Let’s Be Honest
The exposed thoughts and honest opinions of an aspiring amateur.
Written by: Caitlin Creel
(c) US Equestrian
Let’s play a game of word association! When you think of the word amateur do you think “a person who engages in a pursuit, especially a sport, on an unpaid rather than a professional basis” or do you think “a person who is incompetent or inept at a particular activity.”
For me, I think the latter. It seems to be a natural “imposter syndrome” scenario, where every time I step into the ring in a professional laden division, that as an amateur there is a sense I don’t belong or that I am not good enough, and I don’t think that I am alone! I feel like the word “Amateur” for so many comes with a negative connotation. But just because your title is not “Professional”, that doesn’t mean that you are not capable or have the potential to ride just as well as someone who has chosen riding to be their profession.
As the US offers more and more 2* events, it is giving amateurs like me, who typically peak in the High Amateur Jumpers or maybe a National Grand Prix here and there, an opportunity to really step up their level of riding and eventually keep climbing the ladder to 3*, 4* and even 5* events. No longer are the times where you either compete in the amateur division or the professional division. Sure, there have always been a couple outstanding amateurs stepping up to do those classes, but now more than ever, you see significantly more of them not only stepping up but also producing the results!
(c) Heels Down Magazine
I mean, look at the most recent PanAm team. The US is sending not one but two amateur riders, Eve Jobs and Lucy Deslauriers, and last year on our Gold Medal WEG Team, there again, we see an amateur in Adrienne Sternlicht! Not only is that incredible for them, but to me, that actually says a lot about where our sport is going. What I see is that this new generation of riders is being given these fantastic opportunities to progress in the right way. Rather than in the past, you either saw amateurs having to make a considerable jump in their skill set to compete at the top of the sport and just hope their horse was nice enough to fix the mistakes made at such a high level or you saw them just deciding to drop out of the sport altogether.
With other sports, amateur usually means they didn’t have the chops to make it to the big leagues, whereas with riding some choose to do it as a hobby and a passion to the highest of their ability, and not as a profession. I think we need to change the tone in how we look at amateurs. Let’s celebrate that these are long lasting athletes who will only help our sport grow. Let’s celebrate that we have professionals who are producing these amateurs to compete successfully at the top of the sport. And let’s celebrate the fact that as you look to your future of riding, it is not so black and white. It is not “professional or bust”, but there is a happy medium where you can be dedicated to the sport and ride as a passionate amateur still feeling worthy that you deserve a seat at the table!
My thoughts to the amateurs out there, continue to improve because there is no limit to where you can end up and if you work hard you’ll find yourself competing with the best of them and earning that well-deserved spot at the table!
(c) Kaitlyn Karssen
Follow along with my Amateur journey on The PonyApp!