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Nationals Qualifications

Alison Slatter
AERC: Fickle, Elitist, Over-controlling?

Some time ago, AERC  BOD decided to make nationals more open. It took lots
of hard work and discussion/consideration to make it so. AERC wanted more
members and decided this was a way to help generate enthusiasm. At the
time, the idea had member support. Now, a few riders are not happy at the
change. Arguing now about details of qualification, in an effort to take
things back to the old ways is underhanded and wrong.  I say let the thing
go in five-year cycles at least, before changing rules again.  Have the
whole membership vote on what they think the nationals should mean
(prestige or an opportunity to generate enthusiasm).  Then, be satisfied
with that vote representing the membership for a five-year cycle, not just
up until the next Board of Directors is instated.  Changing rules in the
middle of a ride season is fickle.  It makes the organization look foolish
and makes new members wonder about how stable any of the other rules in
the rulebook are.

I just finished reading ALL the postings in the archives regarding
national championship qualifications. My biggest beef with the elitists is
that they want to have their cake and eat it too. They want the national
ride to "mean something" and imply it will only "mean something" if there
are a distilled group of riders there; but THEN they go on to imply that
NONE of this endurance riding thing is about winning a race, it's all
about personal growth, bonding with the horse, doing what's best for the
horse in the long run. Well, those two viewpoints are somewhat mutually
exclusive in my book. I say if you think endurance riding is all this
"Zen" thing and should be so for everyone, then you should be in your own
world at every ride, focused on meeting and exceeding your own TIME GOAL,
regardless of the number of riders around you or their agenda. You should
not care about making your finishing position “mean something” in the
sense of public recognition by others. If you really do feel this way (you
don’t care at all about placing, just care about your own time goals), you
certainly should not care so much about how “polluted” with newbies the
waters of Nationals are, because any kind of challenging ride will have
“meaning” to you.  Each team should just be enjoying the company and
camaraderie of other teams and would reflect calmly at ride's end,
comparing only one thing--how their own horse rider tem performed as
compared with their own personal goals of completion time (not ranking).
Look at Ron Sanchez’ posting. He summed it up perfectly: “Lets not request
to high of requirements or the entries will be low. After all, the less
experienced rider and horse have no bearing on you and your horse…”

High milers who try to claim Nationals need to “mean something”
prestige-wise, then try to support the new proposed entry restrictions by
claiming it’s all for the “good of the horse” are talking out of both
sides of their mouth, as the saying goes.

If Nationals IS kept more open when all this gets sorted out, and the
elitists still want a more elitist race, one of them should put one
together and work to keep it elitist. Make it an invitational. Like the
ROC…I don’t understand why they didn’t just KEEP that one closed to
beginners like it was, so that the elitists can have somewhere to get away
from the “common masses”.   Obviously, we need at least one race for
super-high-milers only or they won’t be happy.  So let’s have one,
acknowledge the need for it, and keep it that way forever.  They can go
off and impress each other and not have to worry about some beginner
taking their ribbon.

For the “closet elitists” who want to insist that the proposed
qualification restrictions are “for the good of the horses” here’s my
advice to you:    Stop trying to make others in your own moral image. Stop
trying to mother and nurture other peoples’ horses.  It is invasive,
pretentious and generally NAZIish.   The vet checks and checkpoint
criteria are there as our safety net, to catch horses whose riders are not
seeing the signs or are not caring enough.  Past that, we don’t have any
business trying to control another person as to how they manage their
horse’s long-term health. Some people love horses; some people love just
the sport. It will ALWAYS be that way.  You can put all the mileage
restrictions you want on race qualifications…you will STILL have many
people riding their horses wrong in the race and you will also engender
the capricious exclusion of many caring, conscientious, educated riders.
Yes, we should emphasize long-term horse health in every issue of
Endurance News and at every ride meeting, but you cannot possibly hope to
FORCE people, with any amount of rules or restrictions, to love and use
their horses exactly the way you do.  You also cannot presume to know the
amount of conditioning miles a horse has had throughout the years that are
not on record with “big brother.”

Foremost, do not change rules in the middle of a ride season. There can be
no quicker way to lose the trust and enthusiasm of members.

Before we do change any rules again, let’s get some good statistics and
stop throwing around unhelpful generalizations like “I’ve got 2 million
miles and I’ve been around and seen the patterns of abuse.” If you have
specific cases to talk about and you know ALL the details (which is
probably only true if you are talking about yourself and your own horse),
then fine.  But when people say things like “…then he quit bringing that
horse to rides and that proves the horse was ruined and he had to get him
a new one,” they are offering pure conjecture.   The horse may have been
injured in the pasture, may have developed genetic eye problems, may be in
foal, may have been reassigned for the summer because he became the kids’
favorite 4-H show horse, or might be lame because he was also being used
to run barrels between endurance rides.  You can guess all you want about
whether the horse is not at rides because of endurance-induced lameness,
but you really do not know unless the owner has said to you  “I no longer
bring that horse because his legs are ruined.”  When you open up the sport
more, a wider, more WELL-ROUNDED group is participating.  They are
involved in more than one horse sport, likely, and may buy/sell/share
their horses more than the “old-hat” endurance rider who has a closer
one-on-one bond with one horse for twenty-five years. This does NOT mean
these newer riders are abusive or uncaring with their “flavor of the
 month”.  They just aren’t exactly like you. Where’s the crime?

If the BOD is determined to change nationals qualifications based on the
prejudicial assumption that low-mile riders are over-zealous and
knot-headed, then I think it would be only fair if they first pulled up
all last years records and compared vet pulls vs. rider-initiated pulls in
two categories: high-mileage horse/rider combos and low-mileage
horse/rider combos.  This may sound tedious, but any garden-variety
computer geek can set up a program overnight that can give the comparisons
instantly.  Only with the help of such statistics can we logically
conclude there is really a correlation between low-mileage riders and
over-zealous riding at nationals, and that such a correlation does NOT
exist with the high-mileage riders.  And the burden of producing this
proof is on the people who want more restrictions.  The people who don’t
want more restrictions have already come up with good numbers supporting
their view.

Alison Slatter

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