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Endurance News -- June 2020


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


President's Letter: Navigating the road to AERC recovery

by Monica Chapman

Covid-19: the dreaded word we are all sick of hearing. It's the beginning of May 2020 as I write this. I'm hoping by the time you read this there will be positive changes happening.

The AERC Board of Directors is working diligently, trying to navigate this previously unimaginable situation. Right now, in early May, the ride season is on hold. The BOD is preparing to approve guidelines from our Covid-19 group for riders, ride managers and veterinarians to keep everyone as safe as possible while at rides. The BOD is also busy trying to figure out a way to open the ride season while following all local, state and federal laws. [Note: see update, page 3.]

I'm sure many of you have heard through friends, Facebook, listening to a BOD conference call or talking to your directors that insurance has been a key issue in the closing and reopening of the ride calendar. That is true. For those of you that have not heard about the insurance issue I will try to explain the best I can.

All AERC rides are provided ride liability insurance. Ride liability insurance is required by most land owners (it's mandatory in public lands). It is also a necessity for ride managers and their volunteers. The insurance provides all the land owners, ride managers and volunteers, plus AERC, a legal defense and pays insurable claims in case of a lawsuit. Legal defense and claims can be very pricey even if your side wins or settles a case for a small amount.

What is at issue in regard to AERC ride liability insurance is that most if not all insurance policies have a statutory breach exclusion. A statutory breach exclusion may say, "Any breach of statute, regulation, or ordinance, whether federal, state, or local. This exclusion will include any breach by you or anyone acting on your behalf." (This is example of generic language.) In a nutshell, what this means in regard to the Covid-19 pandemic is that if AERC sanctions a ride while a moratorium is in effect at the local, state or federal level, the insurance company will not have to pay a claim.

A moratorium during the Covid-19 pandemic could be a stay-at-home order, an order that bans social gatherings of more than 10 people, or out-of-state travel restrictions. If an AERC event is held while a moratorium is in effect, that makes the ride an illegal event.

Yes, AERC has insurance. We have through the entire pandemic.

What the AERC BOD is trying to avoid is a ride happening in a location where a moratorium is in place. If there would be an accident (for example, some horses get loose and cause property damage) and a claim is made, the insurance company has the right to deny the claim because we held a competition during a moratorium.

The most vexing part of this whole process is hunting for all the moratoriums. Some states are very good at having their whole Covid-19 plan front and center on their websites. In other states, you can spend hours digging through their health agency website, outdoor recreation website, governor's website, and the state website, and you still can't find when their stay-at-home order ends.

To paraphrase what a lawyer on the AERC BOD said on our conference call in April, "I'm a lawyer trained to find this kind of stuff and I even had a difficult time tracking it all down."

Once the moratoriums are found at the state level then one must look to the local counties. If a ride is on land that traverses both public and private land, different and sometimes conflicting orders may be in effect.

And this doesn't take into account varying rules for those who could be traveling from one county or state to another to ride. The AERC BOD will be working to find a practical solutions to get the ride calendar back on track. We are working hard to find a safe solution for the organization. It's just not as simple as it may appear at first glance.



Vice President's Letter: Reflecting on the movies that moved you

by Nick Kohut, DVM

While trying to decide on a topic for this month's column, I was inspired by two recent occurrences in my life. One was passing a homemade sign posted in someone's yard that stated, "If you can't make money, make memories."

The other was a true "Plugger" moment. I had a fourth-year veterinary student in my truck, and we were discussing horses in cinema. It was at that point that he informed me that he had no idea who the Lone Ranger was, let alone Silver. My amazingly awesome rendition of the William Tell Overture did nothing to help trigger any repressed memories. Realize it has only been seven years since Johnny Depp appeared on the silver screen as Tonto.

Remember the horse movies that moved you? Who wasn't enthralled when Jim Craig cracked that whip as he plunged full-speed down the side of the mountain? How many tears were shed when Joey and Albert were reunited? Sure, there was plenty of theatrical license, but didn't your heart speed up as John Hopkins outraced the sandstorm?

Sorry but either age or gender bias kept me from appreciating any of the classics like Black Beauty, The Black Stallion, or National Velvet. Which ones inspired you?

Did you dream of riding the prairies on Dollor like the Duke? Performing tricks with your pal Trigger? Coming from behind to win the big race on Seabiscuit? Bonding and healing with Pilgrim? Or just having a friend like Flicka?

Do you remember who was with you when you watched these movies? A big group of your riding buddies in the theater? A family movie night in the living room? Snuggling with your significant other on the couch? Or just chilling by yourself with a bag of microwave popcorn?

We've come through a very rough time. Everything has been in an upheaval. The future is still cloudy. However, always remember, "Life brings tears, smiles, and memories. The tears dry, the smiles fade, but the memories last forever."

Reminder: Only two months remaining to get your nominations in to the office for the AERC annual awards. Search those memories for stories to support your nominations, and send them in to the office, or use the online form: AERC.org/2020nomination.



Trails Post: Backbone Trail: SoCal Success

by Alison Farin

While one of Southern California's major trail issues is the loss of open space and therefore, riding trails, this story is about the successful fight to keep one of Southern California's premier trails open and available for all.

The villain in the most recent attempt to destroy the trail was not development, and not even human. The Woolsey Fire in November of 2018 devastated large areas of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, through which the 67-mile Backbone Trail runs.

The Backbone Trail has a history that stretches back to the late 1930s as bits and pieces of the trail came into existence as they were needed to get from one area to another. In the late 1960s encroaching suburbia led a group of people who became the Santa Monica Mountains Trails Council to create the plan for the National Park and the Backbone Trail.

Into the 1980s and '90s, the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy provided the grant money and a man named Ron Webster spearheaded the building of miles and miles of trail, assisted by volunteers who contributed hundreds of thousands of volunteer hours to make the trail what it is today.

The final dedication took place in 1994, and the trail was complete.

The Backbone Trail runs more than 67 miles from Will Rogers State Historic Park in Pacific Palisades through Topanga State Park, to Stunt Ranch in Calabasas, through Malibu Creek State Park to Castro Crest along the ridgeline to Kanan, through Zuma and Trancas Canyons to Circle X Ranch, to Point Mugu State Park.

There are multiple trail heads, so equestrians can enjoy parts of the trail without committing to ride the entire journey. The trail spans Los Angeles and Ventura counties, the City of Los Angeles, Pacific Palisades, Topanga, Calabasas, and Malibu. That's an amazing amount of cooperation from a slew of political entities!

AERC members Lisa Schneider and Nina Bomar rode 40 miles of the trail in 2017, re-creating part of Nina's traverse of the entire 67 miles back in 2014. Nina described it: "A magical journey. Telling stories and talking about experiences is what happens on the trail. . . . There are no boundaries and no judgments, but only a path that will always lead you somewhere."

Access to the Backbone Trail came to an abrupt stop in November of 2018. The Woolsey Fire burned over 96,000 acres from the San Fernando Valley all the way to the ocean, directly through several of the state parks in the Santa Monica Mountains.

Shortly after the firefighters were all gone and the locals were digging out of their own devastation, Santa Monica Mountains Trails Council volunteers were already assessing the damage and beginning the job of restoring the trails. By March 1 of the following year, only about 10 miles of trail still needed repair.

Tasks included clearing trails of hazardous rocks, branches and sticks, and reestablishing trail pads by spreading any slough that fell from the hillsides onto a trail and finding large rocks and dirt to fill deep ruts that cut directly across trails. By midyear, the entire 67 miles of trail was again open for hikers, bikers and equestrians to enjoy.

As we ponder the loss of all our spring and summer rides due to Covid-19 and the fact that we've been trapped inside with nothing to do, as the world is slowly starting to spin again, let's look to the example set by the Santa Monica Mountains Trails Council volunteers.

Get outside, clear some trail, and don't forget to log your trail maintenance hours with AERC!


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.