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[RC] Call it Endurance? Long AGAIN <sigh> - Diane Trefethen

Earlier I posted my belief that Limited Distance would benefit from a change in focus. I also said it would be very difficult to institute a program for LD that was not patterned after the Endurance program. After all, that is what we are all used to. Still, like it or not, Endurance is a race and the first to finish in condition fit to continue wins. Given a group of horses in great condition, Endurance rewards SPEED. Even the Best Condition award, though the title implies that it will go to the horse that finishes in the best shape, is limited to only those 10 horses that go the FASTEST. Is that the model we want for LD?

I know there are LD riders who believe that the short rides are deserving of the same degree of recognition and prestige as are the longer rides. These riders want ride times, First Place and Top Ten acknowledged and Best Condition restricted to the Top Ten, just like in Endurance, so only they who have the time to condition well enough to do 50’s will have a shot at BC. These riders plan on staying at the LD level and compete strongly for the regional and national awards. Judging from the posts on Ridecamp, such individuals do not constitute the majority of LD riders. There are five other groups: 1) those with insufficient time to condition for 50+ mile rides, 2) new riders just learning the ropes, 3) riders on inexperienced horses whom they are bringing into the sport, 4) riders whose age or other physical limitations precludes riding 50+ miles and 5) riders who have horses that are either too old or do not possess the right conformation to go 50+ miles. These groups do not routinely ride with the intention of going fast enough to Top Ten.

I think that what most worries Endurance riders is the belief that Limited Distance is being shaped by the first group, those who want the recognition and prestige of winning and Top Tenning without putting in the effort required to do so at the 50+ mile level. This group of riders, though small, has demanded and gotten a mini-Endurance program. They want even more awards to fully mirror the “senior circuit” and expect AERC to provide more and more resources to this end. I am pretty sure I'm on safe ground when I say that the vast majority of LD riders do not believe those who ride only 25 or 30 miles DESERVE the same degree of respect and reward as those who do 50 or 100 miles. LD can be a lot of things including a stepping stone to the longer rides or a safety net for older horses and riders but it is NOT a true test of endurance.

So what to change? Starting with Best Condition, are YOU riding LD to Top Ten for a BC? Do you feel that only the few who train hard and ride fast should be eligible to show for Best Condition? Or would you prefer to see everyone who finishes with a horse in great condition get a crack at BC? I think we should revamp the whole LD BC system. The biggest problem with opening up the LD BC judging to all finishers is that in some regions, there are just too many horses in the LD rides to judge all the entrants. So why not run the LD BC this way:

1) All horses completing are eligible for BC
2) Current rules (L6.2.1.1)require LD horses do their final vetting within 30 minutes of finishing. If more than 30 minutes elapse from pulse down to vetting, the horse will no longer be eligible for BC.
3) As each horse is vetted for completion, the vet will make a snap determination as to whether the horse is in very good condition or great condition. Of the first ten LD's to finish, all, and ONLY, very good and great condition horses will be allowed to show for BC. All the rest of the LD horses will be similarly classified and every LD horse in really superior condition will be allowed to show.
4) Standard BC form will be used and calculated in the same fashion as for Endurance BC's.

Thus the FIRST criterion for BC would NOT be Top Tenning but rather the veterinarian's estimation of the quality of the finishing horses. However, on the judging itself, both time and weight of rider would be factored into the final tally.

If having the vets make a quick decision on the caliber of the finishing horses seems like it would be too difficult, just harken back to some of the Tevis posts (Nick Warhol's, for example) where vets were easily able to note the horses that were in excellent condition.

I think the mileage awards, both regional and national should be abolished. They both reward and encourage staying at the LD level, not for those who MUST but for those who are really good at it and can win stuff. I think LD awards should reward those in LD who really cannot COMPLETE longer distances while simultaneously NOT rewarding those who just want to stay in LD because it is easier. Therefore we shouldn't have awards based strictly on winning or mileage. There must be other criteria. Some ideas:

Perhaps the oldest rider and the oldest horse completing every ride could be singled out and reported to the office as the winners of the Veteran's Awards for that ride. Placing wouldn't count and each region could have an award for the Veteran Horse and Veteran Rider with the highest mileage for the season. We could try this without having a lower limit and if it didn't seem to be working, perhaps we could impose limits - say no rider under 55 and no horse under 18.

Similarly we could have an award for physically handicapped riders. We would need formalized guidelines to identify such riders and then, like for Veteran Riders, each ride would award a completion point to all Challenged Riders and report same to the office. Year end awards would be based on total miles completed.

There are many Juniors who start at the lower distances. We could continue to have total mileage awards for them, either regionally or nationally or both, but with some constraints not now in place. First no award to any Junior riding less than a certain number of miles, say 150. That would be only 6 rides. If that seems like too many, stop and consider. Awards for mileage are for MILEAGE, not for just showing up a few times. No Junior could win an award in both a regional AND the national categories. Any Junior who rode 100 LD miles or more in any season would become ineligible for any LD Junior award in future seasons. The rationale would be that after completing four LD's in one year, you have enough experience to move up.

AERC has been told that a lot of LD riders wanted the current structure - I REPEAT A LOT OF LD RIDERS - because they worked so hard to do well and weren't getting the recognition they deserved. If this is true, and a revamped Best Condition available to all finishers isn't enough, I must admit I do not know how to address that problem. The danger in having awards for those who, according to Terry Woolley Howe, "...are becoming 'career' limited distance riders, with no intention of ever participating in endurance rides", is that those who do the short rides and get these awards increasingly seem to acquire a far greater opinion of their efforts than is warranted by going only 25 miles. They act as if they DESERVE the same respect as riders who do the longer distances. This is not only ridiculous, like giving all Thoroughbreds the same rating whether they win at five furlongs or one mile, but it is also incredibly offensive to the riders who DO spend the time to bring their horse up to a level where they can compete effectively at the longer distances. Do you have thoughts on how to accomplish both? That is, recognize the efforts of riders without actually promoting 25 miles as a desirable end in and of itself? Or is it impossible to do both? Maybe the answer lies in an entirely different direction say awards that have nothing to do with Endurance like a Family Fun award or costume awards or a Sportsmanship award, awards that though done at the local level might be at least partially reimbursed to the RM by AERC for their PROMOTIONAL aspect :) Imagine the HUNDREDS of people receiving such recognition vs the mere handful getting mileage or BC awards today.

The biggest problem as I see it is that the current structure just doesn't offer enough riders the slightest chance at an award. Here the AERC was sold the LD structure on the premise that the majority of those who do LD deserve more recognition (see above), yet you, the majority, are exactly the ones who haven't a prayer. LD today rewards only two flavors of rider. 1) The person who has the time and money to go to a lot of rides and rack up mileage (and with all that time, presumably they could do more conditioning and do 50's) and, 2) the rider who has the time to condition a horse well enough to Top Ten in great shape, ie, condition well enough to actually DO a 50. Nowhere in there is the person pressured for time who can just barely get it together enough to participate in a few 25 mile rides.

In Endurance, almost all riders acknowledge that the goal is to complete with a healthy horse in the fastest possible time. That is why speed based awards work. In LD, there are many goals, few of which have anything to do with finishing as fast as possible. That is why I believe it is time to completely re-work the Limited Distance program so it more thoughtfully reflects the demographics of the riders participating.

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Re: [RC] [RC] call it Endurance? Long, probably TOO long, Lonnie Ruesch