Stepping into the world of showing Arabian horses can be daunting, especially as an Amateur who works with her horse at home. With so many competing financial demands, full time training is just not feasible for some. For others, keeping their horses at home is a personal and lifestyle choice, for themselves and their horses.
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While most are familiar with class abbreviations such as ATR (amateur to ride), AOTH (amateur owner to handle), and so on, many are less familiar with AOTS - Amateur Owner Trained and Shown. These classes can be offered in any discipline and provide a chance to compete with other amateurs who are working independently, as well as a great way to get started or return to the show ring.
USEF defines AOTS as: “ AOTS - Amateur Owner Trained and Shown. Classes may be offered in any section and specifications must follow those of the amateur class within that section. Exhibitors, attendants, and headers must meet the specifications for amateur status. Horses are not to have been professionally trained and/or shown by a professional for a period of one year immediately prior to the competition (riding and driving instruction for the owner to be excluded). In addition, horses are not to be exhibited, prepared, groomed or schooled with the aid of or by a professional while on or off the competition grounds immediately before or during the competition.”
Horses showing in the AOTS classes must not have been in professional training for the year prior to the competition, this includes being shown by a trainer. It is generally accepted that lessons can have been taken by the amateur owner and horse at home but not at a show, but the trainer is not to have trained the horse independently. Other amateurs may provide assistance.
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It is important to realize that while Amateur Owner Trained and Shown classes are relatively new, they may not appear on the schedule at shows as they have yet to prove their popularity. Like any other class, AOTS classes can be added using the ‘buy-a-class’ or ‘TBA class’ option. This means that for a small fee the class of your choice, for example, Arabian Hunter Pleasure AOTS, will be added to the show schedule. By buying or sponsoring these classes, amateurs can help prove the demand for them and move towards them being offered routinely alongside Open and ATH classes.
One trainer who has noticed a rise in the number of amateurs who want to be more involved and those who keep their horses at home (known as ‘do-it-yourself amateurs’) is Wendye Gardiner of Solstice Training Center, Aubrey, Texas. Her perception of the changes in the industry illustrates shifting ideas, including more amateur participation and a rise in the popularity of the individually scored disciplines. “In the last 10 years, we have seen a big change in the economy. More amateurs are moving into the Sport Horse and Working Western disciplines where they perceive that they don’t have to keep their horse in training and have a better shot of still placing well on their own. We have also seen new disciplines emerge such as English Trail, Western Dressage and Ranch Riding, along with Adult Equitation and Showmanship. These classes give amateur owners more things they can do with their horses at the shows and more opportunities to be rewarded for their hard work.”
Wendye explains, “As a trainer, I feel that we need to adapt to this new and exciting world that’s opening up to the breed, and embrace it - support the do-it-yourself amateur with lessons, clinics, articles, and good advice. Open up to perhaps learning new disciplines and ideas that may be outside of the box we are used to standing in.”
By supporting amateur owners who want to do things by themselves with their horse, and those who are new to the show world and looking for an entry level, we are able to be good ambassadors for the breed and generate new interest and bolster participation. “I’ve always had the desire to teach the do-it-yourself amateur anything they want to learn and share the knowledge I have gained over the years,” Wendye shares. “I am where I am today thanks to trainers who gave me a chance to work hard and compete, despite the perceived disadvantages I might have had. I feel that everyone should have that opportunity if they so desire.”
For more information about Amateur Owner Trained and Shown classes contact USEF or inquire with the Arabian Horse Association. To support this up-and-coming division, talk to the show secretary at your next event about sponsoring an AOTS class.