"Another man sees the same glass, and declares it half full." An argument ensues.
"A woman walks up to the bar, picks up the glass, drinks it down, and declares problem solved."
Explanation: The two men did nothing but declare an observation. The woman made a decision, and did something, there by ending the age old argument of glass half __fill in the blank_____. She just reached out and found a simply brilliant solution.
So in the current glass half full (we have all the members we need thank you and the status quo is peachy) or half empty (membership is falling, and we are operating in the red, the SKY IS FALLING mentality) real AERC world scenerio, I'll bet there is a brilliant concept that can resurrect the excitement of distance riding. Let me throw out my own brilliant thoughts on this issue (tongue seriously in cheek on my brilliance).
*GAS PRICES NEED TO GO DOWN, or FUEL EFFECIENCY NEEDS TO GO UP UP UP!
Until fuel prices come down and quit choking the life out of everyone, ride numbers are going to decline. So if you have an invention just waiting to transform the world, now would be a great time. My expendable income has got up and went. Really, it has.
*DEAL WITH THE RAMIFICATIONS OF A SUMMER LONG DROUGHT!
We usually feed hay September through April. Eight months out of the year. Our financial break from that comes May through August when the horse's go on grass. Not this year chickies! We had one month of grass. Guess what that means? Here, I'll help you out. I'm feeling magnanimous (and wordy). We've been buying hay ever since. There goes my Midwest ride dollar. It has also driven up the price of feed. Since the grain crops burnt up in the heat in many areas of country.
*IT COSTS MORE TO FEED ME!
Unbeknownst to you, I have been dieting. My rotundness has shrunk by a whopping eleven pounds. It is just as well, since a ribeye steak runs about $8.99 (hey! I like steak) but I've had to curb that to a rare treat, rather than a weekly indulgence because the Spotted Wonder and her cohorts like to eat too.
*MY JOB IS VERY TENUOUS AT THE MOMENT.
I dare not say more. Downsizing anyone? I'm seriously sweating it currently...having the least seniority in my office. Updating my resume and searching job postings.
DO WE SEE A TREND HERE? I'M NOT ALONE IN MY MISERY. JUST LOOK AROUND.
Houses that someone paid $ for suddenly can't be resold without taking a loss, which effects your ability to move elsewhere looking for employment. Finding a job is hard right now.
TIMES ARE TOUGH.
It is affecting membership numbers (dropping, dropping, dropping....) and ride numbers. This equals less in the AERC coffers to sustain the organization.
As far as our value as an organization, that personally happens for me out on the trail, which I've had to curtail somewhat. Now that is a catch 22 if I've ever seen one.
What do I value about the AERC that makes me want to join again in 2013?
- The Endurance News. However I'm not totally hung up on getting it monthly. I'd be okay with a jam-packed quarterly issue that is long on meaty, educational, fun, reading material.
- Tracking of my horse's miles, rider miles. I have no blazing desire to see those in the EN's (I can't read print that small anyway), and could be quite content with logging in and accessing the record online.
- Not having to pay a day rider fee. Those add up.
- Convention? I'd love it, I'd be so thrilled to go each and every year, but that friends is not in my budget. What would work for me? Smaller, regional, mini-conventions during the non-riding season. I could plan a vacation around the one I wanted to go to based on the riders I hoped to see and talk to.
- Awards. I'm not EVER going to win any. The Spotted Wonder, the economy, and my relative age says I'll run out of time / money first. But the chevrons just rock for me. If I'm lucky enough to continue I'm planning a shadow box wall to display them. So far I have one ☺
OUTSIDE THE BOX STYLE THINKING (not that anyone asked) (it has never stopped me yet)
- Heard of ACTHA bucks? Well how about AERC bucks? Sponsors would give $ off coupons for their product for points earned, or mileage pinnacles earned. A concept with possibilities. Would cost AERC nothing other than the tracking they already do.
- Incentives: Bring a newbie / and ride free. Hell! I'd be tempted to stick boots on my 78 year old mother and rent a long ear for a free ride entry. It would initiate someone new into the sport, give the newbie a built in mentor for the ride, and have all kinds of good will all the way around.
- Refer a member, and get a discount on your own membership. Or a free membership for every five newbies you bring into the fold in a given year (meaning they join).
- This one I'd about go into hyperventilation for....a solid ride buddy networking page on the AERC site, or their Facebook site. That would be valuable. I sign up, put in my zip code, and it matches me up with the members closest to me with some email addresses. Of course it would be a voluntary thing. But say I wanted to ride at Clark next weekend. I enter the zip code there, get a list of riders in the area, fire off an email, and say wanna ride? A great networking option there .
- Cultivation of sponsors for great year end drawings within the membership. The catch? Your membership has to be up to date, you have to have referred a newbie, or been a volunteer to qualify for cool prizes. You could even sign up for the prize you have in mind. Here's an example: Nutrena coupons, or other feed company coupons, an endurance saddle, a horse, tack set, easyboots, distance depot gift certificate, a horse trailer (dream big)...the list could go on and on. If each sponsor donated a single year end prize, it could be a lot of fun. Or raffle tickets could be sold online for the items. That would generate revenue, and have value to the membership as well.
- I'm still clinging to the idea of a Moving on Up Award (which gives a horse some little icon behind it's name for each higher mileage pinnacle it reaches. Example: You have a horse like me that has only done an LD. The goal is a little ↑ (or star, or whatever) behind Journey's name. So when she does a 50 JOURNEY↑. When she does a 75 ...JOURNEY↑↑...a 100 mile....JOURNEY ↑↑↑ . Like what they are doing with the levels for the hundred mile horses bronze, silver, gold, only this denotes moving up in the sport to a higher level than before. It costs nothing, Yet, it means something. Actually little trophy icons could set right on the horse's ride record. It would be cool, and low cost, and fun! You could print out a year end certificate of your horse's accomplishments, frame it, and put it on the wall. AERC would be responsible for the tracking, and you could collect your certificate anytime after it is earned, by going to your ride record and clicking "print." (oh programming people....) The AERC website is a gold mine waiting to happen!
- Regional Teams. OH YEAH, that would put my butt in the saddle and give me a lot of accountability. Say you have a newbie team for each region, they have to attain certain goals, yet they compete against other regions. That could be wild crazy fun.
People as a whole really hate change. I never have. Change can be liberating, and exciting. I truly believe the sport will survive because the membership is perhaps the "enduring" type. But the sport has evolved, and will continue to evolve. It will just take a little thinking outside the box. The membership should not be afraid to voice their ideas, contact the BOD, let the creative thoughts flow.
It is your sport.
Belly up to the bar, pick up the glass, drink it down, and help solve the problem. Even if I have to pay to view my ride record. Even if the sport evolves. I just want the AERC to be there for future generations.