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International Selection: The Real Story (Reformatted repost)

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From: Tony Benedetti  

My name is Tony Benedetti and I am the National Selector's Chairman for the 
United States Equestrian Team. I have been reading the various posts regarding
 selection since the squad members were named to represent the United States
 at the World Endurance Championship (WEC) in Dubai this December.

I read these posts with interest because I always look for feedback regarding
 selection. I remained silent after reading most of the psots choosing to let
 "the public speak". It was the last post that I read that has prompted me to
 respond. In that post, opinions expressed included "selection of mountian
 horses", "this is the stupidest selection I can think of", "the secrect
 society attitude of AERC International".  It also continued the trend of
 using incorrect nomenclature such as WEG instead of WEC and the term "FEI
 Board" which had no meaning in the context in was used. I found these
 comments disturbing to me and insulting to my selection committee, to the
 selected squad members themselves, and to all the people who work countless
 hours working towards the selection and prepreation of the best squad
 possible to represent the United States.

I would like to respond to various points from posts I have read.

Mountian Horses, you say, were selected. Two of the squad members selected
 this year won rides during the selection period with riding times of 8:39 and
 8:45 respectively in 100 mile rides, and a third squad member had a riding
 time of 9:00 hours in one of those rides and won best condition. These were
 well attended 100s. A fourth squad member won a difficult, sandy 100 mile
 ride in 9:30 and set a new course record. The fifth and sixth squad members
 are alittle slower (tongue in cheek). They only placed 1st and 5th at the
 1997 Pan American Championship and 4th and 8th? at the 1996 World
 Championship. I guess the selection committee should have done a better job
 and actually choosen the fast horses. By the way there are some damn fast
 alternates who did not make the squad. I believe that you insulted our squad
 members by insinuating that they were just slow mountian horses. They worked
 had to earn their spot to represent the United States.

This leads me to my next point. Why are there so many of you saying that the
 selection process is "stupid"? I ask you: Did the selectors choose the wrong
 horses? Is there someone else you wanted named to the squad? Who would you
 take off the squad? Do you want to name different people to the squad, maybe
 someone from the souteast, central, southwest, wherever, and you want them on
 the squad because you know them and are familiar with them? Isn't that
 discounting the accomplishment of the horses that you are not familiar with?
 That thinking shows some real biasis that I would not tolerate from my
 selection committee nor in our selection procedures.  The selection committee
 tried to select the "fastest, soundest horses, with the highest probability
 of winning a medal". Tell me, did we do a bad job? Who would you have choosen
 different? And how can you be so critical considering this squad hasn't even
 raced yet?

Your next thought is that you would use head to head competition to select the
 squad. First, I can give you a multitude of reasons why head to head
 competition doesn't work (in my humble opinion) but let me limit it to the
 following. Our primary goal of selection is to send the "best" competitors
 with the highest probabilities of winning medals for the Unitied States.
 Endurance riding is not track and field or swimming and the same principals
 for selection do not apply. If you can't see the inherent differences, then
 I'ld probably waste my time explaining them. 

Let me give you a senario to illustrate the deficiencies in head to head
 selection. Assume that the US is holding a single selection race. First the
 course shoud emulate the championship course and lets just say that the site
 chosen is in Texas. Let's also say that the knowledgable public knows that
 the best three horses in the United States are Sandy Schuler's Omar, Becky
 Hart's RIO, and Valery Kanavy's Cash because they are all 12 years old, in
 their prime and have no injuries. I choose these three horses because they
 are all former or reigning world champions. (If you don't know this then you
 are arguing with limited historical knowlege which fundamentally makes your
 arguments questionable. Remember, history always repeats itself). Let's also
 say that Omar gets sick (only a little cold) two weeks before the ride and
 can't go, Becky's truck breaks down in Kingman, Arizona and can't get to the
 race, and Valerie was told to go the wrong way on the course by a confused
 race official who made a terrible mistake and she gets lost for three hours.
 The selection race is run and Tom, Max, Sue, Jean, Peggy, and Sam come in
 first through sixth and are named to represent the United States. Sandy,
 Becky, and Val don't get selected. My question: Is this the best team to
 represent the United States? Of course not! And running three selection rides
 across the Inited States has the same fundamental flaws.

Some say that the current selection process eliminates new comers. Well, this
 year, a person with no international experience made the squad. Her strenghts
 obviously outweighted her inexperience in international competition.

Lets see. I have shown why head to head selection is flawed and that everyone
 actually has an opportunity to be selected. But you say the subjective
 selection process doesn't work and that the selectors are completely
 inadequate to select the best horses. If you read and truly analyzed the
 current selection procedures (By the way, have you even read the selection
 procedures or are you making your comments based on hearsay and perception?)
 you would understand that the selection process is based on the collection of
 information and on the selectors personaly seeing the nominees as much as
 possible. The selectors fly all over the country to see nominiees that they
 may not have seen before so that they can make the best decisions possible.
 Let me give you a truism in selection. The horses nearly select themselves.
 After the selection period has ended, the cream usally has risen to the top.
 The selectors usually only need to discuss the last horse that is being put
 on the squad.

OK, you're going to say that the current process causes the nominees to run
 their horses into the ground during selection. Funny thing is that the
 selection process allows for the nominees to devise their own schedule.
 During this past selection, there were two nominees who each only did two 100
 mile rides. One got selected one didn't. Most of the nominees did 2 or 3
 hundreds and some threw in a few 50s, some didn't. The whole idea is to let
 each nominee to individually prepare the best way possible for them to get
 selected and to peak for the championship race.

I know that this is a subjective process. But the selectors do a great job and 
 take their responsibilities very serious. They are also instructed to
 absolutely set any biases (geographic, personalities, etc.) aside and that
 all information must be personally observed or observed by a representative
 of the selectors and all information must be written on the selection forms
 and shared with all the selectors. This eliminates hearsay and incorrect
 information from being considered. The final selection was done based on two
 conference calls by the selectors lasting 2 hours and 3 hours respectively.
 This is not a public process so I am sorry if it appears behind closed doors.
 However, better this way than having what the selectors being incorrectly
 repeated. This starts rumors that run wild. I would rather use discretion and
 good taste rather than be percieved as unfair based on rumors. I have felt
 that this process results in the selection of the best horses to represent
 the United States. 

I don't understand how you can write posts critical of this selection process
 and absolutely state that you know what's best because you've drawn some
 parrels from other sports that I believe don't truely don't compare. This is
 besides the fact that you've never been involved in international, never been
 involved in selection, and truely don't understand how the current process
 works. Isn't that slightly pompous. I would not like to see a person with
 this type of attitude represent me on the AERC International Committee.

Some potpourri: The FEI minimum weight requirement is 165 lbs. It's a medium
 between feather weights and heavy weights decided many years ago by the FEI.
 By the way, heavy weights have competed well in international races. Chris
 Knock and Saxx got out sprinted by an ex-race horse for the gold in the 1995
 North American Championship. (I'm assuming you already knew that). I'm not
 saying whether or not I support this weight requirment but just telling you
 the facts. By the way, those of you who say that the selection process is
 slanted towards feather weights, it is requried that every nominee complete
 at least one 100 mile ride at the minimum FEI weight of 165 lbs. and most
 ride at that weight all season in preperation for the international race.

Almost Last: If you are going to speak about international and especially if
 your going to be highly critical of international, you should try learn the
 nomencalture and the relationships between the various groups including AERC
 International, USET, AHSA, and FEI. Each of these groups have very different
 responsibilies and perform different functions. For example, there has been
 much critism about the "stupid" (keen choice of words there) selection
 process. The last selection process was a joint effort by the AERC
 International Committee, USET Endurance Committee, USET Active Riders
 Committee, and the AHSA Endurance Committee. I roughly estimate that 40
 people read, made comments, and approved those proceedures. Did you know
 that? I guess all fourty people must be pretty stupid because with all your
 knowledge of international you said so. And if you speak about international,
 please try to use the proper nomenclature and organizations. That way we know
 that you have made enough of an effort to make informed criticisms. 

Last: I spent alot of time along with others writing the AERC International
 Proceedures. In fact, 5 of us wrote the first draft. Do you want to know what
 the first premise was? It was that AERC International was going to be a grass
 roots democratic committee of AERC. That is why there are zone
 representatives. That is why the zone reps, your zone reps assuming you
 joined AERC International and voted for one, make recommendations about who
 sits on the USET Discipline Committee, who is the National Chef d'Equipe,
 National Selector's Chairman, and the National Selectors. This is hardly a
 "secreative" process, it is an involved process. Have you been involved or
 are you one of those Uniformed Blowhards who know everything.

I write this half as a reponse to the post that have been so critical and half
 as infornational. If anyone wants to make comments directly to me, my email
 address is


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