To Finish Is To Win

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Endurance News -- August 2015

President's Letter
Vice President's Message
National Championship News
Trails Post
Classified Advertising

President's Letter: Do We Need More Rules?

by Michael Campbell, AERC President

For a good person, you don't need many rules. For a person intent on doing wrong, you can't make enough of them. I'm paraphrasing Plato who said, "Good people do not need laws to tell them to act responsibly, while bad people will find a way around the laws."

AERC members' lifestyle is usually a throwback to simpler times. We like the challenge of the open trail and we respect the honesty of a willing horse. We choose this sport (or it chooses us) because doing the right thing comes naturally -- picking the right path down a tortuous trail, monitoring our horses for signs of distress, helping one another as needed.

We don't typically need a lot of rules to tell us what's right in our daily lives or in endurance riding. Many of us migrated to endurance from other trail riding or arena horse sports because we didn't care for the minutiae of rules governing our dress or how we mount our horses. We're a practical group that just wants to do the right thing and get on down the trail. Sometimes, we can be competitive, but we wouldn't risk our horses or our honor for either a bucket or a Mercedes.

We strive to do our best always for ourselves, our horses and our companions. We have managed to build a culture of mutual respect based on our mutual determination to do the right thing. This is the culture of endurance riders in America. Our founders recognized this when they established our sport and AERC.

This works well most of the time, but we do have some rules and sometimes problems arise.

Perhaps, most often, problems arise due to misunderstanding. Do we need a rule for this? Misunderstanding may occur when a new member hasn't learned some detail of the sport. For example, a new rider was cooling his horse before going to the vet line and noticed flakes of hay and buckets of mash under the trees. His horse pulled in that direction and the rider, thinking this was a benefit of the ride, allowed his horse to eat there. The owner of the goodies was furious and loudly berated the new rider. This was a misunderstanding that could be easily resolved with a calm explanation.

Another example occurred when an inexperienced rider became disoriented on the trail and missed a significant portion of a loop. Superficially, the rider appeared to have cut trail, but a calm examination of the situation put things right.

When misunderstanding is the source of the problem, we fix it with education. Our Education Committee chair, Dr. Susan Garlinghouse, has put on educational clinics throughout the country, and members are encouraged to host their own clinics with materials that AERC can provide. Every AERC ride should have a new rider orientation meeting to assist our novices.

Another similar problem occurs when a rider becomes too focused on the competition, i.e., he or she gets "race brain." Do we need a rule for this? Once again, these are usually less-experienced riders who get so focused on the competition that they may overlook the welfare of their horses or even their own value system in their determination to win or top ten. (Race brain can be a powerful force that also affects experienced riders). Once again, education is the solution.

We all have to remind ourselves from time to time that every ride is a training ride for our horses. They care little for a championship. Sometimes, conflicts occur as a result of jealousy, when one rider envies the success of another. In some cases, personality differences produce conflict. Most of us experience one or the other of these from time to time and have to ask ourselves to step back emotionally and evaluate the situation from a purely intellectual perspective. Such problems are within each of us and we must rely on our developing maturity to resolve them.

Self-respect is more important than anything another person says or does, no matter how classless the behavior may seem to be. Do we need a rule for crass behavior? I know it's tempting sometimes, but our basic character requires us to suppress our petty inclinations. A real problem with rules occurs when someone disregards a rule for convenience. Sometimes, this problem takes the form of a claim for an exception to the rule or is putatively based on the judgment of the person enforcing the rule. This may happen as a favor to a friend or to avoid conflict. It boils down to letting our standards slide.

A concrete example may be complaints about short trails. Our rules define an endurance ride as 50 miles or more. Yet, we sometimes hear complaints from experienced riders, or riders with a GPS, that a ride was 10% (or more) shorter than the distance for which it was sanctioned. The typical explanation is that the terrain is too difficult to complete in the allotted time or that riders won't come to the ride if the trails are longer.

Last-minute exceptions due to weather or other circumstances beyond the control of the ride manager are understandable, but planned exceptions subvert our most basic rule defining endurance competition. Doing the right thing isn't always convenient, but it is an essential component to our sport and our character.

A final problem with rules is cheaters. Some people constantly scan their environments for furtive means to subvert rules and gain unfair advantage over their fellows. In the past 30 years, I have conducted psychological evaluations of thousands of people for a variety of reasons. Some of these were required by courts for criminals prior to sentencing. Of all these evaluations, it is my opinion that fewer than a half-dozen were truly evil people. Those people wake up each day planning to do something selfish and hurtful to others.

Everyone else wakes up planning to have a good day and do the right thing. Sometimes things go wrong and people do stupid things or use bad judgment that gets them into trouble. But, overall, I'd hazard a guess that fewer than 1% of people are innately evil. There are no rules that will fix this problem. There is only the good will and judgment of the rest of us to combat the few true cheaters we encounter.

From time to time, we may need new rules or revisions to our existing rules. For such occasions, we have a Rules Committee. Otherwise, my faith is in the inherent nature of endurance people to seek and do the right thing. For a good man (or woman), you don't need many rules.

Vice President's Message: Fresh & Fun Conditioning

by Lisa Schneider, AERC Vice President

I saw a bumper sticker recently which read, "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome." If what you're doing is working well for you and your horse, then by all means, keep at it. However, if you are not getting the results you want, or your training (or horse) has gotten stale and boring, then it's time to shake things up a bit.

Changing up your riding routine can be motivating and can make all the difference in the world to both of you. Chances are good that if you're bored, your horse is, too.

First, figure out what the problem is. Are you stuck with the same old out-and-back trail unless you trailer out? Do you ride alone because you have to get a ride in whenever you find time? Is your horse not well-behaved with others?

Second, set aside riding time by scheduling it like a regular appointment. Get some professional help (no, not a therapist, although...). Enlist the aid of a professional trainer to help you overcome any issues your horse might have.

Third, try something new. Whether it's for yourself or your horse, creative ideas can challenge both of you mentally or physically. Here are some tips to keep things fresh and fun for both you and your horse:

1. Get social. The power of social media is incredible! Post on Facebook or your local trail riding group's email list to get some new riding buddies.

2. Get motivated. Goals are always motivating, so check out AERC's ride calendar ( to find a ride that will challenge you and your horse. Set a goal and come up with a training schedule to get you there.

3. Get into something new. Is some piece of tack not working well for you or your horse? Borrow a friend's tack to see if that works better. I like the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" concept, but sometimes it can be fun to shake things up a little so you don't get stuck in a rut. People often use the same bit or saddle for every horse they ride and it may be coincidental that it works, or it might be just convenience.

4. Get out of your comfort zone. Make plans to meet up with friends to see their trails. Take a basic dressage lesson. Swap horses with a friend during a short ride. Go for a night ride on familiar trails.

5. Get involved with the Green Beans. It is so rewarding to help someone learn more about endurance. This can run the gamut from allowing the neighborhood kid to ride your extra horse to organizing an Endurance 101 clinic in your area (guidelines and practical suggestions are on the AERC website under the Education tab).

Newbies have lots of questions on topics such as saddle fit, trail etiquette, finding an endurance horse, getting ready for their first ride, etc. Contact the office to see if you qualify for AERC's Mentor Program. It's a great way to give back to the sport and your name and contact info will be listed on the AERC website.

6. Get to a clinic. There are clinics for every level of rider, from beginners to advanced. Fine tuning a few things can really make a big difference. Learn strategies for conditioning and racing that can help you top 10 or finish mid-pack with a fresher horse for multi-days.

7. Get involved with a local endurance ride. Contact ride management to see if they need help -- it's a pretty sure bet they will. It's very motivating to be around all the fit horses and riders. Perhaps you can make a difference in someone's day by offering suggestions or just lending a helping hand when it's needed most. You can also crew for a friend who might be able to crew for you in the future.

8. Get to a trade show or horse expo. These events are like Disneyland for horse people. There are new and cutting-edge things to try, presentations on rider fitness, rider clothing, new training methods, the latest horse trailers and trucks, and lots of tack.

9. Get yourself in better shape. Do some heat training, take a fitness class, try a video on basic stretching/yoga/pilates for equestrians, hike with your horse, or teach him to tail. There are only so many hours in a day and we always need a few more than we have, but making your own fitness a priority will result in you feeling better in the saddle and that always benefits your horse.

Break down a new skill into its components and work on each piece over and over until you master it. Put it together and voila, you will find you have new skills in your repertoire.

10. Get together with some friends and take a trip to an iconic endurance ride. Seeing Tevis, Old Dominion, or the AERC National Championships is always an amazing experience. Be like a sponge and absorb everything!

Try to avoid the same-old, same-old training on the trails. By making conditioning fun and challenging ourselves in many different ways, physically and mentally, it keeps things fresh and helps to avoid burnout.

Practice the things you aren't so good at, set some new goals, and be creative. You'll be surprised at how much you'll improve. Everyone can benefit from some new experiences. It's what keeps life fun. Happy trails!

National Championship News: Get Ready for the National Championships

by Joe Selden and Nancy Smart

What will participants find when they come to ride the AERC National Championship ride, hosted by Old Dominion Endurance Rides?

First will be the base camp, a groomed 17-acre field set in the heart of Virginia's Shenandoah Valley. After being assigned a parking space off the camp road and convenient to water tanks and porta-potties, they can stroll up to ride headquarters just across a stream.

Headquarters consists of an office structure and a 40' x 80' foot tent multitasking as a registration office, meeting space and dining hall, and the always popular OD yard sale. (Bring your clean, working horse stuff and all proceeds go to the OD. Since the organization is a 501(c)(3) participants can receive a tax deduction form.)

There will be a potluck dinner (OD provides meats, everyone else please bring a dish to share) on Tuesday evening, October 6. Wednesday there will be a dinner and ride briefing for the 50, with the 50-mile awards ceremony Thursday evening. On Friday evening, October 9, there will be dinner and a ride briefing for the 100. Sunday morning brings a breakfast and the 100-mile awards ceremony.

All meals will be catered by the Orkney Springs Volunteer Fire and Rescue. Equally important, the fire company keeps water tanks at base camp filled.

The village of Orkney Springs is just beyond the turnoff to base camp and well worth a visit. It became a tourist attraction because of the supposed healing powers of its mineral springs in the mid-1800s. The old buildings have been restored and are now owned by the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, along with many hundreds of acres of land. That area is now known as Shrine Mont, which hosts retreats in the summer months and rents bunk and shower houses to the OD for our rides.

The nearby town of Bayse offers a community store selling everything from groceries and fresh sandwiches to gasoline, diesel and tools. There are two restaurants and a coffee shop (not Starbucks). There's even a car wash!

Bryce Ski Resort is only three miles away with a restaurant and bar, golf course, grass tubing, bike trails (and rental bikes), and Lake Laura, a man-made lake for swimming, fishing and boating (sorry, no boats for rent).

Also nearby for the more adventurous are Shenandoah Caverns, five miles north of New Market (

You can find lots more information about local attractions and happenings at

Ride information and entry forms are on We look forward to welcoming you to the AERC National Championship Ride in October.

Trails Post: Clear as . . . Mud

by Erin Glassman

April showers bring May flowers . . . and sometimes lots of mud. As serious distance competitors, we have had our share of experience navigating mud. Many of us even have quasi-affectionate names for the types of mud we have ridden through, such as sucky-mud, slicky-mud, mucky-mud, you name it.

Many of us have our war stories of the hellacious mud rides we have survived on our trusty steeds -- sliding down ginormous hills on our equine's butt, sloshing through hock-deep bogs. Heck, we've even landed in sloggy water-crossing mud after a wild bucking horse trashed us off her back (OK, I just fell off a grandkid's horse, but whatever).

Obviously mud is a pain to us endurance riders, but can we be a pain to the mud? Perhaps more accurately, can we be a pain to the trails? Absolutely, but how?

First, however, let's discuss why we get mud on the trails. Well, duh, Erin, it rained! Yes, but . . . ever notice that some parts of the trail look pristine after gallons have been dumped on it? Ever notice that some spots are like little oil slicks messing up the highway? What about the bottomless pits of mud that might reach the center of the Earth? Why is this?

Partly, the types of mud we experience are due to the types of soils that the trail overlies. Sand tends to drain well, as does rocky terrain, but areas that have clay or loam tend to get muckier. The type and quantity of mud, in much simpler terms than all of the details that I could go into, vary significantly with the mixes of soil types.

One factor that determines trail mud type is how the water gets across the trail (does it sheet off as is the case with a well-designed trail, or does it flow down the tread such as in a user-placed trail?) Another is how well water drains from the surface of the trail into the underlying soils -- for example, clay-type soils will tend to hold water in the trail and soils with a lot of sand will tend to drain. Natural springs and water flows can also impact the amount of water on the trail.

Why do we care about these things? Going down muddy trails really disturbs trail bed surfaces and can cause permanent damage. We can create or worsen bogs in areas that could prove dangerous to horses and/or other riders. Tearing up trail tread can also create more future work for the land management agency or volunteer groups; it can also create negative relationships and incorrect portrayals of our group.

So how can I fix a problem spot in the trail? The biggest way to do this is by moving the water off of the trail. Good trail design incorporates use of angles and techniques such as knicks and rolling dips (I will go into these in future articles). In boggy areas techniques such as geotextile fabrics and use of bridges can help to remedy the messy spots.

How can this information help when planning your ride? First, know your trails and know your land management agency: do they allow horses on the trails if there is a lot of mud at the ride site? Second, have an inclement weather route, just in case the 100-year flood hits right before your ride.

Last, have a plan in mind if you can't have your ride on the desired weekend -- is relocation an option? Postponement? If you have the go-ahead to ride, be aware of additive damages multiple riders may create. Volunteer in the name of AERC and help to fix the damage -- and help build our reputation and relationship with land managers.

August 2015 Classified Advertising



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TWO LAURICHE saddles, both 18" seats and wide trees, $1800 each. 2 Solstice saddles, 1-17.5" seat, extra wide tree; 1-18" seat, wide tree. $1600 each. 1 JRD saddle, 18" seat and wide tree, $1800. 1 English Synergist saddle, 17.5" seat, wide tree, $800. CA, 909-633-0481.

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REACH 5,000 ENDURANCE RIDERS with an EN classified ad! Call for details: 866-271-2372.

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