Saturday, November 18, 2006

Thoughts on the WEC

Here's a real challenge: there are many in the sport(and in FEI as well) who feel that endurance courses need a greater level of 'technical' challenge. Some of the other disciplines were rather appalled after the Endurance competition in Aachen - the general press was not kind. They described it as 'too demanding, not enough horsemanship, too impersonal (grooms and pit crews), too disorganized, too hard on the horses...etc. There will be an FEI endurance forum sometime in the future where people can talk about issues of concern with each other and with those who are in the position to create or change the rules of the sport. One of the issues of concern (both within and outside of the FEI) is the nature of the sport as it has developed over the past decade. That is, a fast 'race track' course has replaced the traditional (Tevis course) concept of Endurance riding. It takes less horsemanship to jockey a horse over a flat track than over a challenging technical trail.

So, given the fact that some places simply don't have the terrain for the classic technical challenge, how can we, or even 'can we' regulate the sport so that it is more appealing, less demanding on the horses, something greater than a 50% completion rate, a sport requiring more horsemanship?

Can we regulate the amount of 'technical trail' in any given event? i.e. x number of miles of difficulty or natural obstacle(hill, sand, rock, x-country, etc). How about scattering slalom sections along the trail (can those horses turn?).

any ideas??

Steph

67 comments:

Kat from Orange County said...

Not only does it not look good. It isn't good. What has pretty much been consistently demonstrated at the World Endurance Championships is that less than half of the world's best (presumably) endurance riders riding the world's best (presumably) endurance horses know how to ride their horses within their level of fitness, or if they do know how, they choose not to at the championship events because winning is more important than riding the horse within its capabilities.


The world endurance championships have shown to the rest of the equestrian community that endurance riders either are willing to over ride their horses in pursuit of a medal or are incapable of judging their own horses' abilities such that they accidentally over ride them. If a small percentage of the riders were unable to complete the course, this could maybe be put down to bad luck on the day; but when less than half of the participants complete the course, this is an indication that the riders either don't know or don't care what they are doing.


At local rides where you should expect to see learners and novices, lower completion rates where the riders misjudged the horse's ability are perhaps more understandable. But, quite frankly, there is absolutely no excuse for riders who are purportedly the best that each country has to offer to have not yet figured out how to reliably finish the course.


I, personally, am of the opinion that the WEC format itself actively encourages riders to ride their horses beyond their level of fitness (and since more than half the horses are being removed from the competition as no longer fit to continue, we know that over half of the riders ARE doing this), and am finding the whole thing more and more distasteful.


The FEI is testing the wrong thing with its COC. What it needs to do is require riders to demonstrate that they are actually capable of consistently FINISHING a course with their horse. So it needs to start looking at non-completions and factoring them in to whether a rider IS actually capable of championship level competition....and perhaps to start imposing some kind of sanctions on riders that don't complete the course at the championship.


Because if they don't do something to encourage riders to ride their horses within their capabilities even if it means slowing down so they can, then the world endurance championships (with everybody else watching) will continue to be an event where the rest of the equestrian community (and the world at large??? if some people were to have their way) just sees a bunch of riders who are willing to (or are too ignorant to know not to) ride their horse into the ground.


I had to laugh when I read Valerie Kanavy's recent comment about how the WEG in Aachen showed how endurance really had joined the big time of professional horse sports and really was an Olympic calibre event. What it really showed is that less than half the riders even know (or care?) how fit their horse is to do the event.


In human athletics, if you go to a local marathon with countless amateurs and general enthusiasts, you DO see less than fit runners staggering along the course, with many not finishing and many in some metabolic or musculoskeletal "discomfort." However, when you get to the Olympics ALLLLLLL the participants are clearly fit and capable, and while maybe one or two may take a bad step and not be able to finish, it certainly isn't going to be more than half of them.


If endurance riders cannot figure out a way to have a world championship event where only a handful of the participants are unable to complete the course, then it will (at least in my mind) have demonstrated that endurance as a sport has absolutely no business even having a "world championship event."


One way that the FEI could, perhaps (assuming that the riders DO know how to ride their horses within their capabilities and just choose not to), improve the performance of endurance riders at the championships is to have a rule that says, "if your country doesn't finish a team at the championships, you aren't invited back to the next one," and then to have only four riders per team (none of these people riding as individuals only). If it does this, then countries will make damned sure that they select riders who can be counted on reliably to not over ride their horses.


Make no mistake, if you don't finish the course and are pulled because your horse was not "fit to continue," you over rode your horse. Can it happen to anybody? Yes, even the best of riders can do this sometimes. But just because it can happen to anybody doesn't change the fact that you over rode the horse. One would HOPE that the best of riders would be better at not doing it than novices or even the general population of all endurance riders. And that the "elite" would do it hardly at all.


kat
Orange County, Calif.

John Teeter said...

> "if your country doesn't finish a team at the championships, you aren't invited back to the next one,"

Nice idea - consider modification wherein the county which didn't finish a team (or didn't even enter a team) could qualify for the next WEC by finishing a team at one of the interim championships (PanAM, Euorpean, asian, ...). The intent is to deal with those bad-luck events and allow for (new and re-newed) qualifications at the team level.


jt.

Kat from Orange County said...

If you allow teams to "requalify" at the interim championships, then this still leads to the chance to only finish half the time (finish at the interim championships to qualify and then go for broke at the worlds). I have no problem with requiring teams to finish at the interim championships in order to qualify for the world championship, but they still need to make it so teams that enter but don't finish at the world championships are required to sit the next world championship out AND (perhaps) finish teams at both the interim championships while they are doing so.


The FEI needs to send the message: "If you can't finish a team, you have no business being there."


kat
Orange County, Calif.

Truman said...

It's a race. The WEC is a race. To win at this level - the rider has to ride on the edge. If he doesn't he won't win because that is what the competition is doing. There are some might good drivers and mechanics in NASCAR, Grand Prix racing, etc., but you still see a lot of blown engines simply because they are operating on the hairy edge. They select their champion by a series of races, but don't drive the same engine each race.


What you see at the WEC is because of two factors. It's winner take all with a lot of people there going for the win - be they individuals or teams. In fact if you aren't going there for the win or help your team win you have no business there taking up a spot on the team. Second they tend to treat more because it is higher stress. If there is a problem and a horse is dehydrated - they go on fluids in many cases as a prophylactic measure. I applaud them for that. If the FEI is going to incentivize riding the horses on the edge - they should provide the facilities to mitigate the impact and they do. Does it always work - no, but it a heck of a lot better than a "wait and see if they recover on their own" IMO.


One thing I have heard people talk about to the minimize the risk on the horses is to change it WEC to a series of races where the horse/rider TEAM with the most points at the end of the series is the winner. However, that probably would turn out being worse since it - it would just move the "Katie bar the door flat out race" to the last race in the series when the horses are probably a little tired going into. It would also have a significant cost impact - especially for many riders in the US who are not independently wealthy but have good horses and a desire to participate.


The FEI championship rides are what they are - they are a race. If you change the race - it is not longer endurance racing. I don't see that changing. The question in my mind is if we as an organization don't accept the impact on the horses by the structure of the WEC in our values as an organization - what are we doing about it? If we can't help the FEI change the structure to provide more safety for the horses and consequently a better image of the event - should we be supporting the FEI as an organization at all? You are many times painted by the same brush as the company you keep.


Truman

Kat from Orange County said...

What this means is that NASCAR drivers are willing to sacrifice their engine to win the race as winning the race is more important than an engine that can easily be replaced. And they are right, engines CAN easily be replaced.


However, it is absolutely WRONG for FEI endurance riders to ride with this same mindset; although I agree that there is every indication that currently many do..and the format of the event actively encourages it. If FEI endurance has a poor public image, it is because it has been earned.


kat
Orange County, Calif.

Kim Fuess said...

This sure would reduce the the number of riders in the competition. How many countries actually even finished a team at the last two WEC? But Kat, I think you are on to something here. This would be one way for FEI to incorporate the importance of "finishing" into one day championship level events. Something along these lines would temper the "all or nothing" perception that can dominate one day events or races. It would also really put the emphsis on finishing as there would be real consequences if a team did not finish. I think that this idea would work if the WEC event was held every year. Sitting out one year is not that big of a deal. I am not sure about being banned from an event that is only held every two years.


I am not sure that teams would be as willing to go for broke or not be prepared to ride to finish IF there was some kind of consequence or qualification sequence had to be followed if a team did not complete. Make the qualification sequence more difficult or more of a pain in the *ss than finishing a team at the WEC event itself. This concept is something that should be looked at seriously. It would benefit endurance as the public perception may be improved by a higher completion rate at these high level events and it would benefit horses to be prepared and ridden in a manner where a completion REALLY matters at this level.

Patty P said...

I'm a newbie, ..but arent all endurance races a race? The competitive trail is not a race, but from what I gather...all endurance races are in fact races...and we enter to finish, or to win...but the animals should never be run into the ground for a trophy...IMHO

Truman said...

Kat, That was the point of the analogy. To carry it further - in NASCAR, Formula One, etc., racing it is about

the driver and the team. It is not about the car. The sad thing is the FEI is and USEF are quickly moving in the direction that it is about the rider - not the horse. With such moves as the horses will be leased by the USEF - so they can dictate who rides them in the event - we are not far off from removing the horse/rider team from FEI championship rides. I suspect the next step is selection of riders and horses independently - which in my mind is the wrong direction and is fundamentally opposed to the values of the AERC which
is about the horse/rider team.

Laney Humphrey said...

And that NASCAR drivers are willing to risk their own lives in order to win. But that says nothing about whether it's ok for horse riders to risk their horses' lives and health. We also need to keep in mind that there are rides right here in the USA where the completion rate is less than 50%, Tevis being the prime example. Competition by it's nature involves risk and competition and athletic endeavors at the highest levels by definition involves the greatest risk. To me, the most interesting question is what the real motivation behind the competition is. Ideally, it is to prove the quality of the entrants and to continue to improve the breed (including humans)by identifying entrants who excel and using them for breeding. BUT, I think the motivations have more to do with money and national pride at FEI levels. I would like to see a discussion as to whether those are motivations for which horses' health and safety should be risked.

Laney

Steph Teeter said...

Perhaps this is heresy... but is it possible that 100 mile horse races are simply too hard?? Perhaps it might be better if our sport embraced a shorter version (or perhaps a 2 or 3 day version) for championship level competitions? Certainly 100 miles in one day is the ultimate challenge, but if the sport has become a 'last man standing' sport, then perhaps we don't have it right yet. After seeing the last two Presidents Cup rides finish winners in just over 7 hours, my thought was that this is simply not a sustainable sport - horses are simply not mechanically or physiologically capable of sustaining those speeds over those distances. We are seeing a sport where only a few incredible athletes - the freaks - are able to play, and the majority can't even finish the course.

In human sports there are 'ulta marathons' but this is also an extreme, freak, sport- and if the Olympics embraced a 100 mile human race, we would probably also see a 'last man standing' sport, where at least half the competitors had to retire before they completed the course. And I don't think the public would approve. I think the comparison between human distance races and horse distance races is valid given the athletic ability and capability of the two species. Humans can also run 100 miles, and it is a valid challenge, a valid sport for the 'ultra' elite athlete, but it is not a mainstream sport and therefore has limited appeal to the International community. why is that??

It's easy to say 'well, just throw in rocks and mountains to slow them down' - but this is not a solution that is available to most of the world. And in a true race situation (e.g. International competition) an Old Dominion type course would result in an unacceptable level of injury on race day.

Give the current format of Endurance the only way to reverse the 'last man standing' trend of International competition is to make people slow down, which is a difficult concept in a true race format. Kat - your idea is as good as any I've heard. But we'd still see 100 mile races around the world (and in the US btw) where 50% completion rates are not unheard of.

But if we were given the opportunity to change the format (currently 100 miles in 1 day, speed is everything) of FEI Championship Endurance ... any ideas? How can we test our own horses' endurance against the rest of the world's horses' endurance and still reward skill, training, athletic ability, sportsmanship - and still have a sport that we feel good about doing??

Steph

Truman said...

This or something similar would be good. I'm not sure FEI or many other countries would go for it since one goal is to get as many countries participating as possible and this runs counter to it. However, some sort of COC requirement for the rider might work. So here goes - A rider to ride an FEI championship has to have a COC from the FEI. That would be based on amoung other things the competition rate in 100 mile rides sanctioned by either the in country sanctioning authority (AERC in the case of the US) or FEI. If a rider is pulled for any reason in a FEI championship ride their COC is revoked for one WEC cycle. This would put the responsibility right on the rider where it belongs and at the same time not penalize all the other riders in a country for the irresponsibility of a few.

Truman

Ridecamp said...

Would a format of 80 or 120 km be safer for the horses in a WEC than 160 km. If you look at the AERC pull rates (15% for 50's through 75's and 40% for 100s) for a clue - the answer is most likely yes. Is this an acceptable solution? You run the WEC at 40 km "then you might even get it into the Olympics since it could now be covered as a spectator sport. Is that an acceptable solution?

I think in the long run such a move to run the WEC at anything but 160 km in one shot would have a significant negative impact on the 100's in the AERC since significant support for 100's comes from our folks who are working to get horses ready for FEI events. If the FEI championships were 80 or 120 km there would be little incentive for these people to ride 100's since that would not be the event they are trying to get ready for. However, that's a different issue and should not impact what the FEI does of does not do.

Truman

Rusty Toth said...

I must say the thought of dropping the one day 100 for an endurance championship seems like a crime to me. It is what the sport is all about, endurance - the ultimate equine challenge - the 100. I agree however the trend that has begun seems unstoppable with FEI taking control. Yes - the flat track races are here and most likely here to stay.

I believe FEI needs to put a larger restriction/responsibility upon the riders for the way they ride the equine. I agree maybe a pull at championship level should revoke the COC but is this far enough? I don't believe so. Maybe if FEI would revoke a COC with any pull at any FEI event. Maybe a rider who's horse need metabolic treatment at any FEI event should be suspended from FEI level rides for say a year. Make it most imperative that the riders FINISH the ride.

While I find it fascinating that a 7 hour 100 can happen it is not in the spirit of American endurance. It does not make a life long 100-mile horse, completing 100 after 100 year after year. Maybe FEI should come up with a program designed for return equines. A country with equines competing over the years (at FEI level) gets more riders accepted to a championship ride (WEG, Pan Am ect) not the population of the country but the success of the country's equines and riders over time! Why should the USA get six horses at the WEG when we can hardly finish any horses? Do we even deserve to have that many? Should the UAE even be allowed to have so many horses compete at WEG? Sure they finish first and fast but how many horses ever do it again? (I would be interested in the statistic of this, anyone have it?)

Just a few thoughts from a lover the 100!

Cheers
Rusty

Anonymous said...

Havent done a 100 yet and dont know if I will as it is not a definate goal, but I do long distance human stuff and horse distance stuff. I have had times when a 3 mile run taxed me. Then a short triathlon seemed like something crazy and that it would probably do me in. Then I trained and learned and trained more and worked my way up to Ironman distance races. Why wouldnt horses be able to adapt to training and do more than we think they can as humans can? The experiences of whole lot of folks and horses who have done just that seems to speak volumes.

Anonymous said...

Steph...thanks for the guts to say these things. It is a hard thing to come to the realization that the horses that compete well at these levels are "freaks" and the "normal" horses that try to compete with them are seriously compromised.

Bob Morris said...

"endurance" One entry found for endurance.

Main Entry: en.dur.ance
Pronunciation: in-'dur-&n(t)s, -'dyur-, en-
Function: noun

1 : PERMANENCE, DURATION - the endurance of the play's importance

2 : the ability to withstand hardship or adversity; especially : the ability to sustain a prolonged stressful effort or activity - a marathon runner's endurance

Using the above definition of the term ENDURANCE I would venture that the FEI concept, of a minimum time for completion of a given distance, is truly not an endurance event.

Perhaps we need to step back and examine exactly what we would like to see as the epitome of world endurance competition. Exactly what should the "WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP" encompass.

A few points immediately come to mind:(not necessarily in order of importance)

1. Competition open to all nations.
2. Competition adaptable to all geographic conditions.
3. Competition adaptable to all climatic conditions.
4. Competition ensuring the welfare of the horse.
5. Competition with enforceable rules for qualification and competition.
6. Competition that embodies the true meaning of "ENDURANCE".

Considering the above points, #1 is a definitive given. #2 means that the concept of endurance competition accepts what
ever course terrain is available in the host country. One event might be in hilly country and the next in a very flat country but the natural terrain will be used. #3 brings to mind the current controversy about having a championship ride in a hot humid venue. Well, that is endurance! #4 is paramount. #5 indicates that all competitors will be riding in all competitions, under a uniform set of rules. #6 One ride in a few hours is not competition. Currently 3-day eventing shows more endurance concepts than our FEI Championships. Set a minimum of miles over a minimum of days as the basis. Being a world championship, perhaps 225 miles over three days.

But then we all dream don't we?

David LeBlanc said...

Rusty said:

> Maybe if FEI would revoke a COC with any pull at any FEI event.

So then you'd have an incentive not to pull if the horse isn't well.

> Maybe a rider who's horse need metabolic treatment at any FEI
> event should be suspended from FEI level rides for say a
> year. Make it most imperative that the riders FINISH the ride.

I'd tend to agree with this - there needs to be some penalty, but there again, you have an incentive to avoid treatment, and if the horse does need treatment, that's a problem.


> While I find it fascinating that a 7 hour 100 can happen it
> is not in the spirit of American endurance. It does not make
> a life long 100-mile horse, completing 100 after 100 year
> after year. Maybe FEI should come up with a program designed
> for return equines.

I think that approach is better, but you could do it over a shorter time period. What if the championship were essentially a multi-day with breaks? Think Tour de France of endurance. Who wins one day really doesn't matter, and the overall winner may not have won any single race. If you didn't ride day 1 smart, you're not going to get to day 3. Or you take the approach we do for a season (car racing does the same thing) - there is not one championship ride - there's a series, and the winner has the most points out of the series - same horse, same rider. You'd then have a strong incentive not to blow up your horse.


Alternately, they could have a multiday championship format - 5 50's on consecutive days. IMHO, that's a better test than a single day 100. This could be done in addition to what's done now. >g< Convince them that 1-day 100's are for wimps, the real toughies are the ones doing 250 miles in 5 days >g<.

Rusty Toth said...

Of course there is no perfect solution......

Better than a 5 day (which completely destroys the 100) would be a triple crown of 100 mile rides. Can anyone horse complete three FEI championships - in the top ten? In the top five? Over all winner?

Now that would be the ultimate championship - a 100 mile triple crown.

Adam Falk said...

Didn't John Crandal(sp?) do something like that this year? [Editor: John Crandal and Heraldic won OD, Tevis, and AERC NC in 2006 - with BC at tevis and AERC NC] I know that they were not FEI but they were very tough, respected rides with low completion rates.

Adam

Heidi Smith said...

On a similar note, perhaps it should be impossible for an individual to earn a medal unless the country also finishes a team. In other words, there would be no incentive for the individual to race unless the team remains healthy enough to finish.

Heidi

Joe Long said...

Perhaps we could take a page from the old Sebring automobile endurance race. It was not who could cover a fixed distance in the shortest time, it was who could go the longest distance in 24 hours.*

The logistics would be difficult for horses, but if it could be worked out, what about a race where the winner is the horse/rider team that travels the fartherest in 24 hours? That would slow the speed down.

The logistics could include several loops of, say, 25 miles, 15 miles, 10 miles, five miles, and two miles, and a track. The loops would be designated early, then after 18 hours the riders could choose their own loops. In the last half-hour or so, they would ride on the track, and at exactly 24 hours their positions would determine the winner.

* This format at Sebring caused an embarrassment one year. Ford sent a team of three cars and drivers. In the last minutes of the race, all three were out in front. The "suits" decreed that all three should cross the finish line side-by-side to make a good advertising photo-op. So the lead car slowed down to let the other two line up with him. But the race officials ruled that as one of the other cars had started in a row farther back (at the start), that car had traveled the greatest distance and was declared the winner.

Kim Fuess said...

Steph,

Are you basically saying that the format of the WEC should change from the 100 mile distance (I believe that this has been the FEI championship distance since 1986 or so) because now horses can not hold up to the 100 mile distance at the speeds riders CHOOSE to compete at?

I would hope that changing the competition DISTANCE would be the last resort. It seems much more logical to try different ideas (like what Kat suggests) to motivate riders to strive to complete before striving to win before changing the traditional format of the sport.

Of course, if the goal is to make endurance more spectator and media friendly, get the sport into the Olympics, and allow riders complete shorter courses even faster, then your suggestion for shortening the 100 mile championship distance is probably the best way to go. I am not sure if this will actually improve completion rates overall as you have done nothing motivate "completing" and only made the distance shorter so horses can go faster. If the above is where this level of endurance is going, then I suggest that the "marathon" distance just be adopted. A very fast 25 mile race would fit nicely as a spectator event as it would be quite short, it would also require less mileage as far as a course goes so it would be easier to find venues to host a WEC event, it could create a similar situation as the triathlon in the Olympics which features a much, much, shorter event than the Iron Man event. I bet there would also be much better media coverage for an event that would run around two hours. The public could relate to a "marathon" distance much easier as most of the general public knows about the human counter part of the same events. It would be easy for the public to understand that aid stations with papercups full of water are the equine counter part of a vet check where crews are throwing water on the horses..... And there would be the excitement of horses galloping and cantering along the course instead of steadily trotting....not so boring for TV

So yes, there are certainly advantages of making this event a short distance. I am not sure that these advantages will be for the benefit of the horses or benefit the spirit of endurance BUT it certainly will benefit those that are more interested in packaging, marketing, and promoting this sport as "mainstream".

Sandy said...

> Can anyone horse complete three FEI championships
why do they have to be FEI? Doesn't AERC sanction some of its own 100 milers?
S

Ridecamp said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
David LeBlanc said...

Because FEI has slightly different rules, so an FEI championship would have to be composed of all rides run to FEI rules. For example, in an FEI ride, if you'd like to call for a 2nd option on a trot out, they assemble 3 vets (the goon squad), there's an anonymous vote, and it goes the way 2 of the vets say it does. For the most part, the differences aren't so large that you can't run a regular 100 under FEI rules, though you do have to have judges and a fair bit of other infrastructure. RM's who have done this would be able to give a more complete answer.

Angie McGhee said...

> Perhaps this is heresy... but is it possible that 100 mile horse
> races are> simply too hard?? Perhaps it might be better if our sport
> embraced a shorter version (or perhaps a 2 or 3 day version)
> for championship level competitions?

Heck yeah! Make the WEC into a multi-day. The multi-day folks have had it way too easy...what with most of the riders coming to compete against the trail and not making a real big deal over placings...let the Psycho, "Gotta win or my country sucks" group ruin your sport by making it a win at all costs every day event. Can't wait to see a horse after he's done 5 days of 3 hr. 50's. Maybe they'll forget about the 100 miles in one day and it can go back to being what the multi-day people are enjoying now...a true challenge with people who enjoy their horses and don't have to deal with a bunch of jerks who are just out to stoke their egos.


I was disgusted with the people who insinuated our team had "embarassed" us at the last WEC. From what I could see, it looked like we've kept our heads refused to follow the current trend of insane pace at the expense of the horses' long term careers.

NASCAR had a problem in their early days of too many wrecks, too many guys going for the win or trashing their cars in the effort. They went to a points system for year end awards where a driver is at a huge disadvantage if they don't finish races. Doesn't really work on the WEC level. I'm not sure I'm even in favor of crowning an International Champ any more since the one day format makes it too easy to risk a horse's life or career for some pompous jerk's bragging rights. In my book it's meaningless if they didn't train the horse and bring it along themselves anyway, so I honestly don't care. If they're going to screw with the PAC and not allow time zone teams any more I don't see any future for any of it. Oh well...back to having fun.

Angie (*hoping* to have a 100 mile horse by Biltmore!)

Diane Trefethen said...

Boy Kat. You surely do know how to get a good discussion going

Several posters have truly nailed the problem and along with it, a huge misconception. Originally "Endurance" was not a RACE. It was a GET 'ER DONE. Even back then, the first horse to accomplish the task over a given course on a given day was considered the "winner" but did that fact make "Endurance" a "race"? Maybe yes, maybe no. Nevertheless, the true intention of the founders of "Endurance" was and is embodied in the "Best Condition" award, not the first place award.


Truman was right when he said, "The FEI championship rides are what they are - they are a race." This is exactly where the international sport has gone wrong. The problem for us... all over the world... is to figure out a way to get "Endurance" back to being about enduring instead of about coming in first. If we don't, we WILL lose our sport because it will be perceived, and rightly so, as animal abuse. The rumblings are already afoot. So some thoughts:


1a) As soon as each horse pulses down for its completion, that horse must stand for a veterinary inspection akin to a Best Condition judging. At the end of the day, the team with the top veterinary score wins the Gold, not the team with the fastest combined times. For those who blanch at the subjective nature of this test, note that the winners in Dressage, Ice Skating and Carriage Driving are crowned based on just such subjective judging and nobody is pissing and moaning about THAT (except for the criticism of the French skating judges). There is no need to consider weight carried as that is set as a parameter of the race itself. No points added or subtracted for completion times either.

or

1b) Each horse pulled at a WEG would be assigned a code in the same fashion we assign L, M, RO here. However, the codes used wouldn't reflect the immediate cause of the pull but rather the nature of the pull with the objective being to identify the overriding of the horse. I'm no vet so I don't know exactly what protocol would make sense here but I can identify two extremes. If a horse cuts its fetlock on the course, that per se doesn't indicate overriding but if a horse can't pulse down, that is clearly a case of the horse being asked for more than it can deliver on that day. If two horses from a country receive "overridden" pulls, ALL that country's horses would be disqualified AND that country would be banned from the next WEG - no exceptions. To paraphrase Kat, the FEI needs to send the message that if a country can't find RIDERS WHO KNOW HOW TO FINISH, it has no business being at a WEG.

2) I am appalled at the blase acceptance of *any* FEI COC. In which other disciplines do the organizers of international competition dictate to all the countries of the world how they must pick their representatives? That decision is left to each country as well it should be. So if Jamaica wants to field a bobsled team, more power to them and their guts. The COC must be eliminated. It is an unconscionable intrusion into each country's sovereign right to select its own representatives.

3) Imposing completion requirements may work if formulated and enforced BY EACH COUNTRY, but as an FEI restriction, it is inappropriate (see #2 above).

4) Bob suggested a 225 mile/3 day event, or something along those lines. If the winner is the team with high vet scores for the three days combined, great. Otherwise, it will be as Truman said, just moving the "'Katie bar the door flat out race' to the last race in the series".

Ed Hauser said...

"...The logistics would be difficult for horses, but if it could be worked
out, what about a race where the winner is the horse/rider team that
travels the fartherest in 24 hours? That would slow the speed down..."


While it would make the event even less press friendly, there is no real reason that you would have to have a track for the end. You issue each competitor a GPS which reports the exact position at the 24 hours. Since the event organizers know the trails, position exactly determines the miles traveled.


The horses are then met at predesignated points, and trailered back to the base for final vet.


I do like the idea. It is true endurance for a horse and rider to go down the trail for a full 24 hours.


Ed

Angie McGhee said...

> While it would make the event even less press friendly, there is no
> real reason that you would have to have a track for the end. You
> issue each competitor a GPS which reports the exact position at
> the 24 hours.
>
> Since the event organizers know the trails, position exactly determines
> the miles traveled.

First, for this new event I suggest it be a max of 12 hrs...since a quick endurance horse will finish 100 miles in 12 hrs. so 24 could go way overboard. Then...in a wonderful celebration of GPS technology, I suggest you put them all in one place, shoot off a gun, and have them scatter llike quail heading off in every direction. No need to even teach the horse to steer. Just run for 12 hrs. and check the GPS to see who is the winner!

Angie

Tom Noll said...

Greetings:

Well, one idea would be to keep the 100-mile distance but change the entry requirement to a minimum of 2500 miles in FEI competitions as a horse and rider team. Twenty-five hundred miles may seem excessive, but the event is described as the "World Equestrian Endurance Championship." The 2500-mile requirement would certainly emphasize taking care of the horse and developing the horse as an endurance athlete.

Best Regards,

Tom Noll

Angie McGhee said...

> What this means is that NASCAR drivers are willing to sacrifice
> engine to win the race as winning the race is more important
> than an engine that can easily be replaced.

Ya'll are gonna have to lighten up on those NASCAR boys. They're apparently more concerned with finishing than the WEC guys. I heard and interview the other day and the points leader said one "non finish" in a race over the course of a season is all you can afford and still have a chance at the points championship. That's why you see them replace an entire engine and get a limping car back out onto the track if at all possible just to finish...because like us, the last one to finish *still* beat everyone who didn't.

Angie

Lisa Silas said...

Ultra runners, FREAKS? Well, that's a tad strong but they are a different lot. But they ENJOY running and for the most part Steph, an Ultra run it just that. Running until the end. Yes, it is competitive, but speed, well most are not going much faster than a 9 minute mile pace. And they are so very well prepared for weather, terrain, illness, injuries, (have you ever seen their treatment tent? It looks like a dang triage) they got it covered. And judging by the finishing results, most all DO finish. It's not always pretty, though. As a matter of fact, I have been running since the early 80's and I can't say that I have seen a lot of DNF's at races. Maybe a handful out of 100's of runners.

Not like the WEG, or WEG or even our own Tevis. Why is that? Maybe 100 miles is too far for the pace that is being set. It is so much easier for a human runner to know when to slow down, or how they feel at any given moment. But time after time, we see and hear stories of horses that go through a vet check and get perfect scores only to crash before the next check. So even if we have put in our homework, there are some things about horses we just can't understand yet. We can be as diligent in our observations as possible and still miss things.

I liked Kat's idea. You wouldn't have to *win* but as long as your team finished you could try again the following year. More emphasis on horse welfare. On the other hand, it is a race.

I like the excitement of racing. I like racing the clock, racing myself for PR's and racing the race. But I love horses more so I hate seeing what happens when things go wrong. We can't have it all.

I like the 100 mile challenge. I agree with Kim that changing that would be a last resort. That is endurance. Ms. Kim, are you suggesting that we race 25 miles as in an LD?? OH NOOOOOO! Who cares if it is a spectator sport, I mean really? This has never been, IMO a "Watch me!" kind of a sport.

I have always told my kids, try to be the leader and lead by example. If you are going to be a follower, make sure you follow the right people. The wrong people will only lead you down the wrong path.

Maybe we are following the wrong people. Maybe we should take the lead? Ya know, set an example.

Lisa Salas, the Odd FArm

Bruce Weary said...

I like Tom Noll's idea about a 2500 mile requirement before horse and rider are allowed to enter high level, high speed international competition. After the rider has trailered the horse 2500 miles, he's had plenty of time to ponder whether he wants to ask it of his horse. I say let's go for it. Dr Q

Truman said...

Unfortunately the USEF is going the other direction. Now with 200 miles and no 100's a horse can be nominated for the WEC. I was told once in a conversation where I expressed my displeasure in that decision that "we need the younger horses to field a team of sound horses."


I don't believe that for a minute.


Truman

Steph Teeter said...

Neither do I, and this is something that I've been opposed to. Look at the horses that have done the best at past WEC's - they are not the young ones, they are seasoned horses. In human athletes it has been demonstrated that 'endurance' improves with age (as opposed to speed, which decreases with age). I personally believe the same is true with horses. And soundness is more a management factor than an age factor. IMO.

Steph

Dick Dawson said...

Well, It seems as though the L.D. riders would really be happy if the FEI would set a max. of 25 miles for the world Championship ....Dr. Q ... would it be possible for me to throw my old horse into your trailer for the 2500 mile warm up.. I know we could have a ball.. Dick Dawson

Kim Fuess said...

Putting any kind of mileage requirement on a horse/rider team really
doesn't address the issue of making the completion important in a FEI
one day event or race. This type of requirement will eliminate
several good horse rider teams that have been together for many years
and CHOOSE not to do a high number of competitions. I can think of
three exceptional horse rider teams that do not meet this criteria yet
I respect the partnership the rider has with the horse.

I think a much better solution would be for the organization (meaning FEI) to find a way to minimize the all or nothing attitude that comes from holding a one day race of this importance.

If FEI cannot come up with ways to recognize or reward longevity and promote the idea of "completing" at a championship event then I believe they need to find a way to penalize national squads that do not finish a complete team. In the long run, a low completion rate, lame horses, and metabolically stressed horses at high profile FEI endurance events is a PR nightmare. Why would it be unreasonable for the organization to do everything possible to discourage this, including squad penalties for non completion. Does it really matter as far as public relations goes if the 100 mile race is won in 7 hours or 9 hours? What is the real benefit to FEI to have faster winning times with very low completion rates.

I think if a team really thinks it can finish 3 or 4 riders at the 100 mile distance in 7 or 8 hours they should go for it. But, I also think that there should be consequences for a National Squad if they made an error in judgement, went to fast or didn't use the right strategy and could not finish a complete team. Remember we are talking about the best horses in the world that are experienced at this distance and have all earned the FEI COC. It is not like there are a bunch of unknown quantities out there trying to get through their first 100 mile race. I really don't think it is too much to expect a better completion rate at this level of competition. I think that if a team consisted of 5 horse/rider teams (instead of 4) with three teams necessary for a team completion, this should take care of the "natural" mishaps that can happen at any ride. I don't think that finishing 3 out of 5 team members is an unreasonable expectation at this level.

I guess the real question is this. If a national squad realized that getting a team completion was instrumental for their country's qualifications for future WEC competitions or knew somehow they would get penalized, would the "team" strategy change by becoming more conservative to ensure completion first over placing? Would penalizing a squad for non completion minimize some of the all or nothing attitude that seems to be part of this culture?

Instead of focusing on individual horse/rider team requirements, changing the distance of the event, or even taking away the "race" aspect, I would rather see changes made that will change the culture at this level of competition and bring a better balance between winning and completing. Unfortunately, I really don't see many ways of positively re enforcing "completing" without taking away the "race" aspect. The only kind of positive re enforcement I see is to re reimburse a national team some of it's expenses if it completes an entire team. Of course, with wealthy teams or subsidized teams this will have little or no effect. So, penalizing non completing squads seems like another viable solution. It allows national squads to "race" any way they choose BUT the results from those choices will have consequences for future competitions.

Dana B. said...

> Ultra runners, FREAKS? Well, that's a tad strong but they are a different lot.

But they ENJOY running and for the most part Steph, an Ultra run it just that. Running until the end.

> Not like the WEG, or WEG or even our own Tevis....

Well actually there are more than a handful of WS100 runners, running on theTevis trails for the most part, who DNF. This year was ugly and their completion rate was only 52.6%. So the ultra that is comparable to Tevis does have fairly low finishing results for an ultra.

Hmm, maybe we should require the WEG riders to run half of the 100? That would slow things down

Dana B.
sweep rider for WS100 and Tevis
marathoner and ultra-wannabe
Tevis hopeful

Joe Long said...

>Sisu West Ranch wrote:
>"...The logistics would be difficult for horses, but if it could be worked
> out, what about a race where the winner is the horse/rider team that
> ...snip...
> The horses are then met at predesignated points, and trailered back to the
> base for final vet.

'doh! >slaps head<

Of course, GPSs make the logistics much easier, and eliminate the need for multiple loops. And if everyone rides the same trail, the competitors would know who was ahead and by about how much, allowing for better strategy and pacing.

I do like the idea. It is true endurance for a horse and rider to go down the trail for a full 24 hours.

I agree. Although it would probably be best to try the concept with 12 hours first.

If such an event is tried, I'll sure want to be a part of it. If someone in Colorado is willing to stage such an event, I'll be happy to help with it.

Joe Long said...

>... that "we need the younger horses to field a team of sound horses."

If they really need young, low-mileage horses to field a team of sound horses, that is a damning indictment. That would be an admission that they are using horses up and throwing them away.

Duncan McLaughlin said...

Kat wrote:
"One way that the FEI could, perhaps (assuming that the riders DO know how to ride their horses within their capabilities and just choose not to), improve the performance of endurance riders at the championships is to have a rule that says, "if your country doesn't finish a team at the championships, you aren't invited back to the next one," and then to have only four riders per team (none of these people riding as individuals only). If it does this, then countries will make damned sure that they select riders who can be counted on reliably to not over ride their horses"

This idea has a lot of merit. The most medal winning team in WEG/WEC history is Australia. Australia also has an enviable completion record for both team members. For example, this century:

Compeign 2000: 3 of 4 team (Team Gold)
Jerez 2002: 4of 4 team completed (Team Bronze)
Dubai 2004: 3 of 4 completed (Team Silver)
Aachen 2006: 4 of 4 completed. (Team position 6th and
1st of non-Europeans) plus both individuals
completed.

Also, at the World Junior Endurance Championships, Bharain 2005, Australia completed 4 of 4 team members(Team Gold), plus both individuals completed. It would appear that Kats idea isn't only good in principle, but, if you want to bring home the goods, it works in practice too!

Ed Hauser wrote:
"Austrialia has the most restrictive rules that I have read ... We should also remember that Austrialians view life and the government very differently than we do. They are extremely politically correct, and generally feel that the government always knows best. This is not just in relation to animals. Their firearm regulations are really strict (this in a country where there is much more open space than USA)... I support education. I support sanctions for bad acts. I support personal responsibility ... I oppose making everyone follow complicated rules just to prevent a few instances of bad horsemanship."

And yet (despite our disgracefully low record of shooting murders!) Australia (the correct spelling is not only successful in international competitions but also has a vibrant domestic scene. Like the US (?), the majority of riders have little or no interest in FEI competition: to complete is to win! Indeed, in the last few years there have only been 2-4 FEI rides/year across the entire country. Our rule structure is remarkably similar to yours with the big difference being that Australia has implemented

1. A Novice Horse/Novice Rider system. Early in their careers, riders and horses are restricted to a maximum speed ­ riders learn to pace their horses - and, for horses, more stringent HR criteria.

2. An early warning system. Horses that vet out are recorded and a succession of vet outs can lead to imposition of novice conditions, with the possibility of temporary or permanent rider disqualification.

3. We do not recognise 25 miles as an 'endurance' distance but consider thoser rides as training rides, with minimum times and no record of place and no record of accumulation of distance from 'trainers'.

The rules are not complicated (it takes, at most, a half hour to read them) but they sure do more than "just prevent a few instance of bad horsemanship". They instil in everyone's mind an approach where horse welfare is paramount and this provides the basis, for those who do wish to ride competitively, nationally and internationally, on which to build.

Rusty wrote:
"Better than a 5 day (which completely destroys the 100) would be a triple crown of 100 mile rides. Can anyone horse complete three FEI championships - in the top ten? In the top five? Over all winner? Now that would be the ultimate championship - a 100 mile triple crown."

How about:

Compiegne, France 2000 ­ team gold
Jerez, Spain 1002 ­ team bronze
Dubai, UAE 2004(05) ­ team silver

These are the results of Toft owned horse Bremevale Justice. Justice has completed 16 x 100 mile rides, usually competitively. In addition to the above , these also include a Tevis buckle (18th place at only attempt) and 4 Quilty buckles (including 2x 1st place, once in LW and once in HW divisions). See www.aera.asn.au and scroll about half way down the page for more details on Justice.

Cheers

Dunc

Kat from Orange County said...


> Steph Said:
> We are seeing a sport where only a few incredible athletes - the freaks
> - are able to play, > and the majority can't even finish the course.

There aren't very many horses (or riders) that are capable of consistently performing at Grand Prix dressage either, but I don't see anybody suggesting that all the really hard moves in Grand Prix should be removed...or, God forbid, that the dressage tests at the WEG should only be Prix St. Georges because that way more horses will be able to do it, after all only truely freakish horses can actually DO Grand Prix. In dressage, to compete at the WEG you have to have a horse that can do Grand Prix well, and consitently well (one good test ain't enough). And to field a team, you have to have demonstrated that you have a whole team that can do it well.

Consequently, there aren't very many horses that qualify, and there aren't very many riders that do either. Does it sometimes happen that even horses and riders that have performed consistently well to get there don't perform totally up to snuff on the day in question? Yes. And it even happens that sometimes dressage horses take bad steps and have to be retired from the competition because they are lame...but it ain't HALF of them.


> Humans can also run 100 miles, and it is a valid challenge, a valid sport
> for the 'ultra' elite athlete, but it is not a mainstream sport and therefore
> has limited appeal to the International community. why is that??

Because it is boring to watch. And even the marathon would not be in the Olympics

> It's easy to say 'well, just throw in rocks and mountains to slow them
> down' - but this is not a solution that is available to most of the world.
> And in a true race situation (e.g. International competition) an Old
> Dominion type course would result in an unacceptable level of injury on race
> day.

Nope, what will incentivize riders to actually choose to ride their horses within the horses' capabilities is to punish them if they don't.

In addition to my previous suggestion that countries that don't finish a team aren't invited back (this happens in dressage, mind you); I suggest that any rider whose horse is removed from the competition because the horse is not fit to continue be barred from the next championship (note that I do not say any rider whose horse does not finish the ride, but those that are disqualified for being ridden past their level of fitness). Riders should be allowed to keep their COC if they retire their horse before it is disqualified. This way, the vet check becomes the rider saying, "I think my horse is fit to continue, I should be allowed to go on." Riders who say, "I don't believe my horse is fit to continue, so I choose to stop now" are not penalized in the same way (although their country still would be if because the horse didn't finish the course the team did not get a completion).

This way, it is only riders who are incapable of evaluating their horses' fitness to continue that are denied a COC. Which is as it should be. Riders who don't know that their horse is not fit to continue when it isn't have absolutely no business being out on a championship course. Championship level endurance riders shouldn't need a vet to tell them that their horse is lame or tired.

If the FEI were to combine these two controls, it would go a long way to ensuring that the only horses and riders that are out there on the course are those that are capable while at the same time providing a strong incentive not to ride a horse beyond its capabilities.

> Kat - your idea is as good as any I've heard. But we'd still see 100 mile
> races around the world (and in the US btw) where 50% completion rates
> are not unheard of.

Local rides where there are novices and beginners who are still figuring out how to ride the horse and if it is capable, lower completion rates are to be expected. Just like at local dressage shows you are likely to find test scores in the 50s. In fact, as an adult amateur you can qualify for the USDF regional championships with GP scores of 58% (at least you could in 2005, they may have changed it for 2006, but I don't have that book handy), but that ain't gonna cut it if you want to compete at the WEG.
> But if we were given the opportunity to change the format (currently 100
> miles in 1 day, speed is everything) of FEI Championship Endurance ... any
> ideas?

Well....if you shorten the course you will just make speed even more important. What you have to do at the championships is penalize non-completion. The way it is now, 4th place and DNF are no different. And THIS is the root of the problem.

kat
Orange County, Calif.

Susan Garlinghouse, DVM said...

Has anyone considered making the criteria for Fit To Continue at the final vet check more exacting, and/or difficult? I've seen a number of horses that have finished well at whatever distance, but had their final vet check been 3-4 (or more) hours after they finished, rather than one hour or less, I'm not so sure they would still pass muster. This is akin to Heidi's comments on many occasions that she doesn't so much want to see a horse as it comes into a check, she wants to see it on its way out. Maybe "fit to continue" should also mean "still fit to continue in five or six hours after the adrenaline has worn off" before we go handing out medals and hoopla.

I also agree with 2500 miles prior to entering elite competition. Make them prove they can maintain the horse successfully over a long haul first, rather than just barely ride enough miles to get the tack adjusted.

JMO.

Susan Garlinghouse, DVM

Maryanne Gabbani said...

> Angie Said:
> While it would make the event even less press friendly, there is no
> real reason that you would have to have a track for the end. You
> ...snip...


This would work brilliantly in the desert and you could watch it all from a blimp if the riders wear bright colours. I adore the visual concept. Be careful of what you wish for...but then who would be throwing water bottles?

Maryanne

Maryanne Gabbani said...

It really does my heart good to see all these great ideas that would truly benefit the sport, horses and riders worldwide. But don't forget that any organisation, once established well, becomes primarily concerned with its own survival and benefit. The FEI is no different. Remember where the money for the FEI endurance program is coming from....and it isn't AERC International or even the USEF. They get their funds from a portion of the prize money offered in competition. And WHO offers prize money in competition, anyway? We all know the answer to that question. And WHO is now the head of the FEI? As much as I like and admire Princess Haya, I spent twenty five years as a wife of a fairly prominent Arab businessman (which HRH M. Maktoum most certainly is), and I know just how free she would be to come down in favour of a policy that would not be in his favour...especially when the nation of Jordan itself is most certainly benefiting from the alliance of the UAE and the house of Hussein. I wouldn't be in her position for all the tea in China, but I was lucky enough not to be born a princess too.

If you really want to see changes in FEI policy, you are going to have to see changes in FEI money acquisition. As they say in all the old murder mysteries....follow the money. So should everyone give up and go home? No, definitely not. But if all the member groups in FEI stopped playing the game, the FEI would have to change a bit or would simply become irrelevant, since you can't have World championship if the world doesn't come. It's sort of like what happened in Eastern Europe when Communism fell. Basically, everyone simply stopped going along with the game and the leaders found no one behind them. Awkward position. Why does the FEI have to be the only organisation to host a major international championship? I was very happy to see the new French ride, which I see as a step in the right direction. Maybe a series of such rides... or a rotation of rides like that in various participating countries.


Maryanne
wishful in Egypt

Kim Fuess said...

Instead of focusing on individual horse/rider team requirements, changing the distance of the event, or even taking away the "race" aspect, I would rather see changes made that will change the culture at this level of competition and bring a better balance between winning and completing. Unfortunately, I really don't see many ways of positively re enforcing "completing" without taking away the "race" aspect. The only kind of positive re enforcement I see is to re reimburse a national team some of it's expenses if it completes an entire team. Of course, with wealthy teams or subsidized teams this will have little or no effect. So, penalizing non completing squads seems like another viable solution. It allows national squads to "race" any way they choose BUT the results from those choices will have consequences for future competitions.

Richard Allen said...

> Kat from Orange County Wrote:
> Riders who say, "I don't believe my horse is fit to
> continue, so I choose to stop now" are not penalized in the same way
> (although their country still would be if because the horse didn't
> finish the course the team did not get a completion).

But in a team situation a penalty is a penalty - why should the team be penalised because a rider made the right decision for their horse? It doesn't follow. And there's a strong possibility that a rider who might otherwise have withdrawn a seemingly fit, sound horse because they felt the horse just wasn't doing right might choose to continue rather than risk being responsible for their country being banned from international competition.

I live in France and have attended about 12 FEI rides this year. The completion statistics don't show the number of 'abandon's, which is quite high. The vetting is extremely strict. To suggest that a horse eliminated for a minor lameness which has disappeared the next morning has been 'over-ridden' to an extent that merits some sort of ban just doesn't tally with what actually happens at most rides.

It's easy to fool around with statistics. In 2003 my wife rode the President's Cup in Abu Dhabi. Her horse was spun for minor lameness at the 92 mile compulsory representation. There was a fully-equipped clinic on site and we took advantage of the offer to have our horse rehydrated even though her metabolics were all A's. Why wouldn't we? When we got home we were assailed by the cries of the statisticians bewailing the high number of horses who 'ended up on a drip'.

Best wishes

Richard Allen

Anonymous said...

Truman wrote:
> I was told once in a
> conversation where I expressed my displeasure in that decision that "we
> need the younger horses to field a team of sound horses."

Is that why the U.S. is getting their butts whipped? The other countries are using young horses and riders and tossing the horses, when they are hurt? I see the photos of the rides and I don't see any old farts with classical riding form up on those front running horses......Perhaps it's a good thing that the old farts don't 'get tossed', eh? If I had to do 2500 miles before I could ride at that level.........I might be 90 by then.

Jen said...

Tee hee - You make a good point!

Let me add most horses on the East Coast will never make it to 2500 miles. The area is so populated, our few rides are very far apart (read: $200-$300 in gas to get to each ride), on national park property usually (read: terrain so bad no one can build or farm on), and our "season" can be a little short -- summers with 100' heat, and winters without unsafe snow/ice.

Personally, 2500 miles would take me about 10 years, add in the horse must be 5yo to start endurance = 15yo horse minimum. Why? The closest ride to me is 5 hours away, if I compete in every ride available to me within a days drive (12 hours), I could get around 300-400 miles a year - assuming I *can* go to every single ride (no other committments, like work + family and the horse is 100% 24/7. BTW this is impossible as several rides are on the same day!) and complete every one. There are many solid 15yo horses that could handle a fast 100, but many more in their prime quite a few years earlier.

Those East Coasters that get to 2500 miles, are awesome horse/rider teams, terribly dedicated, and on the road a lot!

Oh and wait, I believe the original post said 2500 FEI miles.. oh geez .. there are two FEI rides in two days drive (that I know of) Quebec + Florida. So that'd be 200 miles a year -- 13 years of riding to get that 2500 miles = 18yo horse!

This really would put a lot of emphasis on taking good care of your horse! (which is a good thing!)

Slightly boggled and definitely going to be 90yo with Sheila before "making the cut",

Jen

Kat from Orange County said...

>Richard Allen said:
> To suggest that a horse eliminated for a minor lameness
> which has disappeared the next morning has been
> 'over-ridden' to an extent that merits some sort of ban
> just doesn't tally with what actually happens at most rides.


A horse that has been removed for the competition because it was sufficiently lame to be deemed not fit to continue WAS over-ridden (i.e. it was ridden beyond its level of fitness). And it is the fact that "it doesn't tally with what happens at most rides" is that at most rides there are lots of riders who over ride their horses (myself included, BTW).

One way to get riders to stop doing this (who if they are supposedly the best in the world should be possible) is to have penalties imposed if they do.

Something needs to be done to get the "elite" endurance riders at the world championship level to be a lot more careful with their horses. Because right now, we know that more than half of them are not.

It may be that there is no way for even elite riders to be careful enough to not have huge numbers of them overriding their horses even when they are actively trying not to (which, is not the case at such events today, in today's world championship events it is apparent that many of the riders are more interested in winning than in riding the horse within its level of fitness so make the decision--whether consciously or not--to not care if they over ride their horse because they figure the vets will stop them from over riding the horse to its permanent detriment), and if that is the case, then endurance SHOULDN'T have a world championship.

If telling riders that they have to know when their horse is not fit to continue in order to maintain their qualifications for the event and telling teams that they have to pick riders and horses that are actually capable of finishing the event with some reliability (i.e. 75% of the time) in order to maintain the team qualification makes is so that there are no riders and no teams qualified, then that is pretty much proof positive that NOBODY should be out there racing at a world championship endurance event.

Right now, there is NOTHING in the structure of the event that provides any incentive for riders to ride their horses within their level of fitness if doing so puts the horse "out of the medals." Consequently, there is no way to know if riders are not riding their horses within their level of fitness because they choose not to or because they simply cannot. Give them a strong incentive to ride the horse within its capabilities even if it doesn't medal, and we can find out.

And if we find out that there really is no way to race horses over 100 miles at a world champsionship event and ride them within their level of fitness doing so, then we really shouldn't be doing it at world championships.
kat
Orange County, Calif.

Kat from Orange County said...

Richard Allen said:
> There was a fully-equipped clinic on site and we took
> advantage of the offer to have our horse rehydrated
> even though her metabolics were all A's. Why wouldn't we?


Because like all invasive medical procedures, an IV drip is not without its risks. To do it when the horse is metabolicly stable and can rehydrate itself may be taking an unnecessary risk.

kat
Orange County, Calif.

Steph Teeter said...

Kat - I don't agree with your statement that any horse which is removed from competition has been over-ridden or 'ridden beyond its level of ability'.

Regarding lameness - there are many factors which can cause a gait abberation, or lameness, which are not related to over-riding which you state is related to fitness for the job. (e.g. bruised foot, twisted ankle, blow from an object, thrown shoe, etc).

Likewise not every metabolic pull is caused by over-riding or lack of fitness for the job (e.g. dehydration, travel stress, sickness, anxiety, ulcer, extreme heat, extreme cold, azotoria, etc. )

You are oversimplifying the innate challenges of this sport.

There is a lot of risk associated with asking a horse to travel 100 miles in one day, whether it is fast or slow, and to punish or ban riders who do not complete the course is an arbitrary punishment. It may sound good in theory when applied to riders who DO over ride their horses, but not every disqualification is because of over-riding

Basing a ban upon simply being disqualified, would probably eventually reduce the number of entries to the point that there was no competition, i.e. not much of a World Championship. If your goal is to prevent riders or nations from repeatedly pushing horses beyond their limits, then you need to find a way to identify just that.

Steph

Truman said...

> Steph Teeter wrote:
> ... And soundness is more a management factor than an age factor. IMO.


Actually I think we are finding that speed in humans doesn't decline as fast as once thought. Carl Lewis and Michael Johnson put that wives tale to rest. What increases with age is base and skill levels. Endurance events are much more dependent on skill and base than speed events. A human sprinter can do fine with crapy form, however, to be a good marathoner one needs good form (which is a skill that is learned).

Can you take a 6 year old with 200 miles and no 100's and nominate for the US team - sure. Can the same horse do two fast 100's and make the WEC team - sure. Can he then go run a 7:30 100 and win the WEC - maybe. Will he ever be the same again - probably not and that is the problem with asking a horse to do this without the base and skills, IMO.

I, however, think you and I may be in the minority of the AERC I members.

Truman

Kim Fuess said...

I definitely see your point but is it too much to expect if we ask that 60% of team members complete the ride to earn a team completion? I don't believe we should penalize individuals but penalize the squad. There are decisions being made that are not made by the individual riders but by team vets, team coaches, etc.


As I mentioned before, why not have 5 team members with a required 3 for team completion. Again, these are supposed to be the best riders/horses in the world. Why not expect a higher completion rate from a team that is supposed to be the best a nation has to offer. I think that a 40% DNF is more then fair to compensate for the bad luck, bad day, etc. that any individual can experience on race day.


Every horse entered in the WEC is supposed to be an experienced 100 mile competitor. I certainly expect a better performance (completion rate) from my seasoned horses (as they are a known quantity) than I expect from a horse doing it's first season of 100s. Why shouldn't the same be expected of the most experienced 100 mile horses/riders a nation sends to a WEC?

Jen said...

>>>Will he ever be the same again - probably not and that is the problem with asking a horse to do this without the base and skills, IMO.<<<<<

I agree, but in our current system we "reward" the winner of the race, not the expierence, the 2500 mile horses, or the Carl Lewis'. Seems the rules and riders goals only reflect the current system's mindset.

Jen

Sandy Bollinger said...

> Joe Long wrote:
>
> Be careful what you wish for. There's that old "unintended
> consequences" thingy. If you make it more costly to pull by having
> penalties for pulling, you create an incentive for riders to not pull
> when they know their horse is having problems but to try to hide the
> problem and finish.


This is already something that happens regularly...there is already an incentive for riders to not pull when they know their horse is having problems...pressure from the rest of the team...egos...etc. Just to get to the point of being chosen for the team involves riders hiding problems they might be having with soundness etc, from the selection committee. Everyone involves knows the deception goes on, before, during and after the event...and nobody has the balls to speak up or do anything about it.

Patty Peck said...

Can we regulate the amount of 'technical trail' in any given event? i.e. x number of miles of difficulty or natural obstacle(hill, sand, rock, x-country, etc). How about scattering slalom sections along the trail (can those horses turn?).

any ideas??


My reply, A similar thing happened with 3 day after a disastrous Olympics and changes were made. Maybe a multi leg "endurance" course could be adopted with one day of hill climb one day of technical forest riding and one day of speed. Similar to a short version of Tour De France. The entire course doesn't need to be a continuous 100 miles to allow for different terrain for different days. Patty

Cindy Collins said...

Patti: We already have these in this country...they are our classic 100 mile rides...the Tevis, the Big Horn, Virginia City, Swanton P, and I assume, The Old Dominion, though I haven't ridden it. These rides have places where you can really make time cantering, hills, woods and single track, etc. That's, obviously, not where International is going. It's not what they want. You don't complete these rides in 9 hour times. That's not the point of those real endurance rides. AND, it's why some of us hate AERC's support of International in its current form. Cindy

Truman said...

Steph Teeter wrote:
Kat - I don't agree with your statement that any horse which is removed from
competition has been over-ridden or 'ridden beyond its level of ability'.


That is absolutely correct. Likewise not every metabolic pull is caused by over-riding or lack of fitness for the job (e.g. dehydration, travel stress, sickness, anxiety, ulcer, extreme heat, extreme cold, azotoria, etc. )

This, however, I tend not to agree with. The only place I would not lay a metabolic issue at the feet of the rider is a horse is brewing some sort of unknown or undetected problem that is brewing and undetected by both the riders and the vets. Otherwise the rest is in the hand of the rider and it is the responsibility of the rider. Dehydration is not mysterious - it build up. The rider knows when the horse last drank and how much. The rider makes the decision to pass by water (and it happens) or not stay very long to let the horse relax and drink because they are chasing the gold ring. After all the rider is ultimately responsible for his horse and to know the status of his horse.

There is a lot of risk associated with asking a horse to travel 100 miles in
one day, whether it is fast or slow, and to punish or ban riders who do not
complete the course is an arbitrary punishment. It may sound good in theory
when applied to riders who DO over ride their horses, but not every
disqualification is because of over-riding

Basing a ban upon simply being disqualified, would probably eventually
reduce the number of entries to the point that there was no competition,
i.e. not much of a World Championship. If your goal is to prevent riders or
nations from repeatedly pushing horses beyond their limits, then you need to
find a way to identify just that.

Unfortunately it seems you have two options. The first is to base it on an absolute criteria or you can base it on a subjective criteria. True an absolute criteria will result in a rider every once in awhile being eliminated from competition for a period maybe not at their own fault. However, the other option is a political process subject to all the the issues and problems associated with political processes. Neither is perfect - but IMO the best of the worse is an absolute criteria based on a rider COC that is well designed and based on the riders past performance.

The real solution is for everyone to respect their horse more than they lust for victory. However, while that might be the best solution - it will not happen and if something is to be done - there are really only two options neither that good.

Truman

Sue Greenall said...

This is a great discussion although some suggestions to the WEC problem are not real world solutions.

Truman said
Can you take a 6 year old with 200 miles and no 100's and nominate for
the US team - sure. Can the same horse do two fast 100's and make the
WEC team - sure. Can he then go run a 7:30 100 and win the WEC - maybe.
Will he ever be the same again - probably not and that is the problem
with asking a horse to do this without the base and skills, IMO.

Hit the nail on the head Truman! Any rider nominating a young horse for the WEC needs to understand this. If they are still willing to put their horse on the line for a chance at riding at a WEC then they assume the risk. How other riders perceive that is up to them. As long as "the game" exists the players will come.

Steph said
There is a lot of risk associated with asking a horse to travel 100 miles in one day.

Right on again. Anyone who has ridden a 100 knows that those last 20 miles can be the toughest. Having ridden several 75 and 80 mile rides, there is a huge difference between those and a 100. 75 miles simply does not "beat up" the horse (or rider) like a 100. OK, a 75 is not the "ultimate challenge" as per Wendel Robie but then again, he never dreamed there would be 7 hour 100's. I mean, who decided that 100 miles was THE distance anyway other than it sounds good. 100 KM also sounds good. As Steph pointed out, there is a lot of risk asking a horse to travel 100 miles a day. If the sport can't slow the riders down, then what is wrong with lessening the risk by lessening the distance (of course seeing how the sport has gone recently it is possible for the hot shots to prove this theory wrong). But it is a thought.

I often wonder why 75-80 mile rides don't attract more riders. For 50 mile riders who regularly top ten and say they never want to ride a 100, wouldn't they like more of a challenge? For riders bringing along young horses, wouldn't it make an easier transition from 50's to 100's?

I know that the Old Dominion puts on a 75 and make no mistake, it's enough of a challenge. I would like to hear about other rides and what riders think of "that middle distance".

Sue Greenall

Diane Trefthen said...

If instead of a one-day 100 miler there were three, consecutive 75 mile rides or 100 km rides, that would put more emphasis on "endurance" since you would have to be able to vet in each morning for that day's ride. True, the third day might be Truman's "Katie bar the door" race, but after going either 150 miles or 125 miles, none of the horses would be quite as willing to move out at an average of 13-15 mph. Further, there would be a substantial shift in attitude. It's one thing to go out for a one day race, over ride your horse and say oh well, them's the breaks, I tried. It is quite another to INVEST the effort to go 125 miles and THEN blow it by racing on the third day. You would no way look like a hero. You'd look like a complete fool!

Kat from Orange County said...

> Steph said:
> Kat - I don't agree with your statement that any horse
> which is removed from competition has been over-ridden
> or 'ridden beyond its level of ability'.

I did not say that any horse that is removed from competion, I said any horse that has been removed from competition because it is deemed by the vets to be no longer fit to continue. If you started out with a horse that was fit to continue and somewhere during the course of riding it you have a horse that is not fit to continue, then you HAVE ridden it beyond its level of fitness (that is what going from fit to continue to not fit to continue means).

And I am willing to concede that there might be a handful of situations where it can be put down to nothing other than just bad luck; however none of the ones that she mentions:

> Regarding lameness .. (e.g. bruised foot, twisted ankle,
> blow from an object, thrown shoe, etc).


If your horse bruised its foot during a ride it is because you rode it into a situation where it could bruise its foot, if you were more careful, it might not have. If your horse went lame from twisting its ankle it is because you rode it into a situation where it twisted its ankle and had not properly conditioned it for the possiblity. If you rode your horse into an object that hit it (assuming we aren't talking about a person leaping out of the bushes and taking a baseball bat to the horse's leg), then it was because you rode the horse into the object that hit it. If your horse went lame from a thrown shoe it is because the shoe wasn't applied properly in the first place, or you rode it through footing that pulled the shoe off, or because the horse is prone to throwing shoes (probably for comformational or hoof quality reasons) and isn't suited to a sport that requires it be kept shod.

> Likewise not every metabolic pull (e.g. dehydration, travel stress,
> sickness, anxiety, ulcer, extreme heat, extreme cold, azotoria, etc.)


Horses that are dehydrated, overstressed by travel, sick, anxious, have ulcers, can't deal with the prevaling weather conditions, or tie up shouldn't have started at the world championships in the first place. Simply by entering the horse in the world championships you are stating, I have brought a fit horse to do this ride. It is possible that you have brought a horse that is incubating a disease that doesn't show until after the start of the ride, but I contend that this is a huge exception and rarely ever happens.

>There is a lot of risk associated with asking a
> horse to travel 100 miles in one day, whether
> it is fast or slow, and to punish or ban riders
> who do not complete the course is an arbitrary
> punishment.


You didn't read what I said carefully enough. _I_ said that riders who present their horses to the vet asking for permission to continue on their horse and the vets determine that the horse is not fit to continue should have their COC for championship rides revoked. I.e. it is only those riders who don't know that the horse they have been riding for the past X number of miles is not fit to continue that have the COC revoked. But that it does not apply if you remove the horse from the competition yourself because you know the horse is not fit to continue. So, if the rider goes up to the officials and says, "I know my horse is lame, and not fit to go on, I withdraw from the competition" there is no loss of COC of the rider for this. However, riders who present their horses to the vet and say, "I believe my horse to be fit to continue" and it turns out that they are wrong...well, they need to be told to go home and learn a bit more about how to properly evaluate the condition of a horse before they come back to the world championships.

I don't consider it unreasonable to require championship level riders to be able to properly evaluate the fitness of their horses to continue, and the biggest reason for having this penalty is so riders don't try to sneak unfit horses past the vets.

I am NOT suggesting that these requirements be imposed on all riders at all rides, just on those who are claiming to be skilled enough to compete at the world championship level.

Let me give you an example of a situation where I over rode my horse to lameness on a 100 mile ride:

A number of years ago (don't ask me how many) I took my horse to the Swanton Pacific. A few miles after the first vet check we had to ride along a paved two lane highway. I was on a horse that (at the time) wasn't really good with traffic. While we were riding along this road, a car went by, spooked my horse and she bolted down the road, then another car came by in the opposite direction, spooked her again, she spun around, slipped and fell on the pavement and scraped a huge hunk of skin off of her fetlock. She was moving fine immediately afterward and the wound was fairly superficial; however, when this wound got dirt in it (a number of miles down the trail when we went into some soft dirt getting around a gate post), it hurt her alot and she became quite lame. I walked the next few miles into the next vet check and pulled/was pulled for lameness (actually the vets put down RO, but when Barb McCrary called me later to ask my why I pulled I told her it was because my horse was lame).

Did I over ride my horse? You bet. If I had properly prepared my horse for the conditions of the ride (a section along a paved road with traffic on it), she wouldn't have spooked in the first place (or I wouldn't have brought a horse that spooks at traffic)...and none of the rest of it would have happened.

It was NOT bad luck that caused my horse to spin around and slip on the pavement, it was lack of proper preparation for the conditions at hand (I know this, because I was riding with Becky Glaser at the time and her horse saw the same cars and didn't injure itself, so obviously Becky was on a better prepared and conditioned horse than I was).

Lame horses aren't caused by bad luck. They are caused by bad riding. I.e. you did not ride the horse in such a way that was suitable to the conditions and the level of fitness/schooling of the horse.

Does this mean that endurance horses need to be well conditioned and well schooled? Of course. Is it unreasonable for the FEI to expect that the best riders in the world on the best horses in the world are on horses that are well conditioned and well schooled before showing up for the world championship, and for countries to only field teams of horses with riders that are well conditioned and well schooled? I don't think so.

And it certainly isn't unreasonble for the FEI to expect the best riders in the world to KNOW when their horses are not fit to continue and to not even ask for permission to do so. Those that don't know are the ones who should have their COC revoked.

kat
Orange County, Calif.

Leonard Liesens said...

Hi,
It is interesting to read all comments on this subject.
Jus a few of my own...

- a championship is a race, not just a regular 100miles or a multi-day where each individual enters the ride with his/her own objective and strategy. Here you have the pressure coming from the chef d'equipe and from your partners in the team. Not all teams have the same pressure on their shoulders, some are still there just because it is nice to participate and this is good as well.

- the management of the horse still belong to the rider. That's true, but don't forget that in many teams, the federation considers that the horse is "leased" to the team. This makes a big difference and can create a lot of pressure between the rider/owner of the horse and the management staff of the team. Chefs d'equipes (I mean of leading nations) come too a championship with a goal in mind... collecting medals. They try to select the best possible individuals (rider and horse) and prepare them for the deadline. They define also a riding strategy (like a coach in football or ) and expect the rider to listen to their "orders". Sure that we try to keep this principe "horse welfare is paramount" in the back of our head, but the pressure is there and there is nothing to do to avoid that. Pressure comes from your team, your chef d'equipe, your ego, the other competitors, etc... The one who never made part of such an event can have diffuclties to understand the whole process

- lameness... all high level horses are lame!!! if they are trotted on a circle on a hard surface or in deep sand or worse if they got flexion tests, most of them are slightly lame. Why? Because they are champions they can manage the small problems, have a better pain resistance, because their riders know about their weaknesses, and so on. The good care and management (veterinarian, farrier, good riding, proper conditioning) allow the horse to be ready and sound on the 'd' day.
But everything can happen and this is beyond the control of the rider. Then the horse ends up lame. This is not related with riding the horse into the ground.

Examples : at Aachen, a lot of paement and uneperienced riders/horses on this surface... they a lot of falls or just slipping. Horse slips once, ok, twice, ok... after ten of them, tendon strain, horse lame. Bad turn coming from a dirt road onto pavement, horse slips and fall... lame.
A horse with some arthtitic problems can support 80Kms and suddently become lame at the next vetcheck. who's responsible?

WEG in several days : please note that multi-days in Europe have the worst completion rate (Montcuq, Barcelona). I'm not sure that this is the best way. 160Kms is still the ultimate distance that every rider consider with the highest respect.

Horse not in a good day. I noticed also the good horse management of Peter Toft and Meg Wade (and the Aussies in general who vere unfortunate at Aachen). It deserved the highest respect for the way they managed their horses and brought them to the finish line. Europeans (I mean most of them) have lost this attitude, that's true. THey will not take the time to stop for 10 minutes at the water point trying to relax the horse for giving the chance to drink.

Voila... just my thoughts

Leonard, Belgium

Cristiano von Simson, DVM said...

If we move to a shorter distance, all we will do is to increase the speed
dramatically, changing the reasons for non-completion to lameness and
muscular problems. The reason we don't see too many horses out in the first
50 miles is because the riders know that there is 50 more to go, and they are
saving their horses. As they get closer to the finish line, the "all or
nothing" mentality starts to take over...


Best Regards,
Cristiano von Simson, DVM

Truman said...

Good morning Sue,


Back when I was riding 100's I saw absolutely no reason to ride a 75. I didn't see much reason to ride a 75 when I could ride a 100. At that time we also didn't have very many if any in the SE. I would drive a long way for a 100 - but sure wouldn't drive a long way for a 75. If I thought about doing a 75, I'd probably just bite the bullet and do a 100.

There have been a lot of RM's that have offered a 75 one year but didn't continue with it since it didn't pan out. When I looked at the distribution of distances - the 75 to 95 mile distance was not only flat over the last 10 years but if you ignore 2 day 100's it is the smallest category in riders.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it!

Truman

Laurie Hilyard said...

I think you get into a whole cultural thing too. In this country, most endurance riders are middle class, workers or retired workers, riding their own horses. Horses in this country have not been working livestock for 4 human generations. We don't even remember that lame horses are used on a daily basis in many parts of the world. I live in an Amish community. Every day I pass horses that are at least grade one lame on pavement at a trot. Weekly I pass horses that are grade 2 lame. Is that cruel? These are working animals, and are not treated sentimentally. Not many Amish keep older horses - in subsistance farming, if it doesn't work, it doesn't eat.

American endurance riders do not see their horses as disposable. We spend thousands on custom saddles, chiropractors and farriers to make "our" horse comfortable and acheive their personal best. Maybe, if we take it seriously enough, when our first horse ages out, we look for a more appropriate endurance mount the next time. IN regards to international competition I can see a real "who cares?" attitude in a lot of the membership now. If I did have a 100 mile horse, there is no way on God's green earth that I would let it compete at that level. When I first got involved in endurance, back in the early 90's, international competition was a goal, like the ROC. Now, I think it is barely relevant to the majority of riders. It is something distasteful about our sport that is difficult, if not impossible to defend. Kind of like soring in TWH big lick classes. . .

Truman said...

In any sport one is more likely to get injured when they are tired than when they are fresh. An athlete is more likely to get injured late in the season than early in the season. They are more likely to get hurt late in a game rather than early in a game. Pulled muscles happen more frequently to tired muscles than fresh muscles. That is pretty much reflected in endurance when one considers the average pull rate for 50 through 75 miles is about 15% where as it is 40% for 100's.

I don't know if cutting the distance to say 80 km would solve the problem, but it will at least put the race in the last starting at 40 km when the horse is fresher than they are at 120 km.

I expect much of this discussion is academic. It is the FEI that has to make the change. The FEI is all nations - the US only has one vote and that vote is the USEF not the AERC. If the event is shortened it will probably be because of piratical reasons, finishing in daylight, more spectator friendly, etc. than any other reason.

Truman