To Finish Is To Win

American Endurance
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Endurance News -- April 2021

President's Letter
Vice President's Letter

President's Letter: Expanding AERC's reach with R&T

by Nick Kohut, DVM

As you read this article, every region within AERC, except for the Midwest, has started their 2021 ride season. Hopefully as everyone comes out of the pandemic restrictions these events will be well-attended.

Unfortunately, the reality of the situation is that horse numbers across the country have been in decline for years. The Jurga Report found that between 2007 and 2012 the number of horses in the United States fell by almost 2.5 million with 300,000 fewer households owning horses.

In that same time period, the number of horses starting AERC rides fell by almost 4,500. When one looks at the "2018 American Horse Publications (AHP) Equine Industry Survey," sponsored by Zoetis, 68.6% of the respondents reported pleasure/trail riding as the activity used with their horse. That was a 5% drop from 2010. Across all activities reported, nearly 40% did not plan on competing in 2018.

Reasons given for these declines are numerous as well as diverse. Some of the more obvious reasons include population shifts from rural to urban, economic downturns, and the aging of participants. Some of the more speculative reasons I have seen include more people seeking instant gratification, time commitment required to train and compete horses, the increase in video gaming over outside activities, and even the lack of cowboy heroes on television and in movies.

Regardless of the reason, these declines are not expected to change much in the future.

One thing that AERC has done to try to increase participation at events for ride managers is to enter into an agreement with the Ride and Tie organization. At multiday events, competitors can participate in Ride and Tie one day and endurance the next.

For those of you unfamiliar with Ride and Tie events, this is a team competition involving one horse and two riders/runners. One person starts out riding the horse while the other one runs along the same course. The two will switch off riding and running throughout the competition and will finish after all three competitors have crossed the finish line and the horse has passed the veterinary exam. Ride and Tie distances range from less than 10 miles up to 100 miles.

For many years, besides stand-alone events, these events have also been held in conjunction with endurance and competitive trail riding events.

Recently, AERC put on a series of webinars concerning these competitions. One was directed towards ride managers to encourage them to offer these events, another familiarized veterinarians with covering the judging aspect. And of course, there was one for competitors interested in dipping their toes into the sport.

If you are interested in viewing any of these webinars, head over to go to

For more information on the sport, including specific rules, please visit the organization’s website at My own personal experience working events with Ride and Tie components has been incredibly positive. The competitors have been very open and friendly to others curious about their sport as well as helping each other throughout the ride. Most have the traditional "to finish is to win" attitude and are more interested in having a fun time finishing with a healthy horse than winning the event. Again, personally, I feel this agreement is a "win/win" arrangement for both organizations.

I hope all of you enjoyed our unconventional convention last month and are making plans to attend the 2022 convention celebrating our 50th anniversary. Looking forward to seeing you in Reno!

Vice President's Letter: Meaning, success and service

by Michael Campbell

In AERC, we find meaning for our lives in our horses and our sport. We enjoy the social gathering at our rides, the competition and the pleasure of riding our horses over trails in pristine country, away from cities and streets. Mostly, we love the sharing of time with our equine companions; the training, preparation and participation with others of like mind in our rides. That sharing and developing a mutually supportive and cooperative relationship with our horses makes this part of our lives meaningful. All these things give meaning to our lives.

Of course, we also seek meaning for our lives in our friends, family and jobs or professions.

But what is truly meaningful in the short time we have on this earth? What does it take to be truly successful?

If we examine the lives of successful people that most of us would agree have had meaningful lives, what might we find? We might recall people like Lincoln, Ghandi, Mother Teresa, Shakespeare, Socrates, Martin Luther King, Madame Curie, Einstein and so on; names almost anyone would recognize. In the horse world, I think of people like John Lyons. In the endurance world, I think of Julie Suhr. What did these people have in common that made their lives memorable, successful and meaningful?

I submit that one thing these people all have in common is an attitude of service. Each had a clear understanding that they were providing a service to others and they maintained a lifelong focus on that service. Think of the most successful people that you personally know; successful in any capacity that you choose, whether work, riding, family or social skills. What service do they provide? You know immediately.

Everyone has a boss, in fact, several bosses. At work, you have a boss for whom you provide a service. Your boss may be your supervisor, employer or your customers. At home your boss may be your spouse or children. We serve our bosses or we’re out of a job. In AERC our bosses are our horses, the ride managers, the control veterinarians, volunteers, crew and others. We serve our ride managers when we attend a ride. We serve our fellow riders when we follow our rules and assist one another on trail. We serve our horses with the care, training and genuine affection we provide to prepare them for our challenging sport.

In AERC, the directors and officers serve the membership. But service is a complicated notion. The directors also serve the organization, the sport and themselves with their work on committees and the decisions they consider in meetings. When you serve your horse with care, training and affection, you also serve your sport, your peers and yourself in the satisfaction of a job well done.

So, a successful life is founded on service. That service may not be selfish. It must be selfless. Those who seek recognition based on selfish motives are ultimately doomed to failure. They may achieve some temporary acclaim, but no true, lasting life satisfaction.

So how may you achieve success? By focusing on who you serve and how you serve them.

In endurance riding, you serve first your horse with excellent care -- feed and forage, hoof care, veterinary care and training/conditioning for the tasks you set. You also serve your horse with your own physical training and preparation so that you don’t sore his back with poor posture due to fatigue or inadequate ability. You serve your horse with your preparation by knowing the trail, rules and how to pace your horse. You serve your horse with your knowledge of signs of fatigue or injury. You serve your horse by setting aside your personal aspirations of success.

You serve your ride manager by entering and paying fees in a timely manner and by being familiar with and following AERC rules and specific ride rules.

You serve your control veterinarians by a proper presentation and honestly reporting anomalies.

You serve your fellow riders with courtesy and an honest allegiance to the rules.

You serve AERC with your membership and thoughtful participation in surveys and votes. Also, your feedback to your directors and ride managers is important for the success of AERC.

None of us may ever be remembered in history as Lincoln or Shakespeare or Julie Suhr. But we can each have fully successful and satisfactory lives through our service. This service principle simply requires that you notice who you serve and how you serve each day of your life.

How far will you ride this year? Join AERC and we'll help you count the miles!

Endurance News is published monthly by American Endurance Ride Conference. Endurance News is sent without charge to AERC members as a benefit of membership in AERC. Subscriptions are also available to non-members for $40 per year within the United States, and $60 in Canada and Mexico. For those in other countries, subscriptions are available for $80. Single issues are $4 U.S.