Honestly, it strikes me as sort of funny. It seems like they are circling back around to the format from 40 years ago that started the whole idea of regionals in the first place.
It was 1982 when everybody who qualified went to Overpeck in New Jersey on Friday for the first round of the Maclay, and then the top hundred qualified to actually go to the Garden on Sunday. That approach was so unpopular that regionals started the next year, but it sounds very similar to what will happen again in 2023.
I also wonder how they are planning to adjust the schedule to make room for 250 Maclay trips on Saturday.
Isn’t Saturday usually the training session day? Would they take that away for the first round?
I never competed in the Big Eq, but my feeling about the new format is that it takes away from part of what makes the Maclay special - that it wasn’t just about chasing as many points as you can. You could have a really good round at regionals and qualify.
I agree - it made Regionals a goal in and of itself and the top riders made it to the “final” in KY. I think by removing regionals, it becomes more like the Dover medal finals that is points based and a little less special.
In another vein, however, it rewards consistency in getting points to get there and helps avoid the disaster trip or mess up at regionals that squashes a riders finals dreams. Now, if you have the points, you go to the big dance. No worries about regionals anymore.
Ok, but they are not eliminating Regionals, it’s just not mandatory:
"But things will change again for the 2023 season: Regional competitions will become optional, and riders will be able to qualify for the Maclay Finals based on points accrued in regular classes throughout the season instead. The number of points required to qualify for Finals will be increased, mirroring those required to attend USEF Medal Finals.
Regionals won’t be eliminated entirely in 2023, Bozan said, because there are also many riders who consider regionals an end goal. Bozan pointed out that many riders in the Pacific Northwest’s Region 7, for example, aren’t able to travel across the country to compete in the ASPCA Maclay Finals in Kentucky but still want to participate in the program.
“To take that away, to wipe out regionals and not even have them, would be a disservice to a certain percentage of our membership,” she said. “We tried to listen to all of what the members said and all of their ideas and roll everything up together, which is what we came up with for 2023.”
The competition format for the 2023 ASPCA Maclay Finals will undergo a makeover as well.
On the Saturday of the competition, all riders will compete in a preliminary around where a minimum of 125 riders will be selected to move on to Sunday’s competition. Those 125 riders will start with a clean slate on Sunday, participating in a first round, flat phase, second round and optional testing.
While regionals will be optional, riders who are qualified for ASPCA Maclay Finals and elect to compete in a regional will earn an automatic invitation to Sunday’s championship competition if they place in the top percentage at their regional.
Riders who do not earn enough points to qualify for Maclay Finals but elect to compete in an optional regional and finish in the top percentage of the regional will earn an invitation to compete in Saturday’s preliminary round."
Way to make it all even more confusing! Really, the reason for regionals was because the NHS at the Garden could not accommodate a huge class. And that’s why there were no regionals placing requirements when the class briefly went to the Meadowlands. KHP is a different venue from the Garden as well, and I think they either need to keep it as is or scrap regionals entirely.
I’m not current on the points system, but a million years ago, qualifying required a certain number of blue ribbons. Now that they are making regionals optional, it looks like points will wind up mimicking the Medal. Which other than the flat phase, makes them largely the same. I think they could tweak regional qualifying requirements in a different way while making regionals optional.
Seems like needlessly complicating something without making any improvement.
Exactly what I expect from our governing bodies, so while I’m shaking my head at it, I can’t say I’m surprised.
I think the big difference may be that now both days are at the same facility, so there’s not that sense of traveling so far to get so close but not actually get to compete in the Garden.
Doesn’t this make for yet another round on the horses’ legs, though?
I wonder this as well. Perhaps use an outdoor ring?
It can be pretty darn cold there in November. I think I was wearing five layers there this past year.
Edited to add: There were multiple days when I had to scrape a little frost off the windshield of my car in the morning. Lol.
Plus that would add to the feeling of traveling all that way to not show in the main ring if you didn’t get to the second round.
My brain glazed over half way through trying to figure that out. Makes me glad I’m not a junior or a trainer of a junior who has to wade through all that. I’m gonna need a flow chart with some arrows to follow.
I’m also not sure exactly why this was all necessary. But I’m not in charge so what do I know…
It seems to me that there will be some very exhausted judges on the weekend. Does anyone know why they felt that these changes were needed? The article doesn’t explain the reasoning behind them.
Why was this change desirable?
“ASPCA Maclay Regionals remain mandatory this year for riders wishing to earn an invitation to the ASPCA Maclay Finals, but they may compete in any regional they wish simply by earning the points their home state requires. That’s a change from previous years, when riders wanting to show outside their home region had to qualify by earning the points required by the state with the highest qualification threshold in the new region.”
“It means, for example, that Alabama riders wanting to ride in their home Region 3 regional previously needed the 10 points required by the state to do so, but if they wanted to compete in the Region 2 regional, they would need to earn 33 points—the total required by New York and New Jersey, which have the highest thresholds in that region—to do so. This year, by contrast, satisfying their home state’s 10-point requirement would be enough to allow those Alabama riders to compete in Region 2 (or any other) regional as well.”
Why were the regions changed?
“This year, 225 riders—50 more than in 2021—will be invited to the Finals, and there will be three additional regional competitions. Regions 3 and 5 have been split in half, creating new regions 9 and 10. (You can see a map of the new regions here.) Also, Region 4 will have two regional competitions: One at the American Gold Cup (Michigan) and one at the Kentucky National.”
This was obviously something that EQ trainers wanted but I’m curious about their reasoning. I have no dog in this fight, but I am interested in the “whys” behind the changes.
I have gone back-and-forth about this since I read the article this morning.
When I was a junior, let’s be clear, Brianne Goutal was not looking over her shoulder for me. But, when I considered what it would take to qualify in my region, I realized that competing in this final was going to be financially out of reach for me because I could not afford to ship my horse from Maryland to Florida to compete in our regionals. Even if I would have been competitive at finals, it wasn’t going to be possible- I could schlep to New York, or I could schlep to Florida, but I couldn’t do both.
That is a story from zone 3, which is not exactly the hinterland. I have to wonder how many other juniors are doing that calculus. In the Midwest and on the West Coast, where riders have to do a lot more driving to get from show to show, I do wonder how many would be able to make it to the middle of the country for the final but don’t have it in them to also do a 9 hour drive on the way to get to a regional.
I think that the decision to make the regionals optional was a great idea. It gives an alternate pathway to qualify, but I don’t see it actually changing either the level of the competition at regionals or the level of competition at finals. That 250 person first qualifying round can be the one with the softer course so that people to come in and are not ready to excel over an East Coast standard finals course do not kill themselves. On the other hand, from a horse welfare standpoint, I don’t really foresee anyone skipping the competitive advantage of getting their horse into the ring on day one so that means that these horses who are working very hard in the fall are going to go two days back to back instead of one, and neither day is likely to be all that much shorter. I know they do that already with the warm-up round, but the fact that this is a qualifier instead of basically ring familiarization changes the game and changes the preparation.
I also share the concern that was expressed upthread about what a long day that is for the judges. We do not need a repeat of a six judge panel that was all too tired to observe a dotted line at a major final. To go two days back to back with that length of day and level of attention is really challenging and I wonder to what degree that has been accounted for when considering the updated schedule and design.
I noticed that the points needed to qualify are being raised. That may be a handicap for riders who live in the West?
I mentioned the judges upthread. I think it’s a big/unfair ask to have judges score so many rounds.
I honestly found it bizarre when I read through the changes. I thought things were moving in a different direction with the advent of the 3’3" finals, which give riders who don’t have all the competitive advantages ($$$, a true 3’6" eq horse, proximity to the top shows) a goal to work toward that would be just as special as the 3’6" finals, with the added benefit of giving those coming up the ladder a taste of what a challenging finals course is like (without eating them alive at height/spread of a 3’6" final intended to identify the best eq riders in the country). I thought this was a brilliant idea that would also make the Maclay as exclusive as, frankly, it should be*.
With these revisions, I think we’ve taken a step in the wrong direction and made Maclay Finals too inclusive. If I’m reading them correctly, you could have 1 - ONE! - Maclay point, go to regionals and have the ride of your life and go to KY (yes, I understand they’ll have to have another excellent ride to get through the preliminary round). We’ve all seen the poor kids who travel halfway across the country only to stop out at the first jump - do we really want to see more of them?
And I’m with Renn in this making for longer days on the panel of judges that have to sift through the top 125 of what, 300 rounds on the first day? We’ve seen that rodeo before. Why not let the regionals judge soft through them at home?
Just all very odd.
*For background, I did compete at Medal finals back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, but did not qualify for Maclay Finals because, let’s face it, my flatwork was and remains abysmal. So I’m not speaking from a place of snobbery.
Do you have any idea why these changes were made? The big EQ trainers had a lot of say in this. Does anyone have an idea of what they are trying to accomplish by implementing these changes?
I haven’t got a clue. I am but a lowly amateur with a furry retired old horse. No one consults my opinion on anything.
I think it solves problems for two kinds of people:
- The 99% like my example, who can’t get to finals and to Regionals, but who could get to one or the other.
- The 1% of kids who have a shot at finals any given Sunday, who now don’t have to go to Regionals if they don’t want to. I think it’s a competitive advantage to go anyway, but if I were Zayna Rizvi and my horse threw a shoe the night before Regionals, I could now say “okay backup horse, you sleep in, we’re good here.”
It occurs to me they could solve that problem by having two separate sets of judges. One for Saturday, and then a fresh set for Sunday, since it is designated as a clean slate for Sunday anyway. I don’t know if they have thought of that, or if they would want to do it. But it’s one possible solution to that aspect.
That makes sense, but the lack of continuity in judging would seem weird. The judges on the final day would be scoring other judges picks. It would be more like two different classes instead of one Maclay final.
I don’t know, I still don’t understand the reasoning for the rule changes. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see how well the new structure works.
Find it a bit wild they constructed the example this way. The issue has never been Alabama kids shipping up to a significantly tougher Northeast regional. It’s been half of Zone 2 shipping south to compete at the St. Louis regional (or the like). Which is no doubt competitive, but not as deeply competitive. So in that sense, I’m not really sure what the point of this change is.
What happened to having to show in your home region anyway? Thought that if you wanted to show in some other region’s finals you had to get at least some (all?) of your points in that region. But I am admittedly behind on the Big Eq fine print these days.
My guess is that, in addition to the financial stress of paying for Regionals AND Finals, the equine stress of showing Regionals before heading into the grueling year-end schedule might have been raised as a concern.
As for Finals in KY, they could hold the preliminary round in the covered ring. But that just means that (most) horses will still need to do a warm-up/sightseeing round in the Alltech. I have to imagine they’re going to re-work the schedule to do both rounds in the Alltech, because nothing else makes sense.
Overall I’m still unsure if I’m a yay or nay here. Think one less show before heading into Finals season is not a bad thing, but also think this is going to water down regionals a bit. And that’s a bit of a bummer because a solid placing at Regionals has, historically, held its own against placings in the Big 3. Not quite the same, but still quite impressive.