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[RC] LD vs 50--Let's ruffle some feathers - Joane Pappas White

Dear Ridecamp,
I have been reading the posts on LD vs. 50's for the past several weeks.  This debate was one of the first major debates on Ridecamp when it  first started.  I was a real Newbie then (1996--I think). At least a couple of times a year since then, the debates about  LD riders "who race" their horses or "are not real endurance riders" come up and are tossed around again.  The first couple of years, I even joined discussions at the national convention about the "injustice" of being discriminated against as an LD rider---as a lawyer, I don't take such discrimination lightly or quietly.
I have watched considerable strides made to improve the LD program over the past 7 years, but this year has raised some new issues in my mind.  Three of us (which includes a junior and a rookie)  started riding together this Spring in the Mountain Region .  We have now ridden over 500 LD miles each during this ride season so I think we have had the opportunity to make some observations and draw some conclusions.  I would like you to think about them also, as I believe these issues should be addressed at both the regional and national levels:
First, many more riders are either staying in or returning to LD these days.  As some of you have pointed out, some of us LDers have physical issues that make 50's unlikely.  Some have horses that need to be in LD.  This summer I had several of the veteran 50+ milers say they just aren't enjoying the longer distances anymore and have come back to LD because they are having fun doing LD, alone or with family members.  I think that trend will grow as the Baby Boomers (of which I am one) decide that they don't have to "endure" quite as much.   As that trend increases the numbers of riders competing in LD, the current second class treatment is not going to be acceptable and AERC is going to have to address a number of issues that have not been adequately addressed in the past.  A significant portion of AERC's budget, and the budgets of many ride managers, are coming from LD and that trend is also likely to continue. The economic power of the LD riders is now substantial enough to cause real problems if they decide to organize and force these issues to be addressed. It is time to find some real answers to these issues and not just keep brushing them aside.
Second, those who compete in LD regularly would point out that the ones who are causing problems in LD these days are not the "newbies" who are happy to accept help and often thankful for advice but, rather, the 50 milers who decided to play for the day, particularly at multiday rides, and really raced through the LD.  Picture a group of LD riders, the ones you presume are green or on green horses, and now a bunch of 50 milers and their horses come racing through the trail.  They often set a 12+ mph pace and wonder why the inexperienced riders try to stay with them and over ride their horses.  Then they show their 50 mile horses against the novices for Best Condition.  Perhaps we should say that once you are a 50 miler, both you and your horse stay in 50's or at least 50 milers cannot drop back to LD and change the competitive level of the LD. It is like the professional who returns to the amateur ranks for the Olympics.  Of course the 50 milers could have the same arguments about the FEI 100 milers competing in the 50's.  What is more likely than barring movement between the divisions is that we are going to have to consider some type of handicapping system, at least for BC, if not for placings, in the different divisions.
Third,  we have regional officers who don't even know that there are national awards for LD in best condition much less include the BC category in their rides.  LD is being treated unevenly, not only between regions, but even within the region.  Our Mountain Region has rides (which shall remain nameless) that barely acknowledge the existence of LD, provide little vetting for LD, and absolutely no best condition for LD.  Then we get rides like the Black Hills Ride where the LD riders were given the same kind and supportive attention as the 50's and were vetted with the same demanding standards as the 50's.  The sad thing is that such inconsistencies within the Mountain Region mean that the LD riders of that region cannot pursue what should be the most important and coveted national award for LDers---LD Best Condition--because so few of our rides even bother to judge BC. I don't know enough about the other regions to judge them, but I suspect at least some are like the Mountain Region.   Why did AERC even bother to create the award if it was not going to require an LD Best Condition  to be given as part of a sanctioned ride?  As LD riders, should we not be assuming the responsibility to get involved in not only the national organization but also our regional ones so that these issues are being address but those of us who are affected by the decisions---we really have been a woefully silent group except on Ridecamp.
Joane and the Herd
Price, Utah