In Praise of Amateurs.

We humans are always labeling ourselves. Labels reflect politics and attitudes, or can define a purpose.

The horse world is no different. We divide ourselves by breed or riding discipline. Sometimes a label is inclusive and sometimes not so much.

Some riders label themselves as recreational as opposed to competitive. This feels odd to me- I believe we are all recreational. Some us prefer a trip down center-line over a ride in the woods – but both rides have obstacles, challenges and more in common than not.

Calling horses a hobby really amuses me.  We are usually catapulted to a level of passion that colors the rest of the world a bit more beige. Amateur or pro, recreational or competitive, horses rarely allow us such a superficial stance- hobby is a small word for such a giant avocation.

The labels that intrigue me the most  are professional and amateur. It is easy to find amateur riders who are excellent riders and trainers- and choose to focus on their own horses. There are trainers who are better at business than caring about horses.

Amateurs have the freedom to spend as much time training as they want- setting independent schedules and basking in the happy self-obsession. Professionals weren’t always so lucky.

We think of a professional as someone who gets paid for the work that is done, but working with horses is an activity where the work is rarely ever finished and perceptions vary dramatically. It’s pretty hard to quantify living products and fitting an equine reality into a sound business plan is an oxymoron.

The word amateur is about more than money. The root word in amateur is the Latin word for “love” or “lover”. Being an amateur is putting love above money. An amateur might have more responsibility than a professional from this stand point.

This week I have heard some complaints about people in professional positions not having the same skills that some amateurs have. We know better than to think other professions (lawyers, repairmen, dentists) put a client’s situation above their own. It seems to me that it is a pretty high standard to hold a professional to; buying someone’s time is easier than quantifying commitment in another person’s heart. But humans are forever confusing the line between reality and fantasy where horses are concerned.

I’m sure this is a very unprofessional to say, but horses benefit the most when the line between amateur and professional is the thinnest.  -Anna, Infinity Farm.

But yield who will to their separation,
My object in living is to unite
My avocation and my vocation
As my two eyes make one in sight.
Only where love and need are one,
And the work is play for mortal stakes,
Is the deed ever really done
For heaven and the future´s sakes.
Robert FrostTwo Tramps in Mud Time, st. 9

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