Message from NCHA President Chuck Smith

There appears to be some confusion concerning the action taken by the Executive Committee at its August 22, 2016 meeting to adopt a recommendation from the Non-Pro/Amateur Review Committee relating to the modification of the existing amateur exception rules effective in the 2017 point year. I am sending this correspondence to all directors in order to clarify any confusion that may exist.

The Amateur 10yr/$15,000 Exception Rule, which is currently in the Rule Book, allows past trainers who have trained astride in other equine disciplines to return to the Amateur division if certain requirements are met. That exception was recommended in 2009 as part of the Non Pro Amateur Task Force Proposal, was vetted by the Amateur Committee, was recommended to the Executive Committee by majority vote by the Amateur Committee and has been in the Rule Book since 2010 (See page 152 of the NCHA Rule Book).

The most recent recommendation from the Non Pro Amateur Review Committee that was considered and approved by the Executive Committee in its August 22, 2016 meeting was simply a modification of the time and monetary limits contained in the current exception rule. The adopted modification is applicable to the potential conversion to amateur status of a former trainer who trained astride in another equine discipline and to the potential conversion from non pro to amateur status for former trainer’s families. Neither the existing exception rule, nor the adopted modification to the exception rule, allow any former cutting horse trainer or assistant cutting horse trainer to qualify for Amateur status under any circumstances. The Executive Committee strongly endorsed these changes and these changes currently stand as approved.

The motion as approved by the Executive Committee was as follows: A motion was made by Jeff Fisk, seconded by Lewis Wray and passed with one opposed (Jerry Louie) to approve changes to current amateur exceptions to allow the following persons to apply for amateur status: (1) former horse trainers from other equine disciplines (not cutting horse trainers) who have not engaged in training activities for at least three years prior to the date of application and who have lifetime open earnings (in all disciplines as reported by Equistat) of less than $15,000; (2) ex-spouses of professionals who have been divorced for at least three years prior to the date of application and have less than $50,000 in earnings in all breed associations and cutting competitions; (3) children of professionals who have not resided with the professional for at least three years prior to the date of application and have less than $50,000 in earnings in all breed associations and cutting competitions; and (4) spouses and children of persons who were formerly classified as professionals, but who have been granted a change of status to non-professional under NCHA exception rules. These changes will become effective in the 2017 point year.

The Executive Committee is committed to making changes that benefit the membership as a whole and is also committed to the processes contained in NCHA Rules. Therefore, in order to insure that all interests have been fully heard from, I am exercising my authority under Article 5, Section 5 of the Constitution & By-Laws to invite the chairs of the Amateur, Non-Pro, Professional Trainers and Non-Pro/Amateur Review Committee or any other effected committees to again address this issue with the Executive Committee, if they so desire, under new business at the November 2016 Executive Committee meeting. If any member has comments on this issue, please contact your directors or the appropriate Standing Committee Chairs to discuss this matter. After hearing from those Committee Chairs, the Executive Committee will decide what further action, if any, will be taken in connection with this matter.

History of the Amateur Division and Exception Rules

The following is a brief history of the development of the amateur division, and the exception rules affecting that division that demonstrates the changes that have occurred over the years.

In the time span of the late 1980’s through the early 1990’s, a new division of the NCHA called the Amateur Division was created. The need for and structure of this division was debated for several years. The Executive Committee knew something had to be done to create participating membership at the base level. The question was how to structure with fairness and long term growth. After much study, two approaches materialized: (1) the creation of a pure, pristine amateur true to the definition of the term “amateur”, or (2) a more restricted form of the non-pro. The “amateur” approach would be awards only or, at best, allowing only jackpot earnings without restrictions on longevity in the class. The restricted non-pro concept would eliminate current dominating non-pros from the new class so that it could be used as a stair step system for graduation to the regular non-pro competition after earnings levels were met. It was believed that given the opportunity to compete in restricted classes, participants would gain the experience and confidence to move up and compete in regular non-pro competition.

A compromise between those two approaches was finally reached. Members qualifying for the new division would be allowed to compete for money, including added money. It was to be a stair step structure with earnings limits that forced graduation into the non-pro class. It would be called the “amateur” division, even though by definition, it really wasn’t. The reasoning for the name “amateur’ being selected was to create a distinction in name between the new class and the non-pro class.

The rest is history; the Amateur class grew. It became popular in weekend events and really boomed in the Triple Crown competition. All of a sudden, people were graduating out of the earnings limits, but didn’t want to advance to the non-pro division. Amateur class limits were raised, exceptions were made, more amateur divisions were created, and more prize money was added. In short, Amateur Class eligibility has continued to evolve to meet the needs of NCHA members.

The Non-Pro/Amateur Review Committee was formed in 2009 to deal with the disciplinary issues arising around status, horse ownership and the many people who wanted to crossover into the amateur/non-pro divisions or to remain eligible in the amateur and/or non-pro division. The purpose in forming this committee was to allow a committee that knew the history of the association and divisions to determine how to best deal with disciplinary issues, amateur/non-pro applications and exceptions. Additionally, it placed eligibility and disciplinary actions in hands that were not directly affected by the decision, eliminating decisions on eligibility and discipline made by competitors in the same division. Only past presidents have ever served on this committee. That committee makes recommendations it feels best serve the association as a whole. Without the developments that have come from that committee, many who are now competing in the amateur, unlimited amateur and non-pro divisions would not be eligible.