Can A Working Student Retain Amateur Status?

by | Competition Programs

The Answer Is Maybe
We Explore The Issues and Provide Four Scenarios

With a growing number of amateur classes offered by show managers, it’s no wonder that we get a lot of questions regarding amateur status.

One of our readers asked if she would be required to forfeit her amateur status if she took a job as a working student. The trainer told her that she wouldn’t be paid but would get plenty of valuable experience and opportunities to ride.

Definition Of Amateur/Professional
If you’re looking for the definition of Amateur/Professional status, you’ll find it in the US Equestrian Federation’s (USEF) Rule Book under Subchapter 13-B, specifically rules GR1306 and GR1307.

With the rules in hand, we presented some real-world scenarios to the Federation’s Director of the Regulation Department.

We learned that the primary factors that need to be considered are Age and Remuneration.

Rider’s Age
First, if the rider is under 18, then the amateur/professional rules in Chapter 13 do not apply.

In accordance with GR1307.1:
“Any person who has not reached his/her 18th birthday is an amateur and does not require amateur status.”

Therefore, if the rider is under 18, they are always deemed an amateur and can accept remuneration for riding, teaching, etc.

Second, does the rider receive any form of remuneration?

Many people mistakenly believe that remuneration is simply financial compensation. In fact, remuneration can take many forms including cash, goods, sponsorships, discounts or services; reimbursement of any expenses; trade or in-kind, exchange of goods or services such as board or training.

Furthermore, if the rider has a relationship with someone who has received (or will in the future receive) remuneration, they may be at risk of forfeiting amateur status. Specifically, if the rider is a family member, spouse, or cohabitant of someone who receives remuneration for the horse on which they are competing, they would be deemed a professional.

What Is A Working Student?
Here are some excerpts from actual online job postings for Working Students and Interns:

  • The ideal candidate is experienced with H/J’s grooming, riding, showing, show grooming, clipping, bathing, feeding, stall, turnout, general barn housekeeping etc.
  • Working student positions open in a top show barn. Learn how to ride and groom with the best!
  • Work in exchange for lessons
  • Students may bring a horse for reduced board
  • Salary includes: Stipend/Housing/Training/Showing

For some, working in exchange for lessons or reduced board makes sense. While that might be a practical choice, it also means giving up your amateur status (if your over 18 years old).

Working Student Scenarios That Might Impact Amateur Status

What If I Receive No Remuneration?
If you are an intern, apprentice or working student and you are receiving no remuneration, then your employer is likely breaking the law.

According to the US Department of Labor’s Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA):
Interns must be paid the minimum wage and overtime for the services that they provide to “for-profit” private sector employers.

There are some circumstances under which individuals who participate in “for-profit” private sector internships or training programs may do so without compensation. However these circumstances, would include “training the student” and that would be considered remuneration by the USEF.

What happens if I receive remuneration for a non-riding position such as a groom, farrier, bookkeeper, veterinarian, barn manager etc?
GR1306.4c allows amateur riders to receive remuneration for activities like those listed above.

In order to be in violation, the amateur would have to be receiving remuneration as a groom and also riding horses that are owned, boarded or trained by their employer. In other words, amateurs are permitted to receive remuneration as a groom but cannot then turn around and ride horses that are connected financially with their employer.

What if I do NOT accept remuneration (cash, trade, reduction in board or lessons etc. as defined in 1306 -2) AND I’m NOT a family member, cohabitant etc. AND I handle, ride, shows horses that are owned by the trainer or the trainer’s clients?
This would be permitted under the rules.

What if I DO accept remuneration and I ONLY handle/ride horse(s) horses owned by me?
The obvious question here would be: why would a trainer compensate an amateur “working student” to only ride their own horse?

Correct, the amateur can receive remuneration for activities such as grooming so long as they are not riding horses connected to the trainer/employer.

They would still be permitted to receive remuneration for grooming and ride their own horses or horses owned by someone not connected to their trainer/employer such as a friend at another barn.

The title “Working Student” has, over the years, given some members a false sense of security regarding what they are able to do because they are under the impression that by calling themselves a working student the restrictions don’t apply to them.

However, that is not the case and just like with any other member, their actual specific duties whether they call themselves a working student or not, must comply with the rules. So, they can groom without issue; they could be a bookkeeper without issue but if they are doing either one of these (or similar tasks) for remuneration, they cannot at any time ride a horse connected to their employer.

Guidelines Only
Please note that there are often many varying circumstances behind each person’s status and it is difficult to make a definite determination on a person’s status if the Federation does not have all the relevant information regarding the matter.

If anyone has questions or would like to have a clarification on the specifics of a situation to stay in compliance with the rules, it’s recommended that they send an e-mail to [email protected] where they can make a determination with the facts provided whether he or she would be considered an amateur or professional.