Appreciating the Amateur Competitor
Shirley Johnson and her Wellington-based business, A'Dashi, has led the way in developing an award series for Amateurs. So often, Johnson had heard stories of riders returning home after a winter season of hard work with nothing to show for their accomplishments. Improved scores and performances are certainly valuable commodities for the riders, but family members and friends rarely understand the value of of a Florida season without seeing hard evidence - ribbons, trophies and prizes.
"These championships are a win-win situation. Amateur riders are the core of our sport, supporting the businesses of the professional trainers and the retailers." said Johnson. "Trainers and retailers owe a debt of gratitude and recognition to the Amateurs. Amateurs face stiff competition from professionals and each other during the Florida show series and are long overdue for the recognition of an independent award series."
How It Works
When the Florida 2003 dressage season had it's last show in April, Amateur competitors are took their final rides down centerline to qualify for the 2003 DIF-OPL Amateur Winter Dressage Championships.
In consultation with Klaus Fraessdorf, Shirley Johnson set out the criteria and structure of the award series. Her enthusiasm for the concept drew a wealth of support from other local and equestrian businesses.
Qualifying scores accrued up to and including the GCDA Grand Finale Shows I & II on April 26 & 27, 2003. With a long list of corporate sponsors offering enticing prizes, the competition is heating up as quickly as South Florida's spring weather.
Although originally requiring Amateur's to register BEFORE the competition season began, the award organizers chose to open up the awards competition to all riders who meet the qualifying criteria:
- Minimum of five (5) scores above 63% (Intro, Training & First Levels) or above 60% (Second Level and above) earned from the October 26, 2002, Miami Dade Fall Show through the GCDA Grand Finale-II on April 27, 2003. Top five (5) scores to be averaged.
- Scores from the highest test at the level apply: Training 4, First 4, Second 4, Third 3, Fourth 3, Prix St. Georges, Intermediare I and Grand Prix.
- Amateur Rider status
As sponsor Cetty Weiss of Weiss Family Chiropractic says, "Now that we've opened up the competition, some people who didn't think they were even qualified might get a nice surprise at the end of season!"
Cetty Weiss praises this award series for bringing a new incentive to riders in the amateur ranks. "These awards reward amateurs for the amazing level of sacrifice that many make to ride and, even more significantly, to ride at this level of competition."
Weiss Family Chiropractic sponsors ribbons in each division to 8th place in addition to an Overall High Point Perpetual Trophy.
Suzie Cook, owner of Spectrum Saddle Shop in Coconut Creek, FL, heard of the idea and immediately signed on. Her store awards gifts certificates for 1st-3rd place at each competitive level in the awards program. "I am an amateur dressage rider myself, so I like seeing awards for amateurs," Cook said.
"The abundance of wonderful professionals in our midst makes the amateurs strive harder towards their goals, but it also makes it harder to place in competitions." Cook praised the "great amateurs who live in our area, and deserve to be recognized." Her Arabian gelding SH Testarosa currently competes at 3rd & 4th levels with trainer Ellie Scofield.
Already very active in sponsorships, dressage riders and owners of EuroAmerican Saddlery, Charlie and Romy Tota were both eager to support the Amateur award series.
"In competition, Amateurs must rank themselves against not only the amateurs, but also the seasoned professionals," Romy said. "The Amateur Championship acknowledges the accomplishments of the amateurs who do this for fun, and who deserve feedback on their progress. And let's not forget, it is the Amateur that is our business base. Giving something back to them is important for them and us [retailers.]"
And the competition among Florida's expanded winter crowd of amateurs is significant. Charlie Tota's first show ring experience was in Florida. "I got a solid score of 64%. And a professional won the class with a 76%. How can we expect our amateurs not to get jaded?"
DressageDaily Does Its Part
When Shirley Johnson approached Mary Phelps, A Markel Equine Insurance Specialist, and owner of DressageDaily.com, for Phelps it was immediately a "done deal". Through DressageDaily, Phelps would promote the Championships and announce the winners. With over 200,000 unique visitors monthly, the word will be spread, and the 2003 inaugural year, will encourage more participants in 2004, now that they know the criteria.
All the retailers agree that the DIF-OPL Amateur Winter Dressage Championships offer the much-needed and much-deserved recognition and incentive for amateurs to continue in their pursuit of dressage perfection. As the incentive program grows, the support and enthusiasm of the professional trainers will be needed in order to encourage and motivate their amateur students and peers.
Several sponsors suggested a hoped-for result for this year's award series would be a slow progression towards more amateur-only competitions and finals, similar to the competitive structure of the hunter world's amateur divisions.
Until then, keep your eyes open over the coming weekend for the top amateurs who will be appearing in the final show of the series.