The end of your message still sounds like a mini FT to me, you would have people that normally share the pit fall of the test to another handler not sharing and it would be them against us sort of thing. If the numbers are too high then they should go run a FT and go dog against dog. Make the Master National requirements more difficult then the weekend hunt up the standards. Yes you will have dogs that go that probably shouldn't be there but hell you have that at the weekend test now. Making in O/H is not going to fly the pro's are the key supporters to most of these events.I run my dogs in both hunt tests and field trials. I've run two Master National events myself and paid a pro to handle in another one. I passed last years Master National, running my own dog.
The number of qualifiers is quickly becoming a serious problem for the logistics, grounds and workers. A viable solution needs to be found soon, but it should not penalize young dogs, old dogs, pros or amateurs. Whatever solution is put in place should focus on granting the opportunty to the most talented and consistent dogs in the hunt test game.
In the past, the MNRC required 5 passes in 7 attempts or 8 in total for the year. This was a good attempt, but the result was judge shopping. Many participants scratched dogs from weekend tests when a test split and new judges were brought in, because they either didn't know or like the judges and couldn't risk a failed test. As a result, some clubs with tougher perceived judges saw entry numbers decline and those with easier perceived judges filled quickly and split. For that reason, they eventually did away with the the 5 of 7 and went to a straight 6 passes.
The proposal on the table, to require 6 passes after earning the MH title would likely reduce entry numbers and raise the experience level of dogs that qualify for the National. However, it could potentially exclude some talented dogs that marched right through their title in 6 or 7 passes too. Not the best answer, in my mind.
Some have suggested limiting pro involvement or the number of dogs a pro can run. I don't have an issue with pro's running and limiting the number of pro run dogs is not a sensible solution, in my mind. The time and expense required to run the event (let alone any pre-national training) is too significant for most working amateurs that also have to use vacation time and money for their families, so they turn to a pro to run their dogs. In many cases it is an economical decision. Why should an owner be penalized by not being allowed to enter because their pro already has 8 or 10 other dogs qualified and entered??? Makes no sense to me, at all.
Regional qualifying events have also been proposed, but that would limit amateur involvement when folks only have so much vacation time or money to go around.
I feel the real problem is the wide range of abilities in titled Master dogs and no attempt to distinguish one MH from another when it comes to qualifying for the MN. Some dogs handle weekend Master tests like clockwork while others barely meet the standard and take numerous tests to title and/or attain the requisite 6 passes in the MN year (Aug 1 - July 31). Every year there are large drop rates in the 1st and 2nd series at the Master National. Some are good dogs that had a bad bird, bad series or a bad day, but I would bet the majority are dogs that met the minimum standard at weekend Master tests throughout the year.
Owners enter because the dog finally qualified to run the MN and they are hopeful for a plate. Some of those dogs are run by pros. The more dogs a pro has, the more they can spread their expenses among the various clients, so they aren't going to discourage owners from entering. Unfortunately, they become casualties in the first or second series and then people point fingers at the judges or the MNRC Board for trying to get the numbers down, when in reality, the dog simply wasn't truly ready for a National caliber event.
Someone proposed the idea of adding placements to Master tests, similar to Obedience and Agility where there is a minimum qualifying score and placements are also awarded. That seems like a very good solution. It wouldn't affect the standard used to pass dogs at the Master level, but if qualification for the MN required that a dog place in the top 4 at a weekend hunt test during the year plus X number of passes, that might really help to reduce numbers and raise the bar for those that choose to try and qualify for the MN.
Another possibility would be to acquire X number of passes in a given year and have a lifetime Master pass rate of 70% or better.
Another option might be for qualifiers to also run and finish a licensed Qualifying or O/H Qualifying stake during the year with a JAM or better, in addition to X number of Master passes.
Just trying to think of other possible options that might reduce entry numbers and ensure that talented dogs are not excluded from the event. Afterall, it is supposed to be an event for the "cream of the crop".