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Discipline: LD/Endurance, CMO, Trail Rider, Cartoonist, Writer, Co-Director/ Green Bean Endurance

September 2, 2012

Incentives & the Cost of the Sport

This has been weighing on my mind a lot lately.  It also ties in to the topic of membership retention with the AERC which is being bantered about on the distance forums currently.  Are there enough incentives to membership to keep the "average" dabbler in the sport engaged vs. the financial expense involved?  So I wanted to break it down since I'm really struggling with this issue daily.

So let's assume you have a horse in good health, he can trot an average 6 mph for at least two hours before needing a break (7 mph average would be better).  You already have a truck that can travel, and a trailer in good repair. 

Next, what are your personal goals? (meaning what is giving you  incentive to ride).

* You want to ride a distance ride once a year.
* You want to ride a distance ride twice a year.
* You want to compete for actual awards by riding for points.
*You just want to accumulate casual mileage and completions.

If the first two are your goal you will be looking at an entry fee of $65-95 per ride, if you care about having your mileage tracked a membership to AERC for about $80 for the year, fuel to haul where you are going, say a minimum of $200 per ride.  Misc. odds and ends for camping, food, ice, drinks etc.  $50.   I personally carry US RIDER which costs another $120.   So if I ride two rides a year it costs about $830 to ride a long (sometimes marked well, sometimes not) trail ride, drag my sweaty butt home, and the payout is a t-shirt.

Should you be a competitive rider you will be chunking down the gas every weekend, and entry fees almost every weekend.   You could easily spend a $1000 or more monthly on your endeavor.

So financially in real world dollars there is no allure, no pay-off.  If you are riding out west or in the mountains, or somewhere fabulously scenic and looking at the trip as an annual vacation there is intrinsic value in that.

All boiled down, if you want to play seriously it costs some real dollars.  I've only recently come to the conclusion that I will never be able to compete in the way that I would like to (not meaning racing), just garnering mileage.  My personal "dream" if you will, has always been to have just one full season of riding.  Just one!  Karma says I'm not living in the right economic bracket for that.  I work full time, so does LSEGH, but spending $5000 a year on a horse hobby above what it costs to have the horses does not make good sense.  Not at all.

The crux of this is that a fair percentage of riders called DAY RIDERS never join the organization. They are very important to the AERC as those ride dollars add up, and the organization would really like to engage these folks enough to have them pay for membership. They do not join because there is no incentive for them to join.  They know they are going to ride one or two rides per season for the fun of it if times are good, and they may sit it out at home or just enjoy the trail for a year or two between rides.  These folks if they ride at all, are riding for personal challenge or not at all.

This is where many regional distance organizations can and do pick up the ball and make the sport interesting in more of a grass roots kind of way.  They do this through:

MIXING CTR/Endurance Disciplines

In that way riders are engaged to stay more involved on a local level with a little less travel involved.

The future of the sport will be interesting to watch.  I wonder if over time it will more resemble the racing aspect than the mileage one?  Will it be a sport for the elite, and the elite only?  Or will some sort of grass roots effort emerge to embrace the originating values of the sport, 100 miles in a day, on the horse you have?

On a personal level, my goal is to finally complete a 50 mile ride.  The bar has been lowered in one respect, and raised in another, and I only wish to finally do this one, single thing, successfully. 

1 comment:

  1. I think you make some very good observations in your post,especially about the true cost of this sport. It is time consuming as well as expensive. We had small group that has been competing several years discuss this very topic. 14,000 seems to be the number to have a decent rig and horse complete a season.This figure varies depending on the age of your horse and maintenance of the rig. Depending on where you live gas is also a floating number-most of our rides are 4 hours away. I try to bring my husband and son with me to make it "family time",but this is difficult because you are just so busy at a ride. You can plan to make it "your ride"but if your local friends have caravaned to the ride with you you will end up helping them- from dealing with heat stroke to people that are in pain,you can't just leave them!Some rides are like a wonderful vacation and some rides are like an episode of survivor.