Seth Beaver competes at Training level and also grooms for his wife Kelly Beaver, who competes her horse Hobbs at the Intermediate level. In this reader submission, he shares his thoughts on the grueling task of competing at the upper levels as an amateur. Many thanks to Seth for writing, and thanks for reading!
I have the privilege of grooming for my wife, Kelly Beaver, who has been competing at the Intermediate level as an adult amateur for the past two years. I have only been riding for a handful of years and currently compete at the Training level. I aspire to compete at the upper levels as well and the difference in the cost, time and effort between the two levels is eye-opening.
Kelly has a very successful professional career outside of riding which requires her to work 50+ hours per week. My job is a bit more flexible, so I get to take care of a lot of the day-to-day issues at our farm as well as ride her horse for her when she’s stuck at work. I’m not sure how other amateurs with demanding jobs make it work. Between the added vet visits (and bills) and the added conditioning requirements, there is much to juggle in order to successfully navigate one’s way to an upper level event.
Hobbs, Kelly’s Intermediate horse, has provided us with the privilege of showing at some large shows such as the CCI at Bromont and, the latest, at the CCI at Fair Hill International.
Through these experiences, I am amazed how difficult it is to complete at these levels as an amateur rider. Most amateurs rarely have the luxury of riding more than one horse at these competitions. Those with full-time jobs don’t have the time to train and compete multiple horses, especially at the upper levels, let alone have the energy to do so. Going to shows with all your eggs in one basket results in a very stressful and pressure-packed situation in an already difficult sport.
In CCI shows, the difficulty of cross country is enhanced, and it’s common that only one-third of the competitors finish with no cross country jump penalties, one-third finish with one or more stops and one-third don’t see the finish line. I haven’t done the math or the research, but I’m certain the odds are even bleaker for the amateur rider.
There is so much time, effort and money invested to get to these shows (including precious vacation days!). It is extremely demoralizing not to be able to “finish on a number” and to have head home early. In a sport that seems to kick you down more than it lifts you up, I certainly applaud the amateur riders at all levels, but especially admire those that dare to compete at the upper levels.