13 August 2010

Ouch, That Might Leave A Mark

We might have to start a series entitled Great Moments in Equestrian Journalism. The USA's most highly esteemed The Chronicle of the Horse published on Wednesday a most curious history of international endurance:
In 1982 the Fédération Equestre Internationale recognized endurance as an international sport, and in 1993 endurance became the fifth team discipline under the U.S. Equestrian Team. The first world championships were held in 1998 in the United Arab Emirates.
Oh my. If by 1998 they meant 1986, well then sure. That's only a difference of. . .twelve years, in which the USA won all six individual world endurance championship titles, a run extending through 1998 with the seventh consecutive US gold, Valerie Kanavy's second in Dubai. A run which also featured Becky Hart's incredible three consecutive world titles on the same horse (!). There's a helluva lot of horsemanship involved in keeping a horse at that level for so long, even in a small sport (and the winning ride times back then were nothing to sneeze at). Which is why we're mentioning it. And then there were Pieraz's two consecutive golds, and the two WECs that the US itself hosted and the two team golds they won there. You can still read a bit about this history of endurance, pre-UAE cash era, in the FEI's own Aachen preview here on Horsetalk (funny how one has to keep going to New Zealand to read about what some Americans were up to). And of course there were The Chronicle's own Overall Equestrian and Overall Horse of the Year honors that Hart, Kanavy and Pieraz so deservedly won for their respective achievements. We'll mention Cassandra Schuler (gold in 1986) and Danielle Kanavy (1996) as well just because these people should all be recognized in the face of such an incredible oversight by their own top media source.

It's not that the author had to detail US accomplishments as that obviously wasn't the point, or even the scope, of the piece. But to negate everything that happened before Dubai got involved is a bit much. That's not just a run-of-the-mill error, that's a slap in the face to the entire US endurance community, which is why we're addressing it. Actually I'd call that a right walloping upside the head. Ouch. Where did they research that, Wikipedia? Just for kicks I looked it up on Wikipedia, and sure enough:
When first recognized by the FEI, there were only four international competitions. This grew to an average of 18 rides per year by 1998, when the first World Championships were held in the United Arab Emirates.
Make that "the first world championships WITH MONEY," or perhaps the Wiki writer meant the first time the UAE (as opposed to another country) hosted the WEC, the second time being the notorious 2004 worlds when the gold medalist got sent home by the OC rather than have his moment on the podium, in a stunning slap in the face of due process that cast the FEI as the good guy for once.  Wouldn't it be funny if the American Horse Publications recent award winner for "general excellence" is researching the history of equestrian sport on Wikipedia? Not really.

They go on to inform us that riders at the WEG will be covering 100 miles in less than 24 hours. Well yes, that's technically true, but it's a lot less than 24 hours! Like 8 hours less. Isn't that sort of a big difference? With the required minimum speed of 13 km/h over 160 km (= 12.31 hours ride time) plus the intended 200 minutes of holds (= 3.33 hours), you can't possibly get anywhere near a 24 hour total completion time. More like 16 hours (barring adjustments of the minimum speed due to ambient conditions). The longest it's gone in recent memory was around 18 hours for the last rider in Jerez under extraordinary weather/terrain conditions and a minimum speed that was reduced to 10 km/h (and that was eight years ago, literally eons in terms of endurance development). It was about the same in Malaysia in 2008 at 12 km/h when the tropical conditions were so worrisome they raced at night and added a lot of extra hold time (nearly five hours compared to just over three planned in Kentucky). Aachen at 12 km/h also had heavy rain and mud and the last finisher still came in after about 16 hours, including holds. This isn't obscure information (although it's probably not on Wikipedia).

Are there no editors at this magazine? It's starting to look like summer interns run amok. Next thing you know they'll be slapping an erroneous headline on an FEI press release and misinforming likely tens of thousands of people that Sapphire's disqualification from the entire World Cup Final was ruled incorrect. Oh wait, that already happened. And still haven't got it right more than a month later! The media doghouse got really crowded after that cluster, so some are chained up out back, not even allowed into the doghouse.

In some other Fair & BalancedTM type reporting, they have interviewed Nicki Shahinian-Simpson about the very unfortunate Tristan situation, but make no mention of even having contacted the horse's owners for any comment. Because in such matters, there's never another side to the story, right? She probably did get royally screwed, but isn't the reporter's job to reflect investigation of what happened from various angles, as opposed to appearing to accept what one side told them as "the truth"? A simple "The owners had no comment" speaks volumes, and only enhances the rider's credibility (and she was already very credible). Instead we end up sort of doubting when we otherwise wouldn't, because we don't get the feeling another side was even considered.

That's sort of like reprinting a press release from the USEF or FEI as if it's necessarily "the news," as opposed to what these bullshit artists at the organizations want the media and public to believe is "the news." Oh wait. . .

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