assistance to your trainer could be viewed as a violation.”

The bottom line: it is important to be cognizant of your actions and to avoid any sort of training – either of horses or riders – for payment or other compensation!

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