To Finish Is To Win

American Endurance
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Endurance News -- February 2017

President's Letter
Vice President's Message
Ride Managers' Forum
Classified Advertising

President's Letter: The love of your life

by Michael Campbell, AERC President

Who or what is the love of your life? That's a pretty tough question. The answer may include a list of many things. It may depend on the time in your life when you confront this question.

This month, you may give and receive a Valentine or two. But this is not a question for a month, it is a question for your life.

Of course, in the context of this publication, the answer should be about your horse(s), riding and/or the sport of endurance riding. But those answers may be superficial in a serious consideration of the question. A deeper consideration may affect how you ride, how you treat your horse, how you treat your riding companions and how you treat our sport.

The classic Greek language has from four to six words for love, depending on your source. They refer to romantic love, familial love, the love in a friendship and a profound spiritual love. St. John says simply, "God is love" (I John 4:8).

As children, we learn familial love from our parents and siblings. That love is uncertain when we are small (like the time I was angry with my mother and prepared a small pack to run off and join the rodeo, then realized I didn't know where a rodeo was). But that love is with us for a lifetime. As adults, our love for our parents and siblings grows and remains constant. We particularly feel that love on special occasions or upon the loss of a loved one. We pass that love on to our children and sometimes others. We may also generalize that love to pets and specific childhood objects.

With the onset of adolescence, we develop deep romantic feelings for certain peers. This is a time in life when our brains, and consequently our thought processes and emotions, are changing dramatically due to sensitization by the increased concentration of hormones. This is a time in life when we will love more deeply and feel more passionately about romantic interests, political causes, religion and almost anything else that captures our attention -- such as sports and horses -- than we will ever feel again for as long as we live.

Whatever those feelings become fixated upon may influence our choices and judgments for the remainder of our lives, for better and sometimes for worse. For a personal example, I recall that as a high school freshman, I had a date with a really cute junior girl to homecoming -- my first real kiss. She dumped me soon after, but there was a song on the radio that I associated with that time in my life. Many years later, I heard that song again and all the old feelings came rushing back. With a little luck, we survive those years without doing too much damage to one another or ourselves.

As we mature, we are likely to experience a biological imperative for the appreciation of small children. With a mate, we may begin to have children and build our careers and family. Even without a mate or children, we are likely to feel more protective of small children and helpless animals. We become more aware of our power to protect more helpless creatures and to teach them to protect themselves.

When my first daughter was just an infant, I recall noticing that when driving with her, I was coming to a complete stop at stop signs even when there was no traffic. I even felt less compelled to exceed the speed limit. We sometimes get that protective feeling when something threatens our horses.

As an overlay to these stages of more intimate love and passion, we develop acquaintances at school and work that sometimes grow into lasting friendships. The German language has two forms of the pronoun "you" -- the formal "Sie" and the more intimate "du." When a friendship develops to an ultimately trusting and intimate level, the friends have a "du" ceremony where the intimacy is formally recognized.

Many of us have had such affection for a mentor or riding partner. Perhaps most of us have felt such a love for a horse -- that one with whom you shared and learned so much, the one you will never forget. When Robert Ribley accepted the AERC Pardners Award for himself and his horse, Tari, he commented, "I still ride him in my dreams."

Love is such a powerful part of our lives. But it can sometimes be erratic like when I wanted to run away and join the rodeo or when you got bucked and cussed your horse up and down. Love may come or go; it may not be constant until you have decided. That is the key. At some point in your life you decide who or what you will love and devote your time and effort toward. It is that conscious decision that makes love constant; that makes something or someone the love of your life.

When you confront that question, do not look to your emotions for an answer. Your emotions can be momentary and misleading. Instead look at what you do and have done. To what do you devote your time and energy?

Count the years in your job or profession. Count the years with your mate, your friends, your family. Count the hours you have spent training and riding your horse. Count the number of endurance rides you attended in the last year or years. Judge the effort you have spent in saddling, riding, training, evaluating nutritional protocols. How much time have you spent planning your rides and preparing for them?

We spend about a third of our lives in sleep and a third at work. How much of the remainder do you spend on each of your passions? How you live your life reflects your love.

Each of us has an unknown number of years to live. Momentary passions buffet us about and add color to the palette of our lives. But the final masterpiece of each of our lives is composed of the choices we make about the loves in our lives.

Who or what is the love of your life?

Vice President's Message: Traditions: respect the distance

by Lisa Schneider

The AERC Board of Directors often hears from members who want something changed. The suggestions range from adding more time to complete limited distance rides to divorcing ourselves from FEI international races. Other concepts that have been considered (and rejected) in the past year include adding a noncompetitive trail division and renaming the limited distance division.

It is the nature of our culture and the nature of sport to evolve with the changing tastes of the public. With the advent of introductory rides of 10 to 15 miles, more people who weren't able to ride longer or who might have been intimidated by the longer distances had a chance to dip a toe into our world. Increased focus on horse welfare and more attention to educating those new to the sport have all contributed positively to endurance riding.

There will always be people who see 100 miles as the gold standard for what endurance really means, even if they are no longer able to ride that distance, so we keep coming back full circle to tradition.

So how does an organization please this huge variety of members and keep them coming back year after year?

AERC has prided itself on having a "big tent" philosophy, meaning there is room for everyone to find something about the sport that satisfies their need to be with their horse on the trail. But how can it be possible to mean many things to many people? Or do we have to settle for half the people being upset about something at any given time?

I think the answer has to do with going back to basics and respecting the distance ridden, no matter if it's a 15-mile intro ride or a 100-mile endurance ride. The numbers show there are more intro and LD riders than 50-plus mile riders so the shorter distances are making the longer distances financially feasible.

I once heard a director give a new rider briefing at a local endurance ride. He spoke of some amazing statistics regarding what we do, but the gist of it was there is a large number of horses in our country, but only a small percentage of them can go 25 miles in one day and a very, very small percentage of those horses can do 100 miles in one day. His point was that it is an honor to just be out riding your horse on the endurance trail, regardless of the distance you are able to do that day.

Furthermore, an even smaller percentage is able to have a long career. We celebrate long careers with awards like the Decade Team, which honors a horse and rider team who have done at least one 50-mile ride each year for 10 years. We actually have several Double Decade teams and several people with more than one Decade horse.

The Perfect 10 award honors horses who have been competing for 10 years, achieved 10,000 miles, 10 first place finishes and 10 best conditions. There are only eight horses who have accomplished this in our records -- with one new Perfect Ten horse to be announced in the Yearbook issue.

A new award, the Equine Longevity Award, will honor equines with at least 50 miles of completions a year for 10, 15, 20, or 25 years. This can be done with LD miles or endurance miles with any number of riders.

So whether you ride two limited distance rides a year or shoot for several 100-milers, in my opinion, you're a rock star. Happy trails!

Ride Managers' Forum: Who is responsible for safety at the finish line?

by Connie Caudill

Ride managers as well as riders need to give serious thought concerning the finish of their ride. Even though many of our events don't have anyone "racing" for the finish, it could happen, so it is best to be prepared. Not only are ride managers responsible for a safe finish but riders that race are equally responsible for safe finishes. When both are prepared then rides are guaranteed to have safe finishes for everyone.

AERC Rule #12. "It is the duty of everyone participating in an endurance ride whether a rider, a crew member, ride official , ride volunteer, control judge or spectator to act in a manner which does not disrupt the ride or reflect poorly on the sport of endurance riding."

Ride manager responsibility

Ride managers: look over your trail to find a straight shot where the riders will be able to see the finish before they get right on top of it. Most importantly, make sure there is plenty of room to allow for the riders to race the horses past the finish line without running into a road or camp or anything unsafe. This is your job as a ride manager.

If there isn't a safe finishing area near your campsite then travel farther on down the trail to find a safe place for the finish line. You may allow time to be added onto the 30-minute recovery time for longer distances out of camp.

As the ride manager, you can prevent horses running into camp at top speed just by adjusting the placing of the finish line. Crews or ride volunteers shouldn't have to be worried about a horse running over them and you can help prevent potential disasters.

It would be best if the ride manager marks the finish line the day prior to the actual ride date so riders will know exactly what to expect.  There are varieties of ways that the finish line can be marked: chalk, traffic cones, ribbons hanging in trees on both sides of the trail. It makes no difference how you mark the finish as long as you have it marked in some form or fashion.

Rider responsibility

If, as a rider, you are the type that is likely to be involved in a competitive race-off at the finish of the ride, you should take time to look over the final mile of the course the day before the event.

-- Look at the footing: is it safe terrain for racing a horse? You may need to pick up some loose rock or check for holes.

-- Is the finish line so close to camp or to a road that you may be unable to stop your horse safely?

-- Are there blind curves that will keep you from seeing another horse that may be heading your direction?

-- Is your horse controllable so that you can stop quickly even when "race brain" kicks in on both your horse and you?

Riders have a responsibility to keep their animals under control during the ride as well as at the finish. If you choose to race to the finish, you have an obligation to your horse as well as to other riders to have a properly trained horse that you can handle in these types of situations. If you don't have a horse that can handle this, then you have no business racing to the finish.

Safety trumps winning in every situation.

February 2017 Classified Advertising



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