To Finish Is To Win

American Endurance
Ride Conference

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Endurance News -- November 2021

President's Letter
Education Update
AERC International News

President's Letter: Ride swag means happy memories

by Nick Kohut, DVM

Swag. Swag is an interesting word. Look up the definition and you will get a broad range of answers. A curtain hung in a drooping curve, a decorative garland of flowers, money or goods taken by a thief, bold self-assurance of style, low-grade marijuana, and products given away free for promotional purposes.

Is it any wonder that people struggle to learn English as a second language?

For the purpose of this article, I will be using the one referring to free stuff. Think of the acronym, Stuff We All Get. If you have been competing in endurance riding for any length of time you have probably accumulated a fair amount of swag. As a ride veterinarian for almost 30 years, I have amassed a huge amount of swag.

My refrigerator is covered in photographs given to me by ride photographers (90%-plus by Becky Pearman). Various knickknacks and curios can be found scattered throughout the house. At home or up at my cabin, I am attired in ride t-shirts and, in colder weather, ride sweatshirts. Many of you can attest to seeing me at events in polo or button-down ride shirts and various vests and jackets at late-season rides. At times my head will be covered by a ball cap or a knit cap with ride emblems. My western-style hats are adorned with ride organization pins.

Cold beverages are drunk out of glasses or steins and occasionally I even have ride wine glasses. Hot beverages are of course served in ride mugs. Every day at work I have a choice from an assortment of travel mugs and, when flying, various water bottles. Speaking of traveling, I have a multitude of ride bags, satchels and pouches. My luggage has AERC address tags. I cannot really say that any specific ones are necessarily my "favorites" because I enjoy them all.

Each one provides a memory. Some represent rides that have been long gone -- trails and venues that for one reason or another are no longer accessible or are completely non-existent. Some were rides that occurred over many years and others that only happened once.

Others are from current rides and may elicit a progression of memories ranging from endearing to tragic. I can remember seeing children at one of their first events who now show up at rides with children of their own.

Some of the mementoes are from memorial events and bring to mind friends and colleagues who are no longer with us. What joy it brings sometimes to pull something from the bottom of the drawer from an event almost long-forgotten and relive a pleasant memory from your time there.

As one ride season comes to a close, a new one just begins. Now is the perfect time to renew your membership in AERC. Four of our regions have rides already scheduled for early in the season and all have 2022 rides listed on the calendar. You need to participate to add to your collection of swag.

Also, don't forget to start making plans to attend the AERC convention in Reno-Sparks, Nevada in early March.

Education Update: Here's what I've learned in 30-plus years

by Anne George

As a longtime member (#6273) and rider in this grand sport, I think I have learned more about what not to do than what to do. But to try to help out here, and hopefully give back a little to a sport that has given so much to me, I want to focus on ride times and speed. I see a lot of first-time riders asking about how fast should they ride to finish on time. Granted, nobody wants it to happen, but being overtime is not the end of the world. I don't mind taking a nice long 25- or 50-mile trail ride on a new young horse and both of us enjoying the day. During your ride, take the time to check out the scenery, wildlife, beautiful skies. This is a sport, not a job. Have fun!

Check out the back of the pack

You have a lot to learn and your first ride can teach you so much if you don't get in a hurry and lose focus. There are usually some experienced riders at the tail end of the ride -- taking advantage of their wisdom is a good start.

Think about why so many high-mileage old-timers are in the back of the pack. It's not because they can't race, or even win, if they wanted. They are there because finishing the ride is more important than winning to them.

Once you're read all you can about conditioning, feeding and electrolytes, and have a handle on that, you can think about how to pace your horse.

Do your homework on the trail

Pacing remains a mystery to so many new riders. I can only tell you how I learned to pace and find my comfortable finishing time window.

Every new horse is like starting all over again because no two horses are the same. If you are conditioning two horses be sure to recognize their differences and ride accordingly.

You want to be sure of the mileage of your usual training trail with walking wheel, ATV, truck or whatever you have that you can use to get an accurate mileage of a good stretch of trail. You can't figure out your speed or ride time if you don't know the distance. Time your ride, and do the math.

I use an older GPS. Honestly, I don't really know what all it does but it tracks my trails and I can download them onto my laptop to TopoFusion, my map program. You can also download GPS onto GoogleEarth; they both will show aerial pictures of the trail, your speed, elevation, etc. Take a small notepad and pencil while you ride so you can keep track of things. Homework while you condition!

We don't just ride, we also have to focus and think. There is more to homework than just finding time to ride. Learn how fast your horse walks. Almost everybody thinks their horse walks faster that he really does. It's a big shock to think your horse walks 4 or 5 mph and find out he's doodling along at 2.5. We also are usually way off on how far we think we ride, so accuracy in distance and time is critical.

Figure out your horse's walk, trot and canter. In reality, a canter is really almost never needed to finish on time. A nice, easy trot with walking breaks is usually a perfect pace to finish on time without a lot of stress on either of you. That should give you time at the water stops to let him relax a little.

At endurance rides

When you get to your first ride don't be bashful or afraid to ask for help. This is a friendly, helpful sport. Ask! There is no such thing as a dumb question. You might ask the ride manager to ask around for slower, experienced riders who wouldn't mind a tagalong rider. I do recommend you look up previous ride results, times and distances to get the average speed needed to finish. I have studied average ride times in order to help myself to pace better on that longer distance.

How fast to ride to finish? Never fast! Speed kills. Don't ride faster than you condition at home. Take it easy, and relax as much as possible.

Admittedly, I have had terrible luck getting to any finish line on a 100, but I learned good lessons from each failure. Failure and disappointment is a good teacher. I usually don't make the same mistakes twice. (I just keep finding new ones to make.)

It was never pace or preparation that caught me -- it was always due to getting psyched out, not thinking, and some outside issues that hurt us. Don't let yourself scare yourself.

You're already a good rider or you wouldn't be taking this step. As long as you can see other horses not too far up ahead and can stay on the marked trail, you should finish on time. It's really a learning curve. You can ask lots of questions but, just like any new thing in life, actually doing it is the best teacher.

Becoming an endurance rider

When you first start in our sport, it can seem overwhelming: too much to learn, too much to remember. But after a few rides you will start to know these things as second nature. After years of sound horses and great rides, my own good luck kind of got busy with something else. My good old horse got older, my new horse had some injuries, and so did I. (Yeah, I'm un-young.)

But I just got a 3-year-old. She will be my third, or maybe fourth, Decade Team horse. One very common thread among endurance riders: we never give up. We have birthday after birthday, joint replacements, lose horses, go broke or come into money, but we never give up. But we do have to know when to change strategies.

We all have goals and dreams. We accomplish some. Some change and sometimes we set our heart on That One Ride. I have had several "heart rides." And I have accomplished just about all of them, all but one. I have my heart ride; you will have yours.

The motto of our sport is "To Finish Is To Win," but if you don't finish a ride, at least go home with yourself and your horse in one piece, and never give up. Learn from failure. Feed, condition, pace, failure, success, adapt. You will never, ever stop learning.

Now, after almost 40 years in endurance, I know one thing for sure. What we think we know can change. There is always new science, new ideas, new studies and new experiences. Keep abreast of the latest while not falling for every new gimmick.

Start with the horse you have, the tack you are used to, and as you go along you will learn and find a better way. Most of all have fun, don't stress, and don't race. And remember my own personal motto, "There is no crying in endurance."

Anne George (SW Region) has completed 4,280 endurance miles.

AERC International News: The team challenge to do in 2022

by Lynn Kenelly

Do you like a challenge? Is your AERC region the best in the country? Are you ready to be a team player to prove how competitive it is in your region?

Great, because AERC International was listening. We are both proud and excited to offer the AERC International Team Challenge event September 23-25, 2022, in Vinita, Oklahoma, graciously hosted by Gunnar and Alana Frank.

Do you enjoy the numerous challenges of the 75-mile and 100-mile distance? For longtime endurance riders, do you remember how excited you were when you had a horse RoC (Race of Champions) qualified?

Are you a strategic and smart rider who enjoys what I have for years called "coopetition"? Coopetition is roughly known as cooperation among competitors that can increase the benefits to all the riders and teams.

AERC-I has received special sanctioning approval for this event. There will be some minimum qualifications to compete for your region. All mileage qualifications must be met with endurance (50-100 mile) mileage.

75-mile qualifications:

Three years leading up to event:

-- 300 miles for rider

-- 300 miles for horse

-- 150 miles must be together as a team

-- Horse must be at least 6 years old at the time of the event.

100-mile qualifications:

Five years leading up to event:

-- 300 endurance miles for horse and rider

-- Two 100-mile rides for rider

-- Two 100-mile rides for horse

-- One 100-mile together as a team

-- Horse must be at least 7 years old at the time of the event.

Our awards will be emphasizing team completions, much like the PanAms, NAETC and ZTEC events. This promises to be a fun and exciting event where you can compete with and against the best teams in the country.

Stay tuned for more information. If you have any questions please reach out to your AERC-I regional representatives (contact information is on page 2) or you are welcome to contact me, Lynn Kenelly,

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.