I propose that recognition of "firsts" (not first place, first successful attempts at) could be a huge motivator for the part-time endurance rider. It would give them attainable goals to reach for, a reason to pay for membership, and clearly reason to stay involved as they would be reaching for something instead of "just riding."
What do I mean by attainable awards? Something similar to the mileage patches for 250, 500, and 1000. Only these would be:
Tri-Regional (perhaps you ride in three regions in one season with completions in all three)
Tri-Fecta (three hundreds in a row)
So here will be the arguments against:
- It will cost more money! Well a patch is not all that expensive, nor is a certificate of completion. Suppose when we purchase our membership and pay our dues there is a line for awards and we donate to it, or further we could opt out. If you've opted in, you pay an additional small fee added to your membership that throws you into the awards program. You check off your goals for the year, and when you meet it, you turn in your ride result.
- Someone will jump in an say those are all attainable goals anyway. Yes, they are, but they get no recognition and I don't care what sport someone is involved in, they like to feel a part of it.
- It gives people a "reason" to join, even first year people.
- It gives riders another platform on which to compete in the true spirit of the trail. It is you against the trail.
Other crazy ideas for inspiration in the sport...
The one must under-utilized avenues of inexpensive reward is our rider record. How often do you go to yours? Visualize your ride record this way:
You open the page and there is a place to upload a photo of you and your horse (after entering your password). There are a list of rider goals perhaps that you check off for the season. First 50, First LD, or First multi-day, or any number of goals. When you meet a goal you contact the AERC office and they insert an electronic award icon on your page. One for Tevis. One for OD. One for first 100 mile ride, these little electronic image trophies ride under the photo of you and your horse. Your personal page becomes a record of your successes, a source of pride, and a reason to be a member (you can't earn these as a non-member). It would be like your own personal trophy wall, and would be in a printable format that you could print on nice card stock and frame as it changed year to year. Other than the initial data base programming initially, it would not cost AERC anything but time to post the awards to your page. Mileage awards you'd get a new icon popping up, many things could trigger them and they would not be too easy of goals as you went along, turning up the difficulty to give something to reach for. Does that sound fun or what? The organization would give these awards out, and if you qualified for that, you then "buy" the physical award from the awards store if you are more the type to want something tangible on a shelf.
As a part-time, limited resourced mileage rider, motivation can get hard, and I suppose many people just give up as they don't see the benefit, and know they can't compete head on for regional or national awards, but seems to me there can be a reward to the rider without a lot of $ invest for AERC.
Suppose a new rider has just finished their very first 50 and it earns them the right to purchase a halter, or lead, photo frame or monogrammed blanket from the awards store that commemorates that first? It could say:
"Horse's and Rider's Name" just rocked their first AERC 50! What a nice entry to the sport! Rider thinking...what can I shoot for next? Reason to be motivated, reason to make goals, reason to ride, reason to become and stay a member.