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

February 2, 2014

People Come, People Go, and Expectations Are Sometimes Skewed

Coming into the sport and the organization of AERC (American Endurance Ride Conference) I had a totally different mindset of what and who AERC is, what AERC does, and how they might relate to me.  To lay the slate clean these were some of my beliefs or at least a mindset I was wrapping around the organization:

*The people at the rides represent AERC

*How I'm treated or perceived at a ride is a representation of how AERC feels about "me" participating in the sport

*AERC sets the ride fees

*AERC gets the ride fees

*Other out of ignorance newbie-ideas

Now before anyone's drawers get into a twist, it took me awhile to figure out that I was confused about these things.  They might have been my perception, but there was at best only a partial truth to any of those things.

Let's take the first one:  The people at the rides represent AERC

Fact:  Some, part, or most of the riders at an AERC sanctioned ride are AERC members.  They are there doing just exactly what you are doing there, planning to ride their horse successfully from point A to point B.  The stress that you might be feeling, they probably feel as well unless they've been around so long that they are immune.  So though a fair percentage of members are there riding, they are not the powers that be within the organization.  Depending where you ride they might be holding an AERC office, or sitting on a committee, but none of that has much to do with the ride itself other than rule making, and sanctioning, and such.  So what you have is a great big bunch of people at a ride who have a membership card like you do.  Though you hope they would represent the sport well, they are people.  There are nice ones, helpful ones, crotchety grousers,  introverts, extroverts, occasionally a downright weirdo (it is entirely possible that I fit into the last category).  A certain personality type (quiet, introverted) will find it very difficult to "fit in".  Doesn't mean they don't belong, can't belong, it is just harder.

Now lets get down to how you are treated at a ride.

AERC as an organization has little to do with that.  Depending on where you go and who you run across, there are going to be some cranky pants out there.   Try not to be wounded, and honestly as long as you can keep those type out of your camp site, and avoid them on trail, you will be fine.  They have a problem.  Let me restate that...THEY HAVE A PROBLEM.  Too bad, so sad.   Don't waste any emotional energy on it, go feed your horse a carrot.

AERC sets ride fees.

No---ride managers set fees, ride managers put up the money for the ride, and take the financial risk for the ride.  Be very nice to those people.

AERC gets the ride fees.

No---ride managers get the fees except for whatever portion that has to go to AERC such as non-member fees, sanctioning, insurance,  or whatever.  Yes AERC gets something, but the ride manager is collecting fees to pay for the expenses of the rides.  I have no idea what they end up with for all their hard work in the end, hopefully something for dealing with all those people (many a bit stressed out).

 And many other things...

While I'm rattling on here there were other things that I had some misconceptions about such as non-arabians in the sport.   I thought there were a whole lot more of them than there truly are.  I couldn't understand why there were no breed awards, best of breed, etc.   The sport is dominated by the Arabians, and Half-Arabians with a smattering of representations of other breeds.  So if you are riding something other than that, you pretty much need to be riding for your own reasons (for the personal challenge, to prove your breed "can",  because you like riding long and far) because there are no bells and whistles attached to riding an Appaloosa, Tennessee Walker, Quarter Horse, Kentucky Mountain Horse, Fox Trotter, Saddlebred, or (fill in the breed blank).  For whatever perverse reason I seem to like doing it the hard way and ride my Appaloosa (maybe part-arab but I can't find it yet).   But my mindset going in as a newbie was that because the talk was "all breeds can" that there was something in it for all breeds.  Some regional clubs do offer this sort of thing and personally I'd love living and riding in one of those regions that do, but I live here, and ride the rides closest to home.

Another misconception I fostered was that as a member you have a voice.  That is absolutely wrong.  The people that make up the Board of Directors are the voice of the organization.  They direct change, rules, where revenue does or doesn't go.  We as members vote those folks in, but do we know what they stand for when we do that?  As a member how many really care?  Most just want to haul out to the big woods, saddle up and ride, and let the rest of it handle itself.   So unless you want to sit on a committee, or run for office within AERC you might just as well saddle up your pony and ride.  The voice you do have is communicating with these people in a polite and civil manner.  Voting rights on important issues would be nice, but for the most part the BOD drives and directs us.

I thought that the membership of AERC was huge.  Right now there are 20  listed as paid members in Indiana when I log in and go to the directory.  TWENTY.  IN THE STATE.   I'm sure some late comers will sign on as ride season approaches, or perhaps the directory is not entirely up to date as we speak, but that is a small group of riders supporting the organization. Thirty-eight in Kentucky. Ohio lists Twenty-six.  We are a very small demographic of the membership.    When I searched California I about fell from the chair. I didn't count them but a quick guess of 400, there were a bunch! No wonder you riders out west get so excited about the sport, and have such a rich network of people to draw information from, learn from, ride with, make friends with.  The ride network here is small, and tight knit, and they'd have to be to hold the sport together.  When I tell someone I ride endurance, they God honestly have NO IDEA what that is! It is so small out here that The Spotted Wonder made the local paper with her 50 mile ride...  So the questions I've asked, and the ridiculous ideas at times have been rooted in not understanding my (or the sports) demographic here in the MIDWEST.   It makes you look at the big picture in a whole different and grateful way.  I understand some regional people's sense of ownership of the sport, because if they weren't doing what they are doing THERE WOULD BE NO SPORT AT ALL.  As a newbie I was clueless to that. 

None of this is earth shattering stuff.  But a little education would definitely have changed my mindset and expectation, and kept me centered on the important issue.  My horse --- myself.

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