I almost hate to bring this up but I am starting to think that some people are cheating at our hunter paces. Or maybe it's only me who thinks using a GPS to figure out your speed is cheating.
I realize not all paces are run the same. At ours the riders do not walk the course, do not know how long it is and do not know the optimum time before starting. All they know is that they should average a specific speed depending on the division they enter ... 300 meters a minute for example for the fast division.
It used to be that the people who would win or place would be within several minutes (over or under) the optimum time. Depending on the distance you could even be +/-6 minutes off the time and still place. Lately however, the people who place are coming in within seconds of the optimum time, I mean 2 seconds for first place, 3 seconds for second etc. I find in unbelievable that people are that accurate without technological assistance. I don't have proof but I studied the results from the last several years and the statistics would say I am right. I also find it unbelievable that people would cheat for a competition that has nothing at stake other than a ribbon.
Do you think using GPS is cheating? Would you keep entering if you knew people were cheating?
First of all, perhaps they are. However paces are SOOO subjective. The mileage and terrain along with the weather are variables that one must include in their strategy. I will tell you as a person who has done a lot of paces I do have a good idea of the "usual" pace times in the past and will judge my ride accordingly.
I'm usually in the "money" for the hunt paces and for the trail clubs I'm not. THey average their riders and that makes for more variation in times.
SO unless the pace setter is a stickler to a certain speed per mile -regardless, having a gps will only put you in range of where you need to be.
I do the spring VA paces and over the last three years my partner and I have won our share of paces. We are usually within 30 seconds of the time when we win. The other teams that are in the top of the standings are all tightly bunched with us. None of us are using GPS or anything then a regular watch. When we walk a course we usually come up with a planned time to try to hit. What we think is the optimum.
Around here we walk the courses before but that is it. We are not given a pace or an optimum time. If you gave me a pace, I could hit it every time.
Typically in the optimum time divisions, the fastest teams are usually the top teams. I always assumed that was because when the hunts time the courses, they are sending out staff. We do. So the staff move right along.
A couple of years ago, our main competitors was the pair that our mater rode with. We were usually 1-2 in th standings and no more than five seconds apart. In two of the paces, we were within one second. We figured it as because as we waked the course, we saw it hunted as the way she would lead the field.
If I were you, I'd let people walk the course and not give out any other information. In fact, if you don't walk the courses, you'll get lost.
The only "cheating" I have seen is if the course is the same as the year before and riders base their run on their time & place from last year. If a trainer comes with students/clients, they "need" to produce ribbons. That is what they get paid for and they have to keep their people happy. I love hunter paces and have fun whether I get a ribbon or not. I don't keep a record of my times as that, for me, is too much like hard work!
That's easy--don't give a "speed"! Nothing wrong with saying fast and slow or first flight and hilltop. And if you used to make it 300 and 250 mpm, make it 309 and 256 or something. FWIW, though, my mom and I did a paper chase once and came in EXACTLY on the optimum time, without so much as a watch between us. So it does happen.
I've never ridden in a hunter pace where there was a "speed" that was given. The courses were either ridden over by two people the day before and their times were averaged to get an optimum, or the times of all the teams were averaged. I don't think GPS would give much advantage, personally, for the paces I've been to, but seems the ones the OP has gone to have a different set of conditions.
Thanks for the interesting responses. I knew that paces were done differently in other areas. No one however has said whether or not they think using GPS would be cheating. (You can use it to tell you your specific speed).
The course lengths and terrain are changed each time. At one farm it might have been a 6 mile course one year with 50% open fields and 50% woods and the next year at the same farm it a 4.5 mile course and 90% in the woods. You don't get to walk the course but it is marked with neon yellow flags. If you are going too fast you can miss a turn.
See, to me, cheating is doing something against the rules. Unless it is said that you can't use GPS. Yes, it may give an unfair advantage to those who use the GPS device; however, then maybe it's time to change up the rules. I don't know how I'd keep track of a GPS device while going along and "almost missing turns," as you said. I can barely keep track of a watch when riding XC!
I guess I can't see the point of using a GPS (or even a clock) to keep track of my speed during a hunter pace. It's supposed to be a fun ride over terrain that simulates a hunting experience. The optimum time can vary a lot depending on the team that sets the pace, so I suppose you could try to figure it out, but that seems like an awful lot of trouble
In our neck of the woods, we don't give speeds per division or let people walk the course. Most of us have ridden the pace events in the past so it's not like anything is new.
I just ride out and have fun. My partner and I are generally pretty fast (not unusual for us to pass a few other pairs) but only because we like riding that way. We walk where the footing dictates it, trot quite a bit and throw in a few good gallops. Generally, I think the pace at hunter paces is slower than what you see in the hunt field.
We are generally in the top 3 and usually are very close to the optimum time. Not because we planned it; just because if you ride at a forward, constant pace, you generally nail the time.
Do I think it's cheating to use a GPS. Maybe not in the letter of the law, but certainly in the spirit.
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At our local paces using a watch, timer etc is against the rules. I don't think GPS is specifically forbidden but you can bet if someone was found to be using it the organizers would not be best pleased.
We also have a few people who always come in within seconds of the optimum time every competition, and always win the high points. What can I say - they are very experienced hunter pacers (and hunters) who know exactly what 450 mpm etc is on their horse.
I saw someone really cheat at a hunter pace a few years ago. This pace gave a wings award for the person who finished the pace in the fastest time. We were just getting to the 3 minute hold when this rider flew past us so close to my husband's horse that he moved to the side and almost fell down . Three minutes later when we were leaving the hold we saw the same rider come by again. We both thought oh what a short loop. No it took us 20 minutes to ride the loop and we ride pretty fast. Evidently he had advance knowledge of the course and just cut off most of the loop. That's pretty pathetic .
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i've only done a HP 2x. Second time my friend and I won our division (Sr Optimum time)
Neither of us hunt, we do low level eventing and are too chicken to trust our horses in a hunt field. here is my Winning Ride;
Start off with your partners horse rearing straight up at the start line as the team coming through the finish lines behind you runs by. Skitter sideways to the first jump, allowing friend on batty horse to jump first. Ask my own horse to wait while friend has a stop, ends up her horses neck with her hands in his ears..... Watch her shimmy back into saddle as my own horse flips his tongue over the bit in agitation. Dismount, drop bit out of horses mouth to get tongue back under the bit. Shorten the cheek pieces to prevent from happening again. All as fmy riend finally gets over the first fence. Hop back on and jump fence, continue on our merry way until we come to bottleneck in the woods. Horse proceeds to canter on the spot, hopping mad that I've asked him to wait and not run the little kiddies in front of us over. Later on horse has a dirty stop, prop and drop at coop we've jumped a dozen times. My ass and ego brusied. remount and continue on. I jump the 2nd to last fence before my friend, so after I land I turn in the saddle to watch her smiling as she jumps over it, she's so proud of herself....but her horse is lazy behind and hits it with his hind legs, knocking the fence over. So I stop, dismount, upright the fence and mount up and continue on our way. Jump last fence, head up the hill to the finish but have to pull up to a walk as a girl on a horse in front of us has clearly lost his mind and would explode if we even trotted past him. So we walk across the finish.
Funny as hell, we left in a hurry, so embarassed of our performance, found out later in the week that we had actually WON and they mailed us our ribbons....
I used to do paces regularly every other weekend and in this club there is no information more than approximate distance and terrain given, and I always came in too fast except twice even after jumping everything around and the same people seemed to place top 3 or 4 EVERY time, I just think that some are getting a little more info than others at these things and they just know how to calculate distance with time to keep a set speed; I haven't ever seen a GPS used but for sure know cheating is going on in some form.
Our hunter paces are miles long so there would not be a way to walk them ahead of time. Of the two paces in the area that I have first hand knowledge of this is how it goes.
1. The hunt club - The huntsman marks the course and then rides it for time. Since hardly anyone rides as fast as she does, the fastest pair usually wins. Yes, you can be 10-15 minutes off and still in the ribbons.
2. The local park that hosts horse trials - Their courses are shorter and they take the average of the rides in the various divisions and then make that the optimum time.
The second one is harder to score because you can't start calculating much as you go, you have to wait to the end to figure out who won.
There is no set pace like 300 mpm. It's pretty much if it's trappy, walk, if it's open fields, canter, trot some, etc.
My husband and I got third at the last one riding a four year old and a three year old. I think we only cantered once or twice. We were about 5 minutes behind the huntsman's time.
One thing I do think might be cheating is cutting off part of the course. One of our hunter paces they put various things in coffee cans on trees which you have to collect to make sure you don't shortcut the course. Last time I easily could have short cutted and we probably would have won since our club doesn't bother with the coffee can thing. The only reason I would have though is if the horses seemed overly tired, being young and out of shape. Not to cheat. I think it's a good idea though. They had I think soybeans in one, pennies in one, corn kernals in one, etc. It's kind of fun and you can use some of the local flora to put in the coffee cans.
Oh, and I often carry a GPS set to track so I can see where the course went when I get home and to see how far we went. I don't use it to navigate though.
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At ours the riders do not walk the course, do not know how long it is and do not know the optimum time before starting. All they know is that they should average a specific speed depending on the division they enter ... 300 meters a minute for example for the fast division.
Do you think using GPS is cheating? Would you keep entering if you knew people were cheating?
Well this is certainly an interesting notion! Although around here it would be hard for anyone (even with a GPS or eventing stop watch) to cheat. Most paces are over 7 miles ( so no one is walking it prior) and it is rare that a specific "pace" speed is even given. Heck, the last 2 paces I went to they wouldn't even tell us how many miles the pace was! Usually the jumper/hunter division is a regular "hunting" pace. Well depending on who is hosting the pace that can have a variety of definitions.
However, based on what you describe it does sound suspicious of cheating. I dont' think GPS is really "cheating" anymore than knowing who timed the pace and how they ride. Though I can see how some people could get upset about it.
I personally don't go to the paces for the ribbon. It is fun to get a ribbon and in some cases even a perpetual trophy but I go for the XC riding/jumping and the camaraderie. If I want competition I go to a horsetrial.