To Finish Is To Win

American Endurance
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Endurance News -- February 2020

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

President's Letter: A look at 2019 AERC numbers

by Monica Chapman

The AERC convention is next month in Jacksonville, Florida. I'm getting excited to come to the Southeast Region for a fresh new convention site. It sounds like it is going to be quite the experience. I hope to see as many of you there as possible. Please read Vice President Nick Kohut's column for more information about the convention.

Let's start with the good news: A bright note for AERC is the fact that 2019 rider starts were up from the 2018 season. In many ways, this is an important number when looking at the health of the organization. We had some weather issues during the 2019 season and many rides had to be cancelled so it is great to see rider starts on the rise.

The AERC office's "Ride One More" campaign really helped in getting people out on the trail more. This program will run again in 2020, so I hope many of you will start at least one more ride in 2020 than you did in 2019.

On the other hand, our membership decreased by 240 between 2018 and 2019. That seems to be about the norm for membership numbers over the past several years.

This seems to be the trend across most equestrian sports and breed organizations since the 2008 recession. AERC's numbers are much better than those of many other equine groups. While some parts of the world are experiencing growth in equestrian sports, many of those countries are decades behind the United States with respect to economy. Equine use is now becoming a luxury or hobby for those riders, rather than a necessity, much like the United States was many decades ago. We are happy to see these countries' changing cultural norms that are opening up to allowing equine competitions.

The AERC board works hard to serve the membership in all areas. The board members must be fiscally responsible and also keep tabs on AERC's rules and bylaws and make changes where necessary. Expenses are growing in many areas yet we've managed to hold the line on membership costs and only raise other fees after considering all options.

All members of the board have the best interests of AERC's membership at heart and work hard to bring those ideas to fruition.

AERC strives to remain relevant in these changing times. If we want to remain relevant to a younger generation of riders and have a piece of the "hobbiest" pie, we need to be constantly looking into ways to stay current and appeal to equestrians.

The goodwill all of you share when out on the trail to those you meet who are not members goes a long way in spreading the word about the endurance family and the sport we all love. Your enthusiasm is infectious and genuine and shows others what a great bunch of people belong to AERC. Thank you for doing your part.

Vice President's Letter: See you in Florida for convention

by Nick Kohut, DVM

By the time you read this it will be less than a month until the AERC convention in Jacksonville, Florida. I hope to see many of you there. It's a wonderful time to socialize with friends from around the entire AERC community, to learn new things from all the excellent speakers, to attend both board and committee meetings to see how your organization is operating, to spend money at the various vendors, and to support the recipients of all the awards presented at both the regional awards program and the national awards banquet.

Thanks to John Parke's efforts, the regional awards have become a truly exceptional part of the annual meeting. With the national awards you may find yourself competing against someone who lives thousands of miles away and that you've never even met. However, at the regional awards, you get the chance to see and honor those people that you see time and again at your local rides, fellow competitors that you've gone head-to-head with all season long. Please make sure to put the Friday evening awards program on your convention schedule.

The Saturday night banquet is your chance to see some of the true legends of our sport receive the recognition they deserve. If you've never done this little exercise, I encourage you to go to the AERC website, highlight the "Competition" tab, and then click on "Awards." This will bring up all the AERC member recognition awards and programs. You can look over all of the national award winners and see what it took over the years to earn the different awards.

Look through those awards that the Hall of Fame Committee votes on based upon membership nominations (this occurs at the previous AERC midyear board meeting). These include the Volunteer Service Award, the Ann Parr Trails Preservation Award, the Pard'ners Award, the Hall of Fame Equine, and the Hall of Fame Member.

Maybe each of you can have some friendly competition to see who among you has had the most direct contact with the recipients in each category. Personally, I'm probably a lightweight at 18 within the HoF members' group. I'm guessing that a certain fellow board member, who I'm pretty sure has been around since this organization was known as the New World Endurance Ride Conference, knows everyone on the list.

Since we're speaking about legends within AERC, as I write this I'm grieved for the recent loss of one of those legends. I would like to take a moment to further recognize Dr. Jim Baldwin. Jim was elected into the Hall of Fame last year. I knew Jim for many years and had the good fortune to work with him at a number of rides across the country.

Jim greatly loved the sport of endurance. He took every opportunity to judge as many horses as possible at every ride. And if a horse ended up over in the treatment area, he always wanted to know how it was doing and if it was one that he had seen earlier in the day. He strived to be the best he could possibly be for the welfare of the horses under his care.

For those of you that knew him, you are aware of his preference to drive to all of the rides he worked even though, as he once told me, he was not afraid to fly and had a pilot's license in his younger days.

One year, Jim and I worked the Fort Howes ride in Montana one weekend and the Old Dominion ride in Virginia the very next weekend. He had his daughter with him at one ride and his granddaughter at the other.

I asked him how he managed the drive. Did he book a hotel room ahead of time and stop there overnight or did he drive until he was tired and then get a hotel room? He looked at me like I had suddenly grown a second head before informing me that they drove until he was tired, then pulled over for about a 10-minute power nap, and then they continued on their way.

Jim was my friend and I will miss him.

Ride Manager's Forum: Hunting for Bigfoot: 100 mile mentoring

by Marcia Weilbach, Sudi Lenhart, Stagg Newman, Laurie Underwood and Lara Worden

Christo Dinkelmann dreamed of a 100-mile mentor program in the Southeast Region. He and the many volunteers he recruited created the Southeast Endurance Riders Association (SERA) 100-mile mentor program ( and EN, August 2019, page 6).

The Hunting for Big Foot 100-mile ride on October 19, 2019, in Mississippi's DeSoto National Forest, realized Christo's dream in extraordinary fashion, with 21 riders attempting their first 100. A total of 17 riders, including two juniors, completed their first 100 for an awesome 81% completion rate. (By comparison the AERC completion rate in 100s overall is about 60%.)

SERA encouraged and supported new 100-mile riders first through education and social media support. Eight online webinars provided insights and encouragement from experienced riders, veterinarians, farriers and nutrition experts. (All are invited to view those webinars at

Eighteen experienced 100-mile riders provided mentoring expertise during all phases of the program.

The Hunting for Big Foot ride was designed to provide maximum support and encouragement. Co-ride managers Jane Lee and Kim Williams found a great ride camp and carefully organized the ride. Christo served as 100-mile ride coordinator.

Jane designed a trail system that provided excellent footing and straightforward loops, well-suited for riders and horses attempting their first 100. April and Daniel Johnson created "fairy lights" with supplies donated by Kim and the Johnsons. These small LEDs twinkle more visibly than glow sticks, particularly beneficial given the limited daylight in late October.

Tamra Williams, another experienced ride manager, handled all of the forestry permits and sanctioning paperwork, and directly interacted with the forestry staff. Tamra also led in the feeding of all the volunteers.

At the ride briefing, Christo, Kim, Stagg and head vet Ike Nelson offered advice and encouragement. Four AERC board members attended the ride -- Vance Stine as a rider and mentor; Tim Worden, who completed his first 100; veterinarian Bob Marshall and, of course, the ever-present and longest serving AERC board member, Susan Kasemeyer.

Christo found six experienced 100 mile mentors who would ride with the new 100-mile riders. Riders were divided into groups who wanted to ride a similar pace with a mentor riding with each group. The mentors offered encouragement along the way and, even if they themselves did not finish, continued to offer encouragement well into the night hours.

Other experienced 100-mile riders provided support in camp by helping with crewing, checking on horses and offering encouragement. The ride's veterinarians, including Drs. Todd Holbrook and Jacqui Broome, provided encouragement and advice.

The riders proved their toughness. Riders who were terrified of going out alone in the dark, did so. One rider finished despite vomiting off the side of her mount late in the ride. To help her horse who was just starting to develop girth galls, one rider planned to ride bareback the last loop. When her horse starting spooking at the fairy lights, she got off and ran beside her horse for the rest of the last loop.

There was no quit in these riders. To finish is to win and these riders were winners.

In addition to the 17 new riders, there were eight other finishers, including three of the mentors. The leading trio in the ride finished in just under ten hours. Impressively this trio has completed well over 50 100s among them with over an 80% completion rate.

We in the Southeast Region are hopeful that our 17 first-time 100-milers will follow in these riders' footsteps and their horses' hoofprints. The Hunting for Big Foot ride captured the essence of our sport and we congratulate those riders who achieved the goal that drove the founding of AERC -- one horse, one rider, one day, 100 miles.

February 2020 Classified Advertising


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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.