Written by: Journey McLaglan
Images by: Sennaspirit Coronet
Creator: Ken Edge, Champion Horses
Enter the Virtual World of Champion Horse Breeding and Racing
If your dream is to raise realistic horses and race them on the virtual circuit, Second Life now has the answer in the form of Champion Horses developed by Ken Edge. While they are breedable, Champion horses are very different from other breedable horses. These realistic horses have “live” births, nurture their foals and can even carry a jockey on the race track.
Conceived by Edge in November 2010, this sophisticated roleplay system was a challenge to develop and it is sure to amaze horse aficionados with its true to life dynamics. From the track and timing devices, horses that you ride not wear, jockey training school and breeders meetings, the racing has many components that have to work together.
Horse Play is Role Play in the Champion World
Champion horses launched in February 2011 claiming the coveted spot of being the original breedable race horses on the SL marketplace. Many claim they are the most realistic horses on the grid. “Ken’s concept was to make his horses as close to real life horses as he could manage,” says Champion Operations Manager HoneyBear Lilliehook. “No pink horses here,” she adds with a chuckle.
Some of the horses you will see in the Champion horse breeding world are Arabians, thoroughbreds, appaloosas, quarter horses, Morgans, American saddle breeds, and Dutch Warmbloods.
Much like the world of roleplay in other communities, there is mortality for the horses in the Champion circle. Champion horses have a life span of 180 days, and then they pass away. When a live foal is born it has to stay with its mother for the first 3 days of its life, or it dies. Likewise, if a horse goes hungry it also dies.
“You can’t just set up 200 horses and walk away. They need to be tended to, just like real horses,” Lilliehook says. “And just like in real life, you don’t wear a Champion horse; you get on it and ride.” And like most “vehicles” in Second Life, Champion horses are controlled by using your arrow keys or the WASD keys.
Customer Service is Top Priority
Lilliehook, formerly a leading model in Second Life and manager of Glance International Agency, heard the presentation on Champion horses before their release date. She had already made a lifestyle change with breedable horses and was enjoying the new challenge.
“I listened to Ken’s presentation three times and decided I wanted to be a part of this when the Champion horses are released, so I applied for a customer service position.” Eventually the former model turned horse breeder was promoted to CSR manager and then to operations manager where she now enjoys marketing and helping the Champion brand grow.
“We pride ourselves on having nearly 24 hour LIVE customer service. Normally, when the customer asks for help, the CSR goes to their location and assists. We make it very personal,” she said.
Turning Abilities into Winning Traits
Champion horses really are quite different than other breedables. These horses can actually pass their champion abilities to their offspring. “They have traits,” Lilliehook explains, “but the use of the word is different for Champion than it is for other horses. The only traits our horses pass are traits related to racing such as speed, endurance and jumping.”
Training and competing in speed racing, endurance racing, steeplechase and cross country can actually improve the skills of a Champion horse.
According to Lilliehook, each horse needs to be trained before a race, but once a horse has reached its maximum training value, that’s as high as it will ever go. “Each horse is born with a different trait — trait in this case being the amount of the trait number which will range from 50 to a maximum of 98,” the operations manager points out.
At this time you know the trait capability of a foal is born but when the next Champion update comes, that capability will be hidden until the first time the baby is trained, around age eight or nine. You can train a horse from 0 to 98 in about three hours but after a horse has run a race, its capability goes down a bit but it does retain a reserve above 0.
Winning on the Racing Circuit
Champion breeders can jockey their own horse, or hire a jockey to ride for them. There is a training school and a jockey school. Owners can train their own horses but if they want to someone else to ride, that jockey needs to be certified. There is a written test and riding test in front of an official certifier. Training costs are set by the trainer but the cost of certification to be a jockey is 2500 lindens.
Races can be attended by anyone who wants to follow the rules such as no camming. Failing to follow the rules can result in an automatic teleport away from the race but you can easily get teleported back in and remain if you stay seated and do not cam. All of this is part of the measures taken to cut down on prims and scripts to improve the racing environment.
In fact, early in the debut of Champion horses, it seemed crazy hats and derby style fashion might become part of the experience. “When we first started the racing, we had Big Hat Day, and it was very much like the Derby. But since prims add to lag, we now try to keep it down. Lag is not a jockey’s friend,” Lilliehook says.
But just like a real race, there is a purse for the winner of each race. The purse is based on the number of entries and made up of the 500 linden entry fee charged per horse. Jockey arrangements and pay are based on individual agreements with the owners.
Joining the Winning Community of Champion Breeders
Those wanting to get involved in raising Champion horses will have to buy their horses from existing breeders or through an auction. There are no starter packs except when new horses are introduced.
The best way to find out about Champion auctions, races and activities is to join the Champion group and request a schedule. It is a close-knit and helpful community or avatars who are happy to welcome new members. In fact, Lilliehook points out that the thing founder Edge likes best about Champion is the community itself.
“We have small breeders and large breeders, and many in between,” Lilliehook notes. “Because most of them have been here since the beginning, we’re like a family. And like any family, we have our squabbles, but make up later…lol. But everyone is special to Ken and to me”
“I love what I do,” Lilliehook adds. “I love working with the customers, helping them to resolve their issues with the horses. We have a fantastic team of customer service reps that I seriously could not do this job without.”