There was a buzz at the NCHA Convention in June. Members were excited about the sport’s future for the first time in years. A new plan had been announced to help level the playing field for competitors, eliminate complex rules and encourage cutters to come back in from the cold.
It’s called the Class Restructure Proposal and it’s the brainchild of two passionate cutters, Ora Diehl and Denise Seiz, who have been working on the plan for four years.
“People just did not feel like they had a level playing field and when they felt that way, they just wouldn’t compete and so the entries were going down,” said Seiz.
In fact, in the last 10 years, Seiz said the NCHA’s membership has fallen dramatically from 20,000+ to around 13,000.
“It’s all due to the fact that people didn’t feel like they had a place to play. It all got too costly,” added Diehl.
Diehl said other issues like scheduling classes late into the night and complicated exceptions to the rules were driving people away.
The new system does not completely rewrite the current structure. It proposes three levels to be created within the three main divisions of the Limited Age Events; the Amateur, Non Pro and Open. Below is the breakdown of the levels in the class restructure proposal by lifetime earnings (LTE):
Open Division Rider Total Lifetime Earnings
Open $750,000 or more
Intermediate Open $200,001 – $749,999
Limited Open $0 – $200,000
Non-Pro Division Rider Total Lifetime Earnings
Non-Pro $500,000 or more
Intermediate Non-Pro $100,001 – $499,999
Limited Non-Pro $0 – $100,000
Amateur Division Rider Total Lifetime Earnings
Amateur $100,000 or more
Intermediate Amateur $25,001 – $99,999
Limited Amateur $0 – $25,000
“We looked at the database and how big the spread was in LTEs in the various divisions and tried to figure out if we made certain levels within those divisions, would the player then decide to enter like they used to,” said Seiz who is a CPA and adept at crunching the numbers.
The NCHA Class Restructure subcommittee on which both women sit (Seiz is the Chair) made a case study to test the soundness of the plan. It looked at entries in the top 10 shows from last year including the Triple Crown events.
“We wanted to test whether the payouts worked and whether the class size worked and it did,” Seiz said.
The class restructure proposal recommends a graduated entry fee schedule where limited riders will pay the least, increasing for intermediate cutters and again for the top level riders of each division. The same principal is applied to prize money.
“We recommend the added money is concentrated at the top, with some in the intermediate and at the discretion of the show producer, they could put some in the limited but again we don’t want the limited rider to ride out of that class sooner than they are ready to compete in the intermediate,” explained Seiz.
The plans also encourages show producers to discount entry fees when a competitor enters more than one level/class as anyone is allowed to ride in levels above their current earnings.
“The incentive is for people to ride up. But we want to encourage them not force them,” Seiz said.
“I can enter a horse that doesn’t necessarily have to mark what the top Non Pro level rider has to mark but I can bring it as a B student or rider. I can mark on my level but yet I might take a shot and enter up. It gives me choices which I don’t presently have,” added Diehl.
Both women said the proposal went over extremely well at the convention, creating a feeling of optimism among many members.
“It was the first year where I came away where people were excited! They are ready for some change…It was cool to see people excited to try something new,” said Seiz smiling.
“The open riders want to make sure that their purses are staying the same and what we have told them is that at the present levels, they are,” explained Diehl.
Diehl mentioned Casey Green as a trainer who has thrown his support behind the plan.
“Casey Green is exactly right. He said, “I have horses that can mark a 216 all day, but I need a horse that can mark a 218 if I’m going to compete against this level here (at the Will Rogers Coliseum in Fort Worth),” Diehl said.
The first show to trial the new structure will be the Cotton Stakes in West Monroe, Louisiana on September 2nd-9th. Diehl said organizer Robert Charles Brown asked for it after seeing declining entries over recent years.
“He is willing to do something to step outside the box and try something new,” Diehl said.
The Executive Committee will assess how well the class restructure proposal works at the Cotton Stakes before it approves any more shows to implement it.
With a decline of 60,000 entries between 2007 to 2017, weekend shows are still to be worked out in terms of its own class restructure proposal to help revive them.
“ The aged events were easier to fix because of the ages of the horse…but not so much the novice horse or the $2,000 limited rider,” explained Diehl. “That is another animal.”
“Those students that aren’t playing this game and those horses being left at the barn instead of coming to play hopefully they will show up,” said Diehl.
If the numbers swell, Seiz said the levels could go from 3 to 5, giving even more riders a better chance at picking up a check and with more riders competing, the purse is going to be bigger.
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