To Finish Is To Win

American Endurance
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Endurance News -- April 2015


President's Letter
Vice President's Message
Education Update


President's Letter: The Joy of Juniors

by Michael Campbell, AERC President

This is about AERC juniors and some of my memories and observations over the years. They have been amusing and inspiring to me and, I'm sure, frustrating to their parents. But they all have a permanent place in my endurance memories and I never had to raise them. Juniors recognize few limitations in what they can and do achieve.

One of the first juniors that I sponsored was Cameron Holzer, on her mares Jarrah and Fancy, in several rides. I tried to make it fun for her, so we would sing silly songs. Cameron really didn't need the distraction of song to keep her focused on the ride. She was an excellent rider, so in between songs, we talked about ride strategy.

We focused first on consideration for our horses on the trail. We both like to ride fast, but we carefully and purposely chose to slow down on the rocky portions of the trail in the hills of Montell, Texas. Our main strategy was to keep the pressure on our competition by riding our ride plan without deviation or regard for what our competitors were doing.

In Cameron's words, "I have always been horse crazy, but endurance is my calling." (See more from Cameron on page 24.)

Most endurance girls are lifelong horsewomen. Their parents involved them with horses from an early age and they simply focus on the task (ride) before them. Children learn and love whatever they do. With little sense of danger or limit and unyielding belief in their own physical ability, it is often amazing what kids can do athletically that we adults would never consider or survive.

A couple of years ago, I was riding with a group of friends on the first loop of a 50. Just in front of me were Ragan Kelly and her mother Tracy (a longtime friend with whom I rode my first endurance ride). The horses were all excited and Ragan's horse surprised her with a little buck as we rounded a wide curve. Ragan flipped off. She knew her mother would be concerned. But with remarkable agility, Ragan landed on her feet with her arms up like a classic gymnast at the end of a complex routine, shouting, "I'm okay!" She remounted and we all rode on with smiles and chuckles at Ragan's unexpected and athletic dismount. Ragan and her mother went on to finish Tevis that year.

Despite the totally uninhibited joys of childhood, it seems that kids just can't wait to grow up. As they grow into their teen years, sitting at the kids' table or being labeled a "junior" and requiring an adult sponsor is somehow stigmatizing -- especially for the exceptionally talented young riders of endurance.

Liz Russell and her father, Jim, were giving me a ride back to camp from an out check at a large ride when Jim asked me my opinion about giving his permission for Liz (who was an advanced junior) to ride as a senior. Liz was having a good year as a junior but felt hampered by the relatively slower pace that her sponsors rode.

I felt a bit on the spot; I wasn't sure I needed to be in the middle of a family dispute. But I got lucky and said the right thing. I asked Liz if she would rather remember that year as the year she first rode as a senior or as the year she won the Junior National Championship. She didn't respond, but I could tell she was thinking about it.

She went on to win the 50 mile National Championship Junior Division in 2005 at Fort Howes.

She recently told me, "My best advice to junior riders today is to not rush to be unsponsored . . . enjoy it while you can . . . always put your horse first. . . . Be respectful. It's one thing to be competitive, it's another to have an attitude. This goes for your parents, volunteers, ride management, and especially your sponsor."

Our juniors don't really have to learn to endure the hardships of the trail like we, who found endurance as adults, do. It seems normal to them. They just smile and ride on.

In recent years, I have watched Kaitlyn Timmons ride with her mother, Robin. Two years ago, I met them at the AERC National Convention in Reno where Kaitlyn was crowned our Junior National Mileage Champion. After the ceremonies, I helped Kaitlyn collect all the little toy horse favors that the adults had left on their tables. My most vivid memory of Kaitlyn is the smile on her face throughout every ride. The kid doesn't know how to frown. Her smile and attitude are contagious to everyone who sees her.

Riding with her mother, she came into camp late in the evening off the next to last loop of a 100. She was asleep in the saddle. She awoke and realized she was in camp for the vet check and her beaming smile shone through the darkness to all of us waiting there.

The young riders are an inspiration to us all with their dreams, willingness to learn, physical abilities and love and concern for their horses. But mostly, they inspire us with their indefatigable, positive attitude. They won't be stopped by any hardship. That is the spirit of endurance.



Vice President's Message: Riding With Juniors

by Lisa Schneider, AERC Vice President

I grew up in the world of endurance riding. My parents were both into the sport so, of course, my three siblings and I crewed. Mom and Dad took turns riding and, being fairly athletic, we prided ourselves on getting water and food to our horse whenever we could. Sometimes that meant running or hiking with a water bucket for a couple of miles to meet the horse during a long loop and sometimes that meant hiking out from a vet check for a mile or two.

During one very competitive race, my Mom's main competition commented that we were everywhere and he wondered just how many kids my parents had since we kept popping up unexpectedly in the middle of the desert.

As kids, we learned so much by crewing. One early lesson was what happens when you get so wrapped up in the competition that you pass up water. My mom's horse was a very good drinker so my brothers and I ran a few miles out from the vet check to give her horse a drink and help cool him. We offered water to her competitor's horse, but the rider refused, seeing it as an opportunity to get ahead. At the vet check, my mom's horse pulsed down immediately and she was able to leave the vet check with a significant lead.

Starting endurance riding as a junior -- with knowledge gained from crewing and learning from my parents' rides -- gave me insight that probably would have taken a lot longer to learn otherwise.

Back then, we didn't have things like saddle packs or water bottle holders or waist packs. We had strings on the saddle and jacket pockets and that was pretty much it. I learned to take care of myself so I could take better care of my horse. If I was too hungry or thirsty, then I wasn't able to pay attention to my horse, the footing or the trail markings, so it just made sense to be prepared.

So when it came time for my daughter to start riding endurance, she had the benefit of two generations of learning and experience. Did she get cold, hungry, or thirsty? Yes, but she had hot packs, food, and water to counteract that; on conditioning rides she quickly learned how to keep herself hydrated and to snack at the trot. Her favorite "constant grazing" snacks included gummy bears, fun-size Snickers bars, and Jolly Ranchers. These generally lasted well during heat, cold and extended periods of trotting and we bought them in large quantities.

We've ridden as a family for thousands of miles, at every distance, and on multi-days. My daughter did her first 25-mile ride at age 11 and I remember thinking afterwards that her legs looked like Jell-O and it would be a while before she was ready for a 50-miler. One year later she surprised us by doing her first 50 along with another junior who joined us and they both felt terrific.

Having the second junior along was a big plus because it's much more fun for kids to ride along with other kids. I sponsored a friend's 14-year old daughter on her first 50 and she also enjoyed our constant grazing snack strategy and my husband surprised us with matching shirts so we had our own little team.

AERC is focused on juniors and how to bring more of them into the sport. The mentor program is aimed at all ages and all levels of riders. Parents of juniors are encouraged to contact a local mentor from the list on the AERC website (www.AERC.org). There is a wealth of information available for riders just getting started and those who want to move up in distance and/or speed.

Juniors signing up or renewing their membership for the 2015 season will get a specially designed AERC pin which has been created for these endurance athletes. (They will also be available for sale at the AERC convention in early March.)

Juniors and young adults are the future of this sport. If you are ever in a position to help a junior by finding an appropriate horse, conditioning the horse, being a sponsor, or by saying some words of encouragement during a ride, you will be making memories that will last a lifetime.



Education Update: How to Ask for Help

by Aarene Storms

Luke Skywalker had Yoda. Harry Potter had Dumbledore. And I had . . . Trish.

When it comes to starting off on a new, frightening, and life-changing adventure, it’s good to have a mentor. The day I met my own mentor, Trish, she noticed immediately that I had a husband and I needed a horse. She facilitated a swap that, years later, led me to the wonderful world of endurance riding. Her advice and assistance boosted me into a happy equestrian life more than anything else ever has.

One of the questions Green Beans ask most often is, “How do I get started in endurance?” One of the answers they get most often is, “Find yourself a mentor!” But how? How does a brand-new Bean, who doesn’t know anything about the sport or the participants, find a mentor who can offer wise advice and sage counsel, who can push the Bean a bit but not too much, who can strike the right balance between encouragement, cajoling, and nagging?

Here are a few suggestions:

Ask around. If you are an extroverted Bean who enjoys talking to people -- especially strangers! -- you can show up in any ride camp, introduce yourself to ride management, volunteer during ride day, and talk to folks. In the Northwest, we tag self-identified mentors with a green-and-purple tail ribbon. Anybody wearing a mentor ribbon will answer your questions in camp.

While you’re talking, explain your situation: what kind of horse you ride (or hope to ride), the speed you travel in training (or hope to ride), your immediate goals and your long-term goals. Chances are, the people you talk with will offer up some names of other potential mentors. Take notes. If names are mentioned repeatedly, pursue! When you find somebody who seems like a good match, get in touch. See if that person is willing to help you. Most folks will -- and if they aren’t, it’s usually because of circumstances that aren’t related to you.

If your first choice isn’t willing or isn’t available, ask for more recommendations.

Look online. Start with the Find a Mentor tab on the AERC home page. These folks are non-professional AERC members with lots of miles and a willingness to mentor newcomers.

If you prefer to query on a distance riding online forum, do that. Of course, in online forums, anyone can claim to be an expert. Don’t accept statements at face value -- do your research!

Check out the ride record of your potential mentor. The AERC website allows access to more than 20 years of electronic history for participants in the sport. Don’t get too hung up on pulls -- anybody who rides far enough will get pulled sometimes. Instead, focus on the patterns: does the person succeed in the events (or the type of events) you want to ride?

If the potential mentor has an online presence (on Facebook, for example), pay attention to his or her interactions with other riders. Do experienced riders ask that person for advice online? Are the conversations polite, or do they rapidly devolve into firefights?

When in doubt, seek out somebody who is acknowledged by others as worthy. If riders you respect are asking your potential mentor’s opinion online, pay attention!

Paper (and electronic) mentors are good too. For introverts and others who feel shy in the boisterous environment of a ride camp or a Facebook page, it’s okay to seek guidance from non-living sources. Written wisdom will hold still for anybody, and you can consult it at your leisure.

However, don’t rely on “Doctor Google”! Here are some reliable, reputable information sources:

The AERC website hosts peer-vetted articles from all over the USA and Canada on its Education pages. Look there for answers to your questions about preparing for your first ride, care and feeding, recognizing problems, finding an Endurance 101 clinic in your area, and much more.

Articles in Endurance News are good sources of information on topics ranging from trail etiquette to equine first aid.

Search online for articles posted on www.thehorse.com, many of which are written by reputable veterinarians and trainers.

Finally, here are a few books worthy of investigation. Most are currently available via Amazon.com. If you can’t afford to buy them all, ask your local public library to buy or interlibrary loan them on your behalf.

-- America’s Long-Distance Challenge by Karen Baumgarner, Xlibris, 2013.

-- Endurance Riding from Beginning to Winning by Lew Hollander & Patricia Ingraham, Green Mansions Inc., 1989.

-- Go the Distance: the complete resource for endurance horses by Nancy Loving, Trafalgar Square Books, 2006.

-- Complete Guide to Endurance Riding and Competition by Donna Snyder-Smith, Howell Book House, 2008.

-- Endurance 101: a gentle guide to the sport of long-distance riding by Aarene Storms, Triangle Press Communications, 2012.

-- Ten Feet Tall Still: the very personal 70-year odyssey of a woman who still pursues her childhood passion by Julie Suhr, Marinera Press, 2002.

-- Fourth Gear: power up your endurance horse by Dennis Summers, Animal House, 2012.

Aarene Storms of the NW Region is a junior sponsor, Green Bean mentor, and author of Endurance 101: a gentle guide to the sport of long-distance riding (www.Endurance-101.com).




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