How to Show as an Amateur

Ok, it would seem the Curmudgeon Commentary -> Difference between Ladies and Amateur Judging has spawned another topic. I would guess that the amateurs who are least likely to have the ideal amateur horse would be those of us who can’t afford to pay top dollar for a finished horse, or would rather “build” our own show horse from the ground up (not saying this as a rule, I know there are excellent ama’s out there who could hold their own against the pros). Many folks who are new to the breed and/or horses are going to fall into this category.

The problem is, in my mind, that’s exactly who amateur classes were intended for. Or, is there a difference when it comes to AOTS classes? Where do the “hobby horse” folks show, who want to come and have a good time with their horses? I guess this is where we cycle back around to the Curmudgeon, the “business” of horse shows seems to have made an environment that is less friendly to these types of exhibitors. Particularly in this economy I would think this is the kind of person we’d want to be catering to a bit more.

13 Responses to How to Show as an Amateur

  1. RaeOfLight says:

    I should probably put a disclaimer on this that my experience with shows comes mostly as a spectator, not as an exhibitor. So my opinions are mostly based on what I hear, not experience. Feel free to challenge any assumptions I may have made in saying shows aren’t as friendly to the “average joe” as they could be (used to be?). I probably won’t argue with you.

  2. rodmanstables says:

    Yeah, I see your perspective…I’m excited about being new young trainer in the industry because I hope to be part of a generation of friendly show people who are excited about welcoming newcomers, and all amateurs, not just because it’s the right thing to do for business, but because it keeps it fun for all. I come from a background of working for trainers, good equestrian schooling, and STILL find it hard to “get into the club” when it comes to shows/events (also as an amateur earlier). I can understand the intimidation felt by amateurs or anyone coming in that is newer (including trainers). I think a friendly atmosphere is built by one person at a time. Maybe by extending an arm to someone they notice is new, or someone who seems like they look like they’re feeling a bit “alone” at a show. I’m going to try my best to be a friendly show person! :)

  3. Vintage_Rider says:

    Okay, this is going to sound silly, but showing Morgan horses saved my life. Ten years ago, my spouse walked out on me with his 20 year-his-junior employee. My daughter was away in college, and I was living in such a way and in such a place, that I had no close friends or relatives.

    Although I had some minor experience in showing before, I was not familiar with showing Morgans. That fall, I attended the NY regional as a spectator. Everyone seemed to be having such a great time! The atmosphere was jovial, people were friendly even with their competitors. I did some more research and the following year, I went to the nationals and bought my horse with a portion of the blood money I received in the divorce. I went from terribly depressed to active, focused, and happy. My best friends were met through the circuits. We compete. We laugh. We care deeply about each other.

    I have been with well known trainers, and not so well known. I have been on my own co-oping at shows with friends I met along the way. I have won Regional Championships as an AOTS as well. Trainers make life easy, and the best of them make the horse as good as they can be. But it can be done on your own!
    Find the people that are having the most fun along the rail and introduce yourself!
    Use this forum to meet some of the others in the group. Many a small get together has been arranged through this site.
    I hope no one has “less than equal” view of AOTS than those associated with trainers. I know I don’t.
    Sign me – - – been on both sides of the rail.

  4. RaeOfLight says:

    Community at shows is one thing. I have found Morgan folks to be very accepting of those who are new to the breed. If you show on a regular basis I don’t think it would be difficult to become fast friends with those who show in the same area.

    I’m more curious about what classes are appropriate for the do-it-yourselfer? If the amateur classes are intended for horses that are finished to the caliber that would take an expert and/or more time than the amateur rider typically has to invest in his or her horse, then what class is appropriate for the casual horse owner who likes to show? Would that be the AOTS division? Or are amateur classes geared toward these people? I would guess these people look to compete in the amateur division which would explain the lack of “true” amateur horses. Or is the slightly less polished horse, in fact, the “true” amateur horse?

  5. Vintage_Rider says:

    Show Amateur, AOTS, Novice, Maiden, Limit…. the more experience you get, the better you and your partner will be!

    If you aren’t afraid to lose, show open!!! It really doesn’t matter unless you are hung up on a blue ribbon!

    AOTS show in all those divisions.

  6. StacyGRS says:

    These people have many options. The ama classes, the whole classic division,The AOTS classes, Novice rider, limit rider. Show open if you care to…no division is exclusive if the question is what to show in. However, all too often the question isn’t what can we show in, it’s what can we win in. If THAT is the question, then don’t feel defeated by being there without a trainer, take the opportunity to get some free training! Make the show fun and a place to the other classes. Watch people work horses. When you hear lessons being given, go watch and listen…it’s like auditing a class for free:):) That’s pretty much what most young trainers do. Make it a goal to improve every time out instead of letting anything short of a blue be a disappointment. Watch the trainers whose horses you admire. Don’t necessarily just watch the cool horse, watch how it is being trained. Most trainers are happy to accommodate someone that calls to come to the farm and watch horses work for the day. As you make friends with others that show with or without trainers, ask them to be your “ground person” while you work your horse. I assure you, any trainer is only as good as their ground person! And realize that the range of riders in the ama division is HUGE. Some have shown their whole lives from walk trot to the ama division with 20+ years at it under their belt. Some are just starting and have never owned an animal and know nothing about shows. And they all belong in and have a right to show in the ama division. Most Morgan people are pretty friendly, IMO. Go to the parties and gatherings…enjoy!! If you want to talk to someone at a show and they seem super busy, try to contact them after the show and talk to them…you’ll find a more relaxed version very often:)
    If you know that you intend to work your horse yourself, then buy your horse wisely… shop for some of the show horses out there that have been in the show ring for season after season, they know their job well. They have things to teach about the show ring and they are often more reasonable in price. They can safely and happily get an ama. the miles and experience they need and be virtually trouble free in the training sense. Sometimes they may not be quite as dynamic or limber as they were a few years ago but, you’d be amazed at how many times the dynamic and limber screw up and there are the campaigners doing their job and getting the blue. When you look for a horse, tell the seller your plans and ask them if they feel this is a horse you can achieve your goals with. I can’t promise that every person is perfectly honest, or even correct, but most try. I know that I have no problem telling someone that this is not the horse for them…sadly, it usually makes them want it more:) In the past couple of years I’ve had several scenarios where we owned a horse that was for sale and someone wanted to buy it and we told them it wasn’t the horse for them and they just seemed to want it all the more. If the person that owns it and trains it…IOW the ONLY person that will benefit from selling it…discourages you…walk away and be glad your inquiry was to someone that had integrity. We often get calls/e-mails from someone that needs a solid, honest,easily maintainable, sound, horse in the under $15K range that they can work themselves. But that isn’t what they ASK for:) The first thing they tell me is that they want a certain color. And, they don’t like a certain sex. And they have to have some physical trait (beautiful head, white socks, lots of mane, etc…) that is a MUST. I have VERY few that walk in without a trainer that say I want something pleasant in the bridle, honest, sound, and can be worked at home safely by less than expert hands. THESE are the traits that should be the top priorities. I’m not saying buy an ugly horse or one whose color you hate, but, realize that your wish list has to be prioritized and every horse has flaws. So don’t overlook a great chestnut that has everything but the bay color you like and the perfect face. You’ll have more fun owning & showing your honest,sound chestnut with a less that statuesque face than you will with the beautiful faced, mahogany bay that is really hot, fights the bridle,or makes you pay with blood sweat and tears for every clean class.
    And Rodman, if it makes you feel any better, there is no club:) Or maybe there is and I’m not in it, but I think it’s more just seeing each other again and again and making friendly chatter, helping each other when a horse is stepping on it’s tail, lending a shoestring when someone needs it, wearing our Lakers worksheet ;) We’re all just people that likely would never have met except for our profession. We find other commonalities (rivalries with the Celtics fans:), same kind of truck, or a funny dog that is in the same barn isle…something in common to reference next month when we run into each other in the elevator of the hotel for the next show.

  7. leslie says:

    Do Morgan shows typically offer AOTS classes? I don’t remember seeing them on the New England circuit. I would definitely like to see them more often (and if I had the horse and the money, I’d even actively support them.)

  8. Vintage_Rider says:

    Awesome write up and advise Stacy. Dead on.

    No, not all shows offer AOTS. But most offer all the classes Stacy named. To echo Stacy, if it is the BLUE that counts, you may be stymied. If it is more important to learn and have a good time, go for it. Smaller shows are a good place to start. Or the ones geared more toward amateurs. I don’t know where you live out east, but did you know there is an ALL amateur show offered in NY?

  9. Vintage_Rider says:

    sorry… system went wacko… here is the website:

  10. leslie says:

    I used to live in New England, but now I live in Kentucky, land of few Morgans. I’ve been showing for a decade plus, mostly at all-breed shows. I’m pretty backyardy and I like it that way.

    If you read my comments in this and the other thread, I think you’ll see that I’m not looking for easy blues. Quite the contrary. I’d rather have fifteen horses in my class and leave with the black ribbon than ride around in the ring by myself or with one other entry and leave with a pretty tricolor. It’s not even that I don’t want to show against pros. I used to teach riding lessons, so for a couple of seasons I had to show as a pro. I just like the idea of an AOTS division. Show barns are obviously an important part of the breed, but I think there are lots of people, like me, who prefer to work their own horses. I think we should be encouraging the DIY-ers. Having AOTS classes in the schedule is putting out a welcome mat for that group of horse owners.

    Of course, it’s only worth it if it actually draws more people to the show, not if it subdivides classes that are already hurting. My point was that I would probably choose a show that offered an AOTS division over one that did not. If I’m not alone in that, then maybe it is worthwhile to have it.

  11. smskelly says:

    Leslie – I don’t have the breakdown in front of me right now, unfortunately, but IIRC, at least half of the Regionals offer AOTS classes, and here in the east, quite a few of the non-Regional A-rated shows do as well. It seems to be a geographic thing, some areas have more AOTS to support such classes, and other areas don’t.

  12. RaeOfLight says:

    Thanks for your comments Stacy! One of these days I might be contacting you for a solid-honest-easily-maintainable-sound colored seasoned show horse :)

  13. Monte15 says:

    I may be a little late commenting….

    I purchased a great horse about 4 years ago from a reputable trainer. The horse had been shown for several years, and knew his job in and out of the show ring quite well. I’ve always worked with a trainer, so this was my first experience working a horse on my own (I really didn’t have a choice. No trainers in the area.) Anyway, my great horse has some age on him, but continues to shine in the show ring. He doesn’t always win, but the experience and confidence he has given me is worth his weight in gold.

    Knowing what I know now, I really enjoy showing without a trainer. In addition, my “well liked horse” has opened the social channels for me at several shows in the area where I live.

    Have confidence in yourself, find a great horse, and Have Fun!

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