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

June 1, 2014

Is Social Networking Damaging the Sport?

It is disappointing to engage in social media and see the negativity towards riders who do "lesser" mileage.  It seems that in the big tent if you will, we can all find our place in the sport.  Belittling riders who are new to the sport, new to the distance, or do not have the means to buy a once in a lifetime horse is not encouraging.  Yes, those who participate in "Fun Rides" may not fit the term endurance rider by definition.  Those who participate in Limited Distance Rides may not fit the term endurance rider by definition, and those who ride 50 miles and above do.  However, I am convinced that for some people ride A, leads to ride B, and ride B leads to ride C, and so on.   The longer distances are not for every rider, and they are definitely not for every horse.  I figure the ride manager is footing the bill and if they want to offer an entry venue for the sport with no real time limits, but plenty of time to observe and soak things in, well---more power to 'em.    Those dollars help keep the ride train chugging, give an opportunity for others to sample the sport through observation, and at the same time enjoy an outing on their horse.  These people take nothing away from your ride, or your experience.

The anonymity of social media lends itself to a form of bullying that I find distasteful.  The same person who bullies you on social media wouldn't think of doing that in real life (at least not to your face).  It especially saddens me to see the Facebook page for AERC falling victim to this same sad situation.    Ride numbers are down folks, and if you think that the tone presented to many newbies doesn't matter?  Think again.   With an aging population of riders this sport is precariously perched on the precipice.  The sky has not fallen, but call me in twenty years and let's talk about ride numbers (that is if nothing at all changes).     I don't have all the answers, and probably don't even have part of the answers, but membership dollars float the coffers of AERC, in the words of someone most of you won't remember, can't we all get along?   I say there is indeed room in the big tent.  FOR ALL OF US.

When I started in the sport seven years ago there were so many rigs pulled into one ride that it nearly covered a ten acre field. That year Spook Run in the Midwest had 96 starters, the same ride in 2013 had 60 starters.    That is a decline of over 30% in ride numbers.  I have to wonder how low (in ride numbers) ride managers can afford to go, as the price of things for them continues to rise.    Much of declining numbers is due to the economy, but please, don't offend potential new members bashing them on social media.  We need them, we really do.

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