Amateur Bill of Rights? -- COTH Article by Penelope Ayers

Penelope Ayers has written a great article that’s on the COTH website and Facebook page (hopefully that Facebook link works…).

She wants amateurs to come up with their top five suggestions for USEF and USHJA with the idea that they will be compiled and sent on to the organizations. The linked (hopefully) Facebook post says to comment there or in the COTH discussion boards. So I decided to get the ball rolling and start a discussion where people can post.

I don’t want to prejudice anyone with my five (OK, I have seven written down so I need to think a bit), but will comment later.

Please chime in here or on the Facebook article. TIA.


What do amateurs want from USEF/USHJA? I know what I want.

I want affordable shows where the focus is on horse and rider safety (they already seem to do that),

where ensuring that amateurs have a good, fun experience (with perhaps a basket from show management instead of all the swag going to the trainer),

where my arena and warm up area is as nice as the main hunter/gran prix areas (not asking for FEI standard, just something that isn’t tiny, unlevel and full of people “hacking”),

where I don’t have to pay $200 for pass through fees to every local/state and national hunter/jumper organization’s budget’s if I do not show at their shows but show once a year, in their region(this applies to USHJA’s show pass fees and show fees – talk about double dipping!),

where the show doesn’t last 7 days (set up, warm up, 2-3 pro days, 3-2 amateur days) so I end up spending more than half my budget on the trainer’s career development if I choose not to support their “career” beyond what I currently support,

where the stall fees have some relationship to the actual costs and can be split between my young horse (warm up, pro day horse) and my horse (amateur days) without sneaking it in or having to pay for 2 stalls for a week,

where when I go into the show office, I am as welcome as my trainer is, and listened to as closely.

In short, I want to feel that I am as valued as the BNT and monied people when I show. It’s called customer service and isn’t that hard to do, Nordstrom’s has been doing it for some time.


Thank you @Penelope Ayers for bringing bringing up important topics regarding amateur riding as it applies to showing. I agree with kenyarider in many aspects. I have a couple of topics for consideration. I have been riding most of my life and the most in my mature adult life as that is how long it has taken to afford to compete. In ready many of the comments on Face Book, my first thought was that many of these comments should be aimed at show management not at the governing body of USEF/USHJA. I hope to make my comments significant to the governing bodies.

  1. Safety is vital in any sport and I think that these governing bodies have done an excellent job of ensuring that a rated show is safe for rider and the horse. Not just for mounted aspects but for attendance in general. When my daughter is with me and showing or helping, i am comfortable that if she has to go to the barn alone while i’m warming up or she has to get to the arena with her horse alone that she is safe. For that I say thank you.

  2. Price/cost. We all understand and want the event to make money so they will do it again. But as mentioned, I think we all just feel “bent over” when it comes to fees. Stall fees/ RV fees. ushja/usef annual fees, office fees, drug fees. I feel like a single per show fee (for the infrequent competitors that get lucky enough to go to a single show a year) or a simple annual fee ( for the frequrent competitors) would be adequate. Make it reasonable. I have seen a show where there was one fee. It isn’t cheap but it looks easy and I know how much i would have to budget for that show. The presentation looks amazing and office time would be minimized. This leads me to USEF/USHJA. If they are part of the same organization why do we need to pay both every year. From the amateur standpoint I don’t see the difference in the two. Admittedly, I have resigned to paying to play because I want to play but it means i get to play less.

  3. Schedule. I think most of the shows that i have attended run pretty well. My only suggestion would be for the governing bodies to set some sort of gate limitation time. I understand that trainers have conflicts and arenas want to wait for them and not upset them because they have several riders and are big contributers to a particular show and if the the show producers puts their foot down and closes a gate they risk upsetting a good client. I think the governing bodies should set guidelines or policy regarding gate times, so that its not on the shoulders of the show producers if they have to close a gate to move on. Most trainers work hard to not hold up an arena but there are some that are just rude about it. I could complain to the management but they are not in a place to discipline the behavior of a trainer regarding courtesy. But if there are policies from the governing bodies then the other riders in the class could make comment to the governing body about such discourtesies. In general, a smooth continuous running show without significant avoidable delays would be on my bill of rights list for the usef/ushja shows.

  4. Geography- I don’t understand why this rule would even exist. The rule of not having another rated show at the same time within the same region as another rated show. It seems rather biased to the show producers and has no real value to the amateur. As an amateur and consumer, I will go to the best show I can as close as I can. If there are more than one option then its better for the amateur. This rule to me seems like a bureaucratic advantage. I am very disappointed in USEF regarding their response and communication to the situation in Florida. It makes them look like selfish insider traders, hoarding their pride. Let it go, if the show qualifies as USEF, then it qualifies!!!

“And that’s all I have to say about that”.

Thank you for the opportunity to contribute to what might be an improvement to a top heavy, paid leadership, non profit organization.

Leandro Gutierrez


I honestly feel like if it just becomes a bitch fest about fees and money, it’s going to fall on deaf ears.

It may be the reality that under the current structure of the USHJA/USEF, costs simply can’t come down. Shows are sold out, so I fear the governing bodies aren’t going to listen to the arguments of “it costs too much.” Get creative. Choose different wording. What REALLY bothers you in that you don’t feel you are getting value for your money? Enumerate that, instead of just complaining that it’s all too expensive, and I think your argument will go much further.


Agreed. The high cost of going to rated shows is only partially driven by the actual check I write to the show office. My trainer’s bill for the week (including shipping) is way higher most of the time. From the perspective of direct impact on my budget, doing local weekend-only shows is the main way I keep costs down. So if USEF wants to build out their support of that type of event, they’d be making an impact on my show opportunities.

However, I am not the target audience here. I am fortunate to live in an area that has seen a renaissance in high-quality local shows/facilities over the last couple of years. I also don’t have ambition or desire to do more than that. So I don’t actually “need” USEF at the moment - though I do support their overall role in governance of our industry.

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Not sure you understood my answer. They asked for a “bill of rights”. I gave one. Feel free to provide your own.


Couple thoughts and want to say I agree with most of the above.

How about not seeing a good portion of memberships fees going towards a small minority of people(I.e. the high performance teams)? Take fees collected and spread it across the membership by subsiding show costs.

How about leadership/board positions be made up by constituent numbers? What I mean by that is if amateurs make up 60% of the membership then they should also make up 60% of the leadership/board positions.

Invest in industry professionals(Marketing, advertising, business folk) to chase down sponsorship dollars and use those dollars to subsidies costs that affect the majority of members.

How about rewriting what qualifies as an ametuer? If you teach a handful of updown lessons and show in the 2’6 hunters or puddle jumpers I think it’s safe to say you’re not a pro.

Focus on creating and supporting shows that are set up for an amateurs schedule(I.e Friday-Sunday) and find ways to keep shows on time. Think ride times here (Dressage does it without a problem). Shorter shows also mean less cost from overhead.

Get rid of the mileage rule - Competition is good! The fact that this is even a debate is laughable. Let the best product win.


Part of the problem with the money issue and the question of responsibility for an issue as between USEF/USHJA and show management is that the show management are required to provide X to get a certain rating. Some of that is expensive. And some of it is totally superfluous costs.

If you are offering a show in a smaller area and want premier rating, you have to offer a certain amount of prize money. But what if the entries in those classes don’t really help make up the pot? You come up with the money from elsewhere or you give up your rating.

I took the recent competition survey and ranked things like VIP at the bottom of importance. The show management has to spend on providing VIP and jumbotrons and such because USEF says it does. Sure, it is nice when shows have some hospitality (at least pre-COVID) but it does not have to be VIP level. I’ve been to a lot of shows where barely any VIP sold. There are a lot of shows where that’s just not appealing or worth the cost. And at that same show you might find tent stalls that are falling apart, no working wash racks, etc that you pay $300/week for using whether you are there 2 days or 7. And which might sell to a dressage show competitor the next week for $100.

The show managers and the governing body are intertwined in creating some of the problems people complain about because USEF sets expensive requirements that do not allow for flexibility and creativity among management. And management has to figure out how to pay for that and still make money off of the competitors (largely amateur riders and owners). But on the other hand, managers get a monopoly do they do not necessarily push USEF to change its requirements. This is why it is ridiculous that Penelope was not given the board seat but it went to another competition management person.

There are people that want the points and specs and prize money of premier shows. But the mileage rule prohibits a B or C show from competing with it, not just another A show. So there goes your 2 and 3 day shows.


Mary Babick responds:

Talk about not being able to see the forest through the trees. This does not shed Mary or USHJA in a good light.


Mary Babick has said and offered nothing productive in years.


This bit in particular perplexed me

Let’s take the show manager part of it for a second. Glenn Petty doesn’t ride, but he has horses that show under his business, Triangle Farm. Even if he didn’t have those horses, he’s still an amateur. Planning and Governance Committee is meeting

So the man is a show manager. I’m astounded to learn that show management isn’t a professional horse career. Learn something new everyday I guess.


Am I reading that response right (in the article that Jealoushe just posted) - does she really say that she does not get why people are frustrated and feel like they get no response because they answer things that apply to them so if there is not response it is because the question did not apply to them?

To me, if the people are asking the same question of you time and time again, and that question is not yours to answer, instead of ignoring it explain to the people who is the right person to ask or do one better, go to that right person and work on getting an answer for them.


This was one of the dumbest things I’ve ever read. Starting your interview by insulting your membership is a great look. “I think people don’t understand sports governance.” Good work, Mary!


Penelope suggested the bill of rights could look like that of health patients so I copied some of the sections from that which could be relevant for this discussion and gave some suggested translation. It’s rough but could spark some ideas.

  • Right to information: amateurs should be given a way to know more about what information is being discussed at USEF/Ushja meetings, increased transparency in decision making
  • Right to records and reports: should usef / ushja hold the records and we have to pay a year membership fee to access?
  • Right to informed consent: Members should have a bigger role in decision making
  • Right to second opinion: members should have other options than ushja or usef especially for showing
  • Right to transparency in rates, and care according to prescribed rates wherever relevant: the tax form published by usef/ ushja is fairly vague - more detailed info on how they spend our fees would be great
  • Right to non-discrimination: no discrimination against BIPOC or person of any ability / age / etc
  • Right to safety and quality care according to standards: usef / ushja should not continue to grant dates to facilities in poor condition
  • Right to protection for members involved in trials: these experimental ideas by usef/ ushja should not be implemented without a back up plan (for instance discussions about the enrollment fee for derbies)
  • Right to Education: more programs for amateurs; we have so many “green” and “young horse” we don’t need large prize money divisions going to professionals who are riding for billion dollar owners
  • Right to be heard and seek redressal: members must be allowed to voice their opinion
  1. Right to a fair playing field - Get the drugging under control, especially in the hunters. Full stop. Crush the people that drug their horses. Drug test the first place horse in every class, 5 year ban for any positives.
  2. Right to judging transparency - Hunters again. I have read posts from judges on why it’s just completely impossible to post scores due to everyone having their own shorthand and it all happens too fast, blah blah blah. This is absurd. Standardize how judging is done, score per jump, score for the flatwork between the jump, standard deductions for dropped lead changes or swaps, way of going, post the scores. Mandate a scribe, like in dressage. I’m sure out of all the fees we can have a paid scribe for each hunter class. I’d rather that than a jumbotron for VIP area.
  3. Right to a well run show - Ride times for God’s sake. Somehow everyone else gets this done. This would also have the benefit of cutting the cord from our trainers, at least a little bit. I loved going from hunter land where most people cannot even warm up without a trainer, to eventer land where the students were able to warm up and do a round without the trainer having to be there to hold their hand. How many years have we been complaining about rings being held for trainers?
  4. Fair warm up ring use - Set warmup fence height and direction, like eventing. It’s hard for the DIY rider to warm up when trainers “claim” warmup jumps. It’s not fair, we’re all paying the same fees. If anything is clear in the show world it’s that we cannot trust trainers to regulate themselves. Take this out of the equation.
  5. All Non-Pro classes run Saturday and Sunday only. This alone would wildly expand show access to us little people who actually work for a living.
  6. Fees from amateur membership is reinvested to amateurs. This can be through education opportunities, clinic opportunities etc. I don’t need to subsidize the competition opportunities for people who can afford it. Or we can talk about helping fund international teams after we feel we are getting something for our money.

I’m sure I have more, but that’s a good start.


This was written up very well.

EDIT: My quote bit isn’t showing up on my post, so in case it isn’t for other, this is quoting @BreathEasy


Holy crap, she basically spent that entire article bashing the base, and at times in great detail. That reaches a whole new level of tone deaf.


This is a wonderful reply, thank you. I’m working on a draft with 10 or 12 points today

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It was truly shocking to me.

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I think the issue for Mary Babick and all of them is that they exist in a complete bubble. I don’t necessarily resent them for it. When are they ever going to interact with a lower budget amateur, a once a week trailer in horses at home rider, or DIY amateur? They are priced out of their circle already. Which is OK, that isn’t the problem with showing. Discontent comes from things like I listed above.

The problem is that the association is paid for primarily by people that are not represented, and that they are completely mystified by people’s issues and why we say screw it, we’re not playing in this sandbox anymore. If they want to get to the bottom of it before they kill off their cash cow, they need to get out of the bubble. Just reading through years of COTH threads would illuminate some of the issues people have with them, and they can do that from the comfort of home :laughing: