Contact information:

Discipline: LD/Endurance, CMO, Trail Rider, Cartoonist, Writer, Co-Director/ Green Bean Endurance
Email: jackereynolds@yahoo.com


October 14, 2011

Endurance Blurb: Common sense posting of the week

I appreciate Truman's intervention here to remind us about our bigger 
economic issues, "stupid."  I'm not sure arguing over what somebody's 
mileage blanket says is that important in the grand scheme. 
I do think the ongoing discussions about LD and Endurance are as 
important as they are mind-numbing and annoying. Clearly, the original 
intent of "the framers" was that LD should be a training distance for 
Endurance distances. Anything derogatory that is ever said about 
someone isn't very nice, and anytime we encourage our friends to take 
the next step in challenging themselves in their passions and goals 
*is* nice. The subject matter is irrelevant. 

One thing I have been known to ponder is the difference between AERC 
LD's and a 25mi race. I don't think there is anything inherently wrong 
with a 25mi horse race, just as in human running there are all kinds 
of distances. In flat racing a 1.5mi race is considered only suitable 
for "routers" (horse's with stamina who can pace themselves over the 
longer distance). I think remembering that is always healthy food for 
thought, especially as we now live in a world where horses are hand 
galloping 100 milers (for better or worse and not here out West). 25mi 
races are approximately the standard distance for Mongolian festival 
races. They run the whole thing - no stopping for food or water - and 
like a Thoroughbred race there is no vet check at the end. Here are 
some givens: A race of any length or speed presents risks to the 
athlete. Some horses can run, more or less at a gallop and in the 
anaerobic zone, without stopping for 25mi and do so without suffering 
metabolic or mechanical injury. If I race an LD, I'm doing something 
fairly pointless as I would only be competing against myself and one 
or two other yahoos while everyone else is training or rehabbing. 

Placings in LD do create a little confusion, I think, as it's sort of 
like an award for speed-reading in what was actually a test of 
comprehension. But the kids like it, it's standard practice in my 
region and Rome is burning. BUT if there were a sport called "25 Mile 
Horse Race," I and my horse would participate and have a fabulous 
time. (And of course I would advocate for veterinary oversight). But 
that's not the intent of an LD within AERC. 

I think Endurance has been and should remain a sport accessible to the 
middle class. I'm actually in the unemployed, um, poor class, but have 
been able to participate in the sport through catch riding second- 
string and up-and-comer horses, which is also possible in this sport 
for even intermediate level riders. However, for the overall health of 
the sport and AERC, I've often wondered why more isn't done to reach 
out to that "1%." Many of you on ridecamp are in the 1%, and perhaps 
could share what attracted you to the sport. While all equine sports 
are suffering, most are dominated by the comfortably well-off. The 
economic crisis is an afterthought in their financial expenditures. 
Maybe they are no longer braiding for all the local shows (!!!). 
Someone who has become frustrated by the subjective judging and bling 
factor in Western Pleasure - someone who had money for the silver, but 
wants to get back to just *enjoying* her relationship with her horse - 
is a prime candidate for poaching. There are many other examples. 
There are lots of folks out there who spend $1000+ every weekend they 
compete and compete a dozen or more times a year. The majority of 
those people burn out at some point and either stop riding, change 
competitive disciplines, or become pleasure riders. How can we catch 
those people as they fall from their current equestrian sport? 

I totally agree that trying to keep entry costs and other fees has 
limited benefit. Ten dollars may mean a lot to me, but making me the 
target market is a deadly error for the health of the sport. On the 
other hand, if we can bring more riders in with real disposable 
income, we could both up our membership numbers and continue to afford 
to put on rides where vets feel properly compensated, trails are well- 
marked (etc, etc), and people drive home feeling like they 
participated in a memorable event. There will always be a place for 
stripped-down, no-frills rides, and there will always be 100 mile 
riders. But my thinking is that there will also always be more LD and 
50mi riders, and more people who care the overall beauty of the 
environment, the socialization, and short-term sense of 
accomplishment. I also think if we can bring more money into AERC 
there will be more opportunities to redistribute funds to ride 
managers for doing...whatever...lowering fees for first-timers, blah, 
blah, and more money for scholarships and sponsporships, insurance, 
and land preservation activites. 

Someone mentioned certificates as completion awards to lower RM costs. 
I did a lot of shows as a kid and I loved my ribbons. Somewhere, 
faded, under a bunch of other boxes, I still have them. They are 
inexpensive, easy to display or pack away, and make a lovely souvenier 
of a particular competition  (Actually, I did a quick check, you could 
do ribbons for the average 25/50 ride for under $100, or a little over 
$1.50/ribbon - made in the USofA). There is one ride in my region that 
gives out ribbons for Top Ten, and I love mine! I don't know if I'm 
alone in this, but the idea of having ribbons from all the rides I've 
done hanging in my tack room appeals to me more than having a 
scattered collection of unlabeled barn items and gadgets made in China 
that break before I get to my next ride. I do like T-shirts, but then 
I haven't been to enough rides to be buried under my collection. There 
are ribbon colors for 1-10th place and completion, and you could have 
vet score and BC ribbons and/or still do the chair or saddlebag or 
whatever. After all the random things I've been awarded for 
completion, what I value most is my photos, as they are easy to keep 
in one place, and they best record when and where I was. Ribbons or 
certificates do that, too. I keep all my vet cards. I definitely don't 
keep all my completion awards. I'm curious how other people feel about 
ribbons, and why, unlike other equestrian sports, there isn't a 
tradition of awarding them. 

I do recognize there are some downsides to courting Richie Rich, but 
the big rigs have been in camp for awhile now. I'm not above having 
friends with climate control, nor will I ever be ashamed of my 
increasingly shredded tent. What I don't like, is hearing this 
wonderful sport has lost 10yrs of growth. 

-Mary Urbanski 

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