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Endurance News -- August 2016

President's Letter
Vice President's Message
Trails Post
Classified Advertising

President's Letter: Personality Characteristics of Mentors and Mentees

by Michael Campbell, AERC President

Mentor and mentee -- these are not new concepts. They've been around with different names for a long time: teacher/student, leader/follower, guru/disciple, master/apprentice, etc.

The original mentor was an ineffectual old man. Homer wrote about him and how Athena took his form to guide Telemachus in difficult times. The most current concept of the mentor/mentee relationship began about 25 years ago to improve access of minority groups to positions of power and leadership, especially within business and social organizations.

The mentor/mentee relationship is indeed one of teacher and student but, moreover, includes a personal and supportive component with an emotional investment on both sides in the success of the mentee.

So, what personality characteristics make a good mentor or mentee?

First, let's consider what is meant by personality, especially for mentors and mentees. Personality includes just about everything that goes into what you do and who you are: intelligence, knowledge, judgment, attitudes, emotionality, maturity and much more. These are mostly forebrain functions.

Both mentor and mentee need a basic level of intelligence or the relationship won't go far. For the most part, our society and the sport of endurance riding self-select for basic intelligence. You gotta be smarter than your horse and/or most 6-year-olds.

The mentor must have knowledge that the mentee desires. Some years ago, I rode with a sheriff's posse group and one of the other riders (upon learning that I was interested in endurance riding) spent a couple of hours explaining the sport to me in great detail although he had never actually been to an endurance ride. He told me about one of his horses that would have been a truly great endurance horse because when the horse was first saddled and mounted, he bucked for a full two minutes. In his estimation, such a horse had a lot of endurance.

Psychologist Israel Goldiamond defined stupidity as behaving as though one knows something when one does not. I've wondered a lot about that man. He had the desire, but I'm pretty sure he did not have the knowledge to be a good mentor.

Endurance riders are usually very knowledgeable about horses and the sport. A good mentor has the knowledge and shares it willingly and freely. But, I think the best mentors are acutely aware of how much they don't know and are not afraid to say so and continue to seek answers. They relish not so much the role of mentor as they do the sharing and pursuit of knowledge.

Likewise, a good mentee enjoys the acquisition of information more than the role of admiring student.

A good mentor has good judgment. They remain calm and objective in emergencies or when a situation varies from what was expected. These mentors are already mentally prepared for the unexpected. They are not easily surprised. They do not panic in a crisis, become angry with a recalcitrant horse or rude rider, or develop "race brain" in the heat of competition. Good mentees find it easy to adopt this cool and collected attitude to the benefit of their horses and the sport of endurance riding.

As you read this, what is the first name that comes to mind? Among our membership, you can probably think of several riders who meet this qualification.

A good mentor has a positive attitude about most things. Even when something goes wrong, and it always does in this sport, a good mentor finds the beneficial lesson or humor in the situation. When I broke my leg a few years ago, a friend commented that it was okay because I needed the time off and so did my horses. From that incident, I learned that (1) most accidents happen when mounting or dismounting, and (2) my horses and I both needed more practice mounting without dismounting.

A good mentor keeps his/her brain in charge, not emotions. Like young children, horses can be pretty aggravating. And like young children, their misbehavior is usually based on fear or a lack of knowledge. So, when riding, there are two brains involved and one of them needs to be thinking in order to teach and calm the other one.

Maturity in a good mentor is the both the sum and product of all the above personality characteristics. It includes knowledge and experience, basic intelligence, good judgment, good emotional control and a positive/supportive attitude toward both horse and mentee.

Most scientifically-developed personality tests in use today are designed to help diagnose pathology: suicidal/homicidal thinking, poor contact with reality (schizophrenia), depression, anxiety, personality dysfunction and certain behavioral aberrations. I knew a lady some time ago who believed she communicated telepathically with animals and that all animals recognized this in her and loved her for it. She was frequently bitten by the objects of her affection and once was injured trying to mount an unfamiliar horse that belonged to a neighbor. She might have scored high on a schizophrenia scale.

None of us has the time or resources to test all potential mentors or mentees. But some of the notes above may be helpful to keep in mind during the selection process.

In truth, we all take the roles of both mentor and mentee in this sport. And we all have had multiple mentors throughout our careers (or we will have by the time we get to the end of our careers). Take time to notice the mentors who have served you best and formalize their lessons in your mind so that you can pass them on. We are all both mentor and mentee. In this sport, we never stop learning.

Vice President's Message: Choosing a Mentor

by Lisa Schneider

I always think about people I would like to learn from. There are a lot of riders who have been around for a long time, always seem to complete with a happy, healthy horse, and clearly ride their own ride.

Many people know Karen Chaton from her blog, Karen's Musings About Endurance Ride Stuff, and many people know Karen from her many national mileage awards. Her focus is always on what's best for her horses and, with over 37,000 miles to her credit, she has a lot of experience in all kinds of situations. Her horse Pro Bono D has achieved 9,180 miles, which is phenomenal -- but her "other" horse, Granite Chief+/, recently hit the 15,000 mile mark. Each of their completion percentages are about 98%!

So with this level of experience, I thought I would talk to her about mentoring and what she thinks is important about the process of learning about endurance riding.

QDid you have any mentors you made use of when you were first starting out?

AI started out on my own. I was already riding for several hours a day in the mountain range behind my house on the weekends. I was taking riding lessons twice a week, where I had to ride exactly 12.5 miles each way. I rode 25 miles round trip, had a nearly hour lesson in an arena and was so naive that I didn't know if my horse was ready for a 50. My horse was more than ready but I really didn't have anybody to tell me that.

I didn't let that stop me, though. I read everything about endurance that I could get my hands on. I consider the riding lessons that I was taking to be the best investment that I ever made.

QWhat made you want to become an AERC mentor?

AMy first overnight camping trip was to Robie Park, which is local to me -- only 60 miles -- and is the starting spot now for the WST/Tevis Cup ride. I only learned about AERC after I learned about the Tevis and decided that I wanted to do it. As luck would have it, I ended up camping at Robie with a group of endurance riders that sat around the campfire telling stories about their broken bones and bionic parts. I so wanted to be like them and dreamed of riding the magical trails that they had and the bait had been set. They reeled me in, hook, line and sinker! How could I resist? Now it is just a natural progression for me to want to help others learn the sport.

QWhat do you think makes someone a good mentor?

AMentors need to be flexible in their advice, but they also need to be firm and be able to be confident in the advice that they are giving. Just because something worked for them/their horse does not mean it will work for somebody else. This is why mentoring is not for everybody and why I feel that those that give out advice should have experience riding more than one horse, or at least one horse for more than a couple of ride seasons.

I see people on social media sites giving out advice who have done zero 50s and do not have the experience to be telling others what works and what doesn't work on an endurance ride. A good mentor needs to be understanding and not let it bother them if somebody they are helping is not listening or chooses not to follow their advice.

I have learned that there is more than one kind of mentor, and more than one kind of mentoree. Some mentors (like myself) are happy to lead by example: "this is what I do/have done that works for me/my horses." Others are more firm and like to tell riders exactly what to do: "this is what you must do and this is how you do it."

Mentorees are similar in that some are able to self-educate and can assimilate information from several sources and find what works, while others need somebody to directly tell them exactly what to do. This is where it becomes challenging to match up a mentor with a mentoree. Both parties need to be open and honest with what they think they need or are able to provide.

QWhat advice do you have for people who might consider becoming a mentor?

AA new endurance rider may not appreciate your experience. Don't take that personally. They don't know what they don't know.

QOn the flip side, what should general expectations be for people being mentored?

ATake in advice and information from multiple sources. No one person should be the only one telling you what to do or how to manage your horse. Learn from as many sources as possible. On the flip side, if somebody that is successful in this sport is giving you good common-sense practical advice that you don't agree with, don't keep asking and asking (especially on social media) until you get the answer you want.

QI think horses can be mentors to other horses, too. If you agree, can you share any stories you have about your horses mentoring other riders' horses?

AChief and Bo have both helped many green horses cross creeks or other questionable footing spots. They have shielded other horses from off-road vehicles, wild horses, or anything that another horse may be nervous about. They both have shown other horses how to eat and drink while on trail, which is an extremely important trait to have for an endurance horse. Riding with an experienced endurance horse that is good at his job is one of the best ways to bring along a new or inexperienced horse.

I have always felt that some rides are better than others for taking a new horse to. If you go to a ride that has a large number of experienced riders and horses, a new horse is somehow assimilated into the group and comes along much faster than if they are placed into a situation where they are surrounded by inexperienced riders and horses.

QWhat was your most memorable mentoring experience?

ATaking a close friend through her first one-day 100-mile ride. She would have never done it otherwise. It was memorable because we were in a different time zone and didn't realize until it was almost start time. We ended up starting only about five minutes late and ended up having a terrific ride.

QWhat do you recommend for someone who might be on the fence about trying out a mentor?

AGive it a try. My advice is to have more than one mentor. Find a mentor who has similar goals to yours. If you want to learn how to ride multi-days, find a rider that has been successful at that. If you want to ride 100s, find a rider that rides 100s, etc. There are lots of very experienced AERC members that are more than happy to help others. All you have to do is ask -- don't be shy!

QAny other suggestions or recommendations for mentors or mentorees?

AI have always believed that we can learn something from everyone -- even those that are not successful. We owe it to our horses to learn from those that have pushed their own horses too far, asked too much, cashed a check greater than the horse could pay. This is where the real lessons lie. What not to do is a very important and critical lesson. There are so many ways to be successful in the sport of endurance. Yet, failure can almost always be attributed to rider ego or ignorance.

Educate yourself. Find a good mentor. Don't be in a hurry. Even a great horse needs a base to build upon. Don't expect too much too soon or you will be sitting out a lot of rides.

From Lisa: No matter how long you've been in this sport, never stop asking questions to learn more. Always try to improve things for your horse's health, safety and comfort.

If you have been riding endurance for several seasons, have a couple thousand miles and would like to help a green bean get started, please contact the AERC office to sign up as a mentor. If you don't want to be an official mentor, then consider helping anyone you see at a ride who needs a little guidance.

New riders, don't hesitate to speak up and ask all the questions you have. There are no stupid questions, just unasked ones whose answers might just keep you or your horse out of trouble. Happy trails!

Trails Post: Thinking Globally and Acting Locally

by Carolyn Hock and Barb Thomas

In April, we had the opportunity to attend the California Trails and Greenways Conference (, held in Riverside, California. We went hoping for inspiration, ideas and models showing how to best protect and promote trails for all, but especially for endurance equestrians. Clearly our chosen sport of endurance will not long endure without trails for training and competition. How can we preserve, protect and promote equestrian trails in the face of increasing population pressures and the related development that bring housing tracts, highways, strip malls and more equine-unfriendly activities?

The meeting in Southern California provided us a great opportunity to explore the many challenges and opportunities facing trail managers and users. Southern California is one of the most populous regions in the country and at the same time home to thousands of equestrians and hundreds of miles of established trails from the interstate Pacific Crest Trail and the regional Santa Ana River Trail to the trails in local and regional parks. The conference speakers noted the challenges of managing trails in dense urban settings, including increased user demand, urban encroachment, challenging demographics, shrinking budgets and climate change.

In spite of these challenges, progress is being made as exemplified by the newly-dedicated 67-mile Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area's Backbone Trail (see sidebar).

Folks attending the California Trails and Greenways Conference included state and federal park officials, nonprofit foundations, advocacy groups, environmentalists, trail hikers and runners, mountain bikers, vendors and trail consultants and of course equestrians. The energy level was high, the future challenges formidable, and the dedication to trail promotion and preservation unshakable. These people are not easily deterred and are highly committed.

The conference provided opportunities to:

 • network with and talk directly to leading trail experts

 • collaborate with and find new partners to build support for trail endeavors

 • learn a full range of trail management, design, and construction topics in high-quality, innovative sessions

 • experience hands-on learning through day-long field workshops

 • explore exhibits featuring innovative trail-related products and services

 • strengthen the ability to effectively design, build, manage and promote California's trails

 • be inspired through keynote and plenary speakers and innovative trail projects.

Lessons learned at the conference

Act locally! The main lesson learned is that everyone can do something to assure trail protection and promotion. And that involvement can make an enormous difference over time. There are many critically important ways to promote, support and maintain trails as demonstrated by many examples presented at the California Trails and Greenways Conference.

If you ride and condition on trails, and if trails are important to you, find a way to promote and protect them that fits with your schedule and lifestyle. Get active now -- it's easy! Here are a few suggestions.

Contact your local elected officials and park managers. Make sure your city, county, state and federal representatives hear from you and know you are an equestrian trail user and that you vote. Don't just wait for a problem to occur and then call.

Start to build a relationship now by writing a letter or emailing to thank them for existing trails and parking areas that you are currently using. Let them know that you and your fellow equestrians use the trails and that you count on the elected officials to continue protecting and promoting trails. Better yet, host a BBQ or coffee at your home and invite your local officials to come and meet their equestrian constituents (your friends and riding buddies). Or stop by their office and meet with them, or chat with one of their staff for a 10-minute touch base. Getting connected with these folks early on will help provide you with the much needed access to them when problems do occur and you need their help.

Contact park managers and let them know what you want in the parks and what equestrians need regarding trails, parking and facilities (water, manure disposal sites, etc.). Park managers rely heavily on feedback from users to determine how to spend their limited budget, so we need to have a voice. Find out if there is a trail management plan for your local parks and contribute by commenting on the plan from the perspective of the equestrian.

Join a national, state and/or local equestrian group. Groups like Back Country Horsemen ( are active nationally and locally, and are often already in touch with local, state and federal representatives and park officials. Support their trail protection, maintenance and promotion activities and tell them about the trails you are using. Help them with fundraising and letter-writing campaigns and lobbying efforts.

Help preserve open space through land conservation. Equine Land Conservation Resource ( is an excellent resource for land preservation nationwide with many valuable tools to help protect and conserve land for horses.

Coordinate with non-equestrian trail users: hiking, trail running, mountain biking, Audubon and other non-equestrian trail user groups. Think about attending one of their club meetings and talk about horses, trail safety, and how we can all work together to support, maintain and promote trails.

Perhaps go online and find your local mountain bike club. Love them or hate them, mountain bikers are using trails, advocating for more trails, and are an important voting constituency. Be brave, be bold and ask to attend one of their local club meetings.

Many such clubs are promoting good trail etiquette and ways to safely share trails with equestrians. And they are very active when it comes to trails. For example The International Mountain Bicycling Association's ( stated mission is "to create, enhance and preserve trail opportunities for mountain bikers worldwide."

IMBA's membership is over 40,000, with more than 600 affiliated chapters, clubs or patrols. In the U.S., IMBA has established partnership agreements with most major federal land management at the local agencies, and is widely recognized as a leading source of information for trail-based recreation. Groups like these often have good ties with park officials and elected officials. Get to know them and your local biking group.

Keep trails maintained. "Boots on the ground" are always needed to keep trails maintained. While volunteering to maintain trails on a regular basis may be out of the question for many, consider giving one or two workdays a year. Look online for local trail maintenance organizations such as the Santa Monica Mountains Trails Council ( You can ask your AERC State Trails Coordinator (see page 3) for names of trails organizations near you.

In addition to regular maintenance days, many of these organizations also provide special trail work weekends with campouts that are a great way to get your family involved once a year. This also provides an opportunity to get to know other trail users.

Promote a positive image of equestrian trail use. Write an article and provide some fun pictures for your local newspaper or online park and trail user groups showing how endurance equestrians use and appreciate local parks and trail systems. Emphasize the idea that sharing trails and working together will protect trails for all in years to come. Join with others to work on trails, pick up litter, and do trail maintenance. Be an equestrian trail ambassador. Talk to people. When riding and conditioning your horse, take a few minutes to meet and greet other trail users, park officials and law enforcement personnel. Always be an ambassador for endurance and all equestrian sport. By keeping an ear to the ground you will also find out about local trail issues, problems, development projects and other activities that may impinge on your trails. Most importantly, you will show people that equestrians can work with others to help promote and protect trails.

Help promote trail etiquette. AERC member Barb Thomas participated in a conference panel that provided tips for equestrians, hikers, and cyclists to keep trails safe and enjoyable by promoting trail etiquette and expectations for all users. A useful trail etiquette brochure can be found at This brochure was created by a joint group of hikers, equestrians, and mountain bikers and can be adopted by other groups with their own logos. Print it out and pass it around.

Help keep trails safe and secure. Keep park official and other local law enforcement phone numbers on your cell phone and call in problems like illegal dumping, fires, hazards, injured hikers and hurt animals, etc. This "service" helps show how equestrians are an asset to keeping park trails safe and secure. You can also help land managers identify trail issues through ParkWatch Report ( This is an app for reporting damaged trails, illegal trail use, dangerous conditions, or hazards of any kind. You can use your smart phone to file a report. Also consider joining a local mounted patrol or search and rescue group.

Take advantage of AERC's resources. Be sure to check the Trails section of the AERC website (under About AERC) to find Trail Masters in your area and to locate your state trails advocate. These are people who are ready and willing to assist you in your equestrian trail goals.

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