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Endurance News -- October 2016

President's Letter
Vice President's Message
Classified Advertising

President's Letter: The structure of AERC protests and governance

by Michael Campbell, AERC President

Protest? But . . . but . . .

Most of us just want to go to rides, meet our friends and ride our horses. But, being human, things can go wrong. When disagreements arise at an AERC event, we have rules and procedures to help us resolve our conflicts. These rules and procedures are laid out in our rule book (rule 14) which is revised and distributed to our membership annually.

When something goes wrong at an AERC ride, the individuals involved should first try to resolve their differences, calmly and reasonably, together. If that doesn't work, the next step is the ride manager. RMs have a lot of power and responsibility in AERC. They must know the rules and have good social skills for arbitrating differences. They have the power to refuse entry, dismiss a rider from the ride or disqualify a rider at any point in the competition.

RMs also usually know if an AERC board member is present and can assist in resolving the conflict. So, the problem can get at least two reviews at the ride. Most problems are resolved at this level. If one or more of the individuals is not satisfied with attempts at resolution, they may file a formal protest with AERC, per our rules.

Who can protest? Any AERC member can file a protest (but not day members). The member does not have to be involved in the event leading to the protest. We are all responsible for monitoring our own organization and events. To file a protest, the member must fill out a specific complaint form (see rule 14.2.2), noted as Appendix 14A of the rules, available on the AERC website.

The protest form must be sent with a check for $150 to the AERC office within 30 days of the ride in question. There are rare exceptions -- see rule 14.2.1. The protest must specify the rule violated and should include a specific description of the violation as well as witness statements or other evidence pertaining to the protest.

What happens next? The AERC office transmits the complaint to the Protest and Grievance (P&G) Committee as well as notifying the regional directors of the region in which the ride occurred. The chair of that committee notifies the respondent by mail (and usually e-mail) with copies of the complaint and supporting materials. The respondent has 30 days to provide information in response to the protest. The chair may allow additional information to be filed within the next 30 days at the chair's discretion. The chair may conduct additional investigational activities as necessary. The chair may also recommend non-binding mediation if it seems appropriate.

The P&G Committee must review all submitted materials and come to a decision. The committee impartially considers all evidence submitted as well as the rules and bylaws of AERC. The P&G Committee has 90 days from receipt of the written materials from protestor and respondent to prepare a written decision which is sent to the protestor and respondent by mail. At this point, the matter has been reviewed at least three times.

Why does it take so long? Well, with 30 days to protest plus 30 days to respond plus 90 days for the committee to examine the evidence and arrive at a decision, we're up to five months without any unusual delays. Delays are sometimes necessary for laboratory results and to ensure that each of the parties has the opportunity to examine the evidence and respond.

Why can't they just put the decision and evidence on Facebook? Because, as your mother and/or fifth grade civics teacher should have taught you, that would be disrespectful. We are an organization of rules and procedures that are designed to provide a fair hearing to any member who believes they have a valid protest or response. To publish the decision or evidence apart from those rules would be disrespectful of our rules and procedures, as well as the parties involved.

But what if it's not fair? If either the protestor or respondent believes (not feels) that the decision is incorrect, they may appeal the decision to the AERC Board of Directors. There is a process and form for this as well. There are also time limits for the appeal -- 30 days to appeal and 30 more days for parties to file opposition to the appeal. No new factual information is considered on appeal. This is because it would not be fair for the board to consider different information than what the committee had in deciding whether to overturn the committee's decision. Character references submitted during an appeal are not considered because they do not contain factual evidence of the matter.

Once all the appeal information is collected in the AERC office, it is sent to all members of the board. The board must have the materials at least 15 days before considering the appeal in session. The board reviews the evidence, rules, reasoning of the P&G Committee (the P&G chair may be requested to answer questions by the board) and debates and discusses the matter before voting. The board may also recommend mediation.

The decision of the Board is final.

AERC Board, P&G Committee -- Who are these people and what are they hiding? Members of the AERC Board of Directors are elected by you, the AERC members. They volunteer their time and resources to oversee the governance of AERC. This comes to several hours per week. They meet monthly by teleconference to do the business of AERC. They meet twice per year in face-to-face meetings, the expenses of which are only partially reimbursed by AERC. They are average people, just like you, with no hidden agenda. There is nothing to hide.

The board's meetings are not closed and neither is the rationale of any board decisions. Our rules and procedures ensure that evidence is considered in open meetings and published in Endurance News. If you have questions before the results of an appeal are published or at any point in this process, contact one of your regional directors -- or ask the protestor or respondent about any evidence. The timetables ensure that both protestor and respondent have all evidence considered.

The chair of the P&G Committee is appointed by the President of AERC with the approval of the board as are all AERC committee chairs. The chair of this committee is usually a lawyer with experience in litigation and mediation of disputes.

Committee chairs may select their own committee members. When they do this, they are usually focused on who will help get the work of the committee accomplished -- no slackers allowed.

The P&G Committee has one of the most difficult jobs in AERC. They evaluate several protests per year. They deserve the respect and appreciation for their sacrifice of time and effort on our behalf. In recent years, most protests involve matters of simple courtesy.

So, what's the bottom line? We have a protest and grievance procedure that works. Upon appeal, the matter has been considered by more than 30 people over at least a six-month period of time. The board and committee members spend hours upon hours reviewing and debating all available evidence.Appeals are voted on in open session, which any AERC member to attend.

The goal of the board and committee is to make sure that every AERC member can be sure of receiving the same fair consideration as every other member -- whether you ride top ten or back of the pack, whether you're a newbie or an old hand, whether you know someone or not. Everyone in AERC can expect equal treatment.

Vice President's Message: De-mystifying the 100

by Lisa Schneider

Many people have on their bucket list the goal of completing a 100-mile endurance ride; however, many people don't – or have already done it and don't see any reason to do it again.

For those who are still looking for the ultimate challenge in our sport, the goal of this article is to motivate you via the advice of some longtime riders who have done many 100-mile rides and some riders who recently attempted their first or second 100-mile rides.

Speaking with several people who want to try a 100-mile ride, when asked what concerns them the most, the top three most common answers were:

1. horse and/or rider not being adequately prepared

2. getting too tired

3. riding in the dark.

Advice from the experts

There are many AERC members who have a wealth of knowledge regarding our sport's biggest challenge. Let's check in with some of these experts to see how they handled these issues in their ongoing quest to ride more 100 mile rides.

Melissa Ribley, DVM, has completed 52 100-mile rides out of 58 attempts (90% completion rate) and her husband, Robert Ribley, has completed 95 100-mile rides out of 112 attempts (85% completion rate). I asked them what they find most challenging about participating in 100-mile rides and how they overcame those issues. We'd say there are two main thoughts that come to mind:

Preparing a horse for a 100-mile ride is not a short-term process with immediate results and rewards. It takes over a couple of years of conditioning and participating in 50-mile rides to get a horse fit for a 100. So the gratification of completing a 100 is not immediate, but the rewards and satisfaction of completing a 100 is beyond what is difficult to imagine more than worth the time and dedication.

One will invariably, during the course of riding 100 miles, experience periods of discomfort and fatigue and you will wonder why you ever decided to put yourself and your horse through this. However, within a couple of weeks of experiencing the glory of crossing the finish line of a 100-mile ride, you will forget all about these thoughts and will be planning your next 100.

Krista Weigel completed Tevis on her first attempt this year, and has some very useful suggestions to use multi-days to condition yourself and your horse for riding 100-mile rides. If you don't think a 100 miler is possible for you, think about doing multi-days as a way of getting used to the time in the saddle, the heat and the accompanying fatigue.

Looking back on my first 100, I was pretty clueless about what I was about to embark on and ignorance was bliss in my case. What I mean by that is I was ready to take it on without reservation, because I had no preconceived notions, good or bad. I was riding a horse that I didn't own, so all I did basically was show up and ride, so was spared all the usual preparation duties leading up to the ride. I really did nothing to prepare myself physically, which is probably the only thing I would do differently, if I knew what I know now. I was a little tired and a little sore for a few days after.

I had not done many multi-days or back-to-back rides before that first 100, because at the time my work/family commitments wouldn't allow it. But I know now that riding multi-days, and doing a lot of them, is the best way to prepare yourself for 100s.

I never had a fear of riding in the dark, but I know for many people this is a big obstacle. I actually looked forward to the chance. I had never done it or had even the opportunity. It sounded so romantic to me . . . riding in the moonlight! Riding my first 100 in the darkness did not disappoint me. I loved it!

For those who have a fear, I would have to ask why? If you've never tried it, what would be the reason to be afraid? I'd much rather be on the back of a horse in complete darkness than be alone. Your horse can see so much better than you can, and has heightened senses that you lack. All you have to do is trust him/her. If you have that trust, there is nothing, absolutely nothing, to fear. Riding in the dark is a magical experience!

The major difference in how I handled my second 100 physically was the amount of multi-days I had under my belt. I had done many three-day, four-day and five-day rides, riding all the days, leading up to my second 100, the Tevis Cup. What a difference that made.

I rode a more technically and grueling trail, and more hours in the saddle, but I didn't so much as have a scratch or a bruise. I felt fantastic after that victory lap. I jumped out of the saddle and trotted out my horse with ease. I never felt better. I waited for the sore muscles to appear in the next few days, but they never did. I think the sleep deprivation was the only thing I had to overcome once I got home. I certainly wasn't going to sleep at Auburn and take the chance that I would miss out on anything!

Since I live in Arizona, heat training was unnecessary in my case. I ride in 100+ degree temps regularly and the heat in the Tevis canyons turned out to be cooler than what I'm used to, believe it or not. I did do some aerobic and weight training for about three months leading up to Tevis, but I really believe that the multi-day competitions prepared me better than the time spent in the gym.

I think the best advice for the first-time 100 riders that I could give is to know yourself and know your horse. Test everything you plan to do in advance, and that includes foods, drinks, gear, tack, feed, etc. Find out what works and don't change it. Ride as many multi-days as you can the season leading up to your first attempt. If you can do four- or five-day 50s back to back, you will have the muscle strength and muscle memory you need to accomplish your goal. Get it done and go for it! And be forewarned, 100s (especially the Tevis Cup) can be addicting! Good luck! Jenni Smith, who has five top ten Tevis completions, on riding in the dark:

I get that people are afraid of the dark. They shouldn't be. Horses have excellent night vision and can see at night as well as we see in full daylight. One of the best parts of Tevis for me is riding down trail I cannot see (my night vision is terrible after Lasix), trusting my horse and enjoying the amusement park thrill of unexpected turns and dips.

I actually wish we could disallow anything but emergency lighting, but I realize that glow sticks provide reassurance to the humans. I have seen horses wearing glow sticks striking out wildly with their front feet trying to find the trail -- that convinced me to always go in the dark. . . . Educate riders so that at least if they choose to ride with a headlamp/flashlight they understand that they are wearing it for their own comfort, not for the horse's. Barbara White, who holds the record for the most Tevis Cup completions (34):

This is a 24-hour trail ride and a lot of the Tevis magic happens at night. . . . Wendell [Robie] described this as a pioneering day experience, and we all got through just fine before there were glow sticks. Unlike bicycles, the horses can see pretty well in the dark. I think all of those lights really detract from the experience. In the last few years, I have had the traditional three glow sticks on the breast collar, and a flashlight that I turned on once for a rattler in the trail.

A note about proper head lamp etiquette: Horses can spook when a head lamp illuminates them from the rear. The shadows look like horse-eating monsters which can cause serious accidents, so when approaching other riders without headlamps, turn off your head lamp and ask to pass when it's safe. After passing, wait a few strides before turning on your head lamp.

Sometimes you just need to get out there and try something new. A new challenge, such as trying a 100-mile ride, can be a lofty and worthwhile goal. If you have concerns about whether you or your horse can do it, make a point of talking to people who have done several 100-milers and ask them how they went about overcoming the issues you are facing. My parents rode the Tevis Cup long before there were water bottle holders, glow sticks, or commercially available electrolytes. It boggles my mind how they and their horses accomplished this, but they did it with happy, healthy horses.

I leave you with words of wisdom from the Ribleys: "Extending yourself out of your comfort zone, and realizing that you can do this and successfully survive, gives you such confidence in every other part of your life. When you have the memory in your mind that you managed to complete a 100-mile ride on horseback in one day, you can handle just about anything that life throws your way." Happy trails!

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