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RC: national championship/qualifications

For anyone that doesn't know me, I'm a "completer" not a racer.  I have had 
the opportunity to attempt many of the national championship series rides, 
as well as the AERC Classic & the ROC, with mixed results as far as 
completion goes.  I also attended this past NC as a vendor.  Here's my 2 
A championship trail should be challenging, but PROVEN to be a do-able 
trail.  In other words, it should be a trail that has been/is used for a 
"regular" ride.  That doesn't mean that anyone who can complete is 
automatically a champion.  In order to win a championship, of course you 
need to beat the trail, but a championship IS more about beating the other 
riders than a "regular" ride is.  That's what makes it a championship, and 
the caliber of riders involved is what increases the prestige.  It only 
makes sense the standards should go up as long as people have reasonable 
notice to meet them.  Mileage doesn't guarantee horse sense, but it helps 
weed out some who don't have it.
The trail at Kentucky is definitely championship caliber.  (I rode some of 
the same & similar trails when the Kentucky Stampede championship series 
rode out of another camp at Morehead.)  The trail in and out of Rudy's Ranch 
is a LONG hill.  It was somewhat steep, at least in spots where I could see 
it go up behind camp.  The 100 milers had their last 2 or 3 vet checks in 
camp, which meant going up & down this hill a LOT.  The 50's only had to 
come down this hill to finish.  For both distances, after coming down this 
hill they circled a large field and then crossed the finish (or 100 mile in 
timer).  For the 50's this was a bit slick in spots as it rained all day 
between the 2 rides.
A lot of the horses finishing just looked tight, stiff, and tired (to me).  
Many of the riders tried to canter around the field even if there wasn't 
anyone close behind them, and I never quite figured out why.  The winners in 
both distances looked absolutely awesome.
I'm going to stick my neck way, way, way out here and say the vet standards 
were quite strict.  Or, I should say, standards we could be proud of.  In my 
very strong opinion there is a tendency to let the little things slide & 
give completions to borderline horses at "regular" rides.  That did not 
happen here, and I think that is one thing that contributed to the low 
completion rate.  High completion rates look good in the ride stats and make 
some riders "feel good" about a ride, but it's misleading when used to 
compare with high profile rides that require strict standards.
I also need to make the point that there isn't necessarily anything wrong 
with a low completion rate on championship rides.  If I want to enter the 
championship and ride to complete for my own satisfaction it's wonderful I 
can have that opportunity (1000+ miles doesn't require top placing :-)  
"Completers" can help pay for the ride!   I don't expect everyone to feel 
that way, though.  If I had a horse I thought was ready to win the thing, 
I'd ride up front.  If things didn't work out, I'd hope I have the sense to 
pull and not try to baby through a compromised horse for the sake of a 
completion.  Is there any other sport that sets criteria for winning 
(fastest speed within vet parameters) and then beats up the competitors who 
try to really accomplish that but pull if things aren't going well?
Because of our small numbers, racers & completers (who are very often the 
same people at different stages of their horse's career) really need to 
stick together instead of fighting so much.  There really is room for both.
As usual, I've gotten a bit off track.  Of the people at the NC ride that I 
knew didn't have a lot of miles, they took very good care of their horses 
and many completed.  I didn't really notice anyone racing that didn't have 
the background to do so, but that may have been taken care of early in the 
ride.  For the most part it was a group of people having a very good time. 
So, no, I don't think the qualifications had anything to do with the 
completion rate last year.
End of rambling,
Nancy Mitts

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