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Endurance News -- September 2016

President's Letter
Vice President's Message
Junior/Young Rider News
Classified Advertising

President's Letter: Bits and pieces

by Michael Campbell, AERC President

The long, hot summer is rolling past. Hopefully, you have your winter hay in the barn. Now you can look forward to an exciting fall season of endurance riding.

National Championships. This month, AERC proudly sponsors our National Championships at Antelope Island just west of Salt Lake City, Utah. The 50-mile ride will be September 8 and the 100-mile ride will be September 10, with a 25-mile open ride on the 9th. Antelope Island had some fire damage earlier in the summer, but the trails are in great shape and ride manager Jeff Stuart promises a beautiful venue with all the trimmings.

If you haven't been to a National Championship ride, this is the one to choose for your first. If you've been before, you won't want to miss this one. I hope to see you there. Come on over for a late summer vacation. You can ride, volunteer or just root for the competitors.

Directors-at-Large. Also this fall, AERC will have elections for Directors-at-Large. Your AERC Board of Directors consists of two members elected from each region (nine regions) in odd-numbered years. In even-numbered years, we elect eight Directors-at-Large from anywhere in the country.

If you would like to serve AERC or know someone with good judgment who would be willing to volunteer for service to our sport, send the names to the office by the end of September. AERC needs board members who care about the sport and are willing to work for free.

2017 Convention. This is a good time to start thinking about attending next year's AERC convention to be held just outside Dallas, Texas, at a beautiful hotel resort with all sorts of amenities. The Texas Endurance Riders Association and Ozark Country Endurance Riders have worked closely with the office to plan this event and it promises to be our best convention yet. Dallas is an excellent travel hub in the middle of everything so eastern and western riders can meet in the middle.

Membership update. AERC membership is holding steady at around 5,000 members. The fact is, there are not a lot of people with the grit and perseverance that it takes to do this sport. We are a pretty unique bunch. But, if you know someone that you think has that kind of courage and determination to ride with us, invite them to come to a ride and join our family. They might just be our kind of people -- rare, but tough.

Midyear meeting. By the time you read this, the AERC Board of Directors will have had their midyear meeting (in Dallas at the convention venue). I expect we will hear a positive financial report from Treasurer Mollie Krumlaw-Smith. Mollie keeps us all on a tight financial leash, but this works for the benefit of all of AERC.

I also expect to hear a report from Trails and Land Management Chair Monica Chapman and Directors Dr. Duane Barnett and Dr. Nick Kohut about their attendance at the American Horse Council in Washington, D.C. last spring. They serve AERC by sitting on AHC committees that are relevant to our sport and ensure that our interests are protected in the nation's capital. (See their reports in this month's Trails Post.)

Watch the next EN for a midyear meeting wrap-up.

U.S.-Australia endurance exchange. In case you haven't heard, AERC has been participating with AERA (Australian Endurance Riders Association) in an exchange program for young riders for the past two years. Director Connie Caudill has been a prime mover in this successful effort to bring our two organizations closer through our youth.

I hope this will be a continuing effort that we can all support for the future of endurance riding around the world. (Don't miss the two stories about the exchange on pages 17-24.)

Finally: volunteers. We are a volunteer organization. Most of us just want to ride our horses with our friends. But, behind the scenes, a small army of volunteers makes that possible. Of course, we are all at least marginally aware of volunteers at the rides we attend. AERC needs volunteers on a national level, too. AERC has 20 committees that work to make our rides and our organization possible.

Look over the list of committees -- it's on pages 2 and 3 of your Endurance News. These committees work hard to make our organization run smoothly and with integrity. To paraphrase President John F. Kennedy, ask not what AERC can do for you, but what you can do for AERC.

Vice President's Message: Starting over again

by Lisa Schneider

What happens when your experienced endurance horse is getting up in years and it's time to slow down, ride him less frequently, ride shorter distances, or retire him altogether from endurance?

Facing this situation recently caused me to realize several things. First, my old campaigners know their jobs really, really well. I don't have to focus very much on areas like their eating and drinking because they do it naturally and clearly understand what's going on. They know they will be on the trail for many hours and take good care of themselves. I still pay attention to the details, but I don't have to worry quite as much because they know the program. Second, it is very difficult to find a sound horse that has what it takes to do this sport, especially when you're on a budget.

So I began The Search for a new horse. It had been many years since I last looked for a good prospect or an endurance horse already going down the trail, but I wasn't prepared for how difficult the search would be. Starting with some basic criteria and a lot of help from knowledgeable friends, I developed a list of requirements that included items like conformation, attitude, impulsion, surefootedness, and the intangible feeling of how well the horse and I "click."

There are many horses that are very successful in endurance for a long time even though they lack perfect conformation. Watch the best condition judging at any high-profile 100-mile ride and you will see an amazing number of horses with less-than-ideal conformation, yet they look awesome after completing a tough 100. One of the most important things to me is a horse's attitude. This is part of having a good mind. I've had horses that want to see what's around the next bend in the trail and I've also had horses that are much happier staying in the arena. I worked with one mare for several years to get her to be more forward, but she just didn't want to do it.

Her two brothers were happiest out on the trail and loved to work while she wanted to stay in the arena going in circles. In her case, it was best to find her a different job because endurance clearly wasn't for her. She had been trying to tell me with her attitude, but I hadn't considered her lack of impulsion to be anything other than laziness. Now I look for a horse with good impulsion who loves to work.

Finding a surefooted horse can also be very challenging. There are several factors that go into surefootedness, such as conformation, proper hoof care, living conditions and the horse's and rider's experience. I bought one horse from a show barn who was brought up in a stall and only ridden in a manicured arena. Another horse was brought up in a 10-acre pasture with lots of natural obstacles including a creek, hills, lots of rocks and fallen trees. Guess which one was more surefooted?

Although this is just a two-horse sample, it has been my experience that the horses living as naturally as possible tend to be more surefooted. On the other hand, one horse from a show barn had been trained in first and second level dressage, and he turned out to be very surefooted even many years after he stopped doing dressage.

How you get along with the horse is critical. We've all heard of horses who dislike their rider and vice versa. They just don't seem to get along and unless something drastic changes, they probably never will. Finding a "good fit" between horse and rider is essential. It's an intangible thing that is very hard to quantify, but you know it when you feel in sync with the horse.

Beating the bushes

So now that you know what you want, how do you find it? You can check the sale websites, Facebook pages, magazine ads, and view YouTube videos. Some people put a post on Facebook and within a couple of days (or even hours), they have several prospects. Others put ads at local tack shops, local papers or on Craigslist.

But how much advertising is too much? Revealing your budget up front might not get you the best price and you might be inundated with hundreds of responses from people who just want to get rid of their crazy horse or their lame oldster "who loves to run all day," amazingly for the very price you mentioned in your post. There's a fine line between looking too hard and weeding out mostly unsuitable horses.

Seeing in person vs. video

My search took me far and wide, and eventually to other states. It was often impractical (and very expensive!) to go try out the horse without somehow seeing him first. Observing a horse on video is the next best thing and you can often rule out unsuitable horses without leaving home or spending any money.

It never ceases to amaze me how people can make a video that does everything except show off their horse well, so I ended up writing up a video checklist that I give to horse sellers. This way I can see what I need to before making any further commitments. It's pretty basic and common-sense -- so here is what I like to see on a video:

Sample video requirements:

  • At liberty (loose in an arena) showing all gaits.
  • With the horse standing still, walk the camera around to get a full body shot of each side, and then zoom in on each leg. Also video from the front and the rear so the leg alignment can be seen.
  • A close-up of each foot.
  • Lead the horse at a walk directly away from the camera for about 25 feet, and then back, taking care not to have the handler in the way. Repeat at the trot.
  • Lunging: walk, trot and canter both directions.
  • Saddling and bridling.
  • Under saddle: walk, trot and canter both directions.
  • Any comments you can make on the video are welcome, especially about likes/dislikes, things he needs to work on and/or does particularly well, type of shoes/hoof boots, feed program, what you do for him in an endurance ride (electrolytes, vet check feed, etc.).
  • Info about his upbringing: how/when he was started, living environment, shoeing and health records, including vaccination/worming program.

Pre-purchase vet check

To do or not, and how extensive? You've found a good prospect, now you need to make sure he's sound, healthy and suitable for endurance. A basic pre-purchase vet exam runs about $350 to $500 in my area, and additional things like blood work, radiographs, and ultrasounds can push the price to well over $1,000. Some people don't do a pre-purchase vet exam if the horse recently completed an endurance ride or if the purchase price is close to or is less than an extensive vet exam.

The few times I skipped the pre-purchase exam, I regretted it every time because some health or soundness issue came up. Several horses failed the vet exam; many times this was a surprise to me because either the horse had recently completed a 50-mile ride or seemed fine on a short test ride.

This experience has taught me to always do at least a basic pre-purchase veterinary exam and I often do radiographs and blood work. These are to establish baselines for nutritional supplementation and to help me design an initial conditioning program.


He passed the vet exam, now to get him home. If you can't do it yourself, finding a good transporter is best done by word of mouth. I always check out transporters to find someone I know who has used that company before. I've had really good luck doing it this way and have transported horses more than 1,000 miles several times.

Expectations of your new horse

It's hard to remember that the new guy isn't the old campaigner and doesn't know the program as well, or even at all. Things like mountain bikes, runners or trash trucks can get you in trouble and you can't assume the new guy will handle it as well as the old guy.

My new horse was terrified of mountain bikes, so I stopped some friendly bikers and asked them if it was OK for my horse to check out their bikes. They were so great about it and I gave them a treat to feed my horse -- problem solved.

Then there's finding an appropriate saddle and bridle -- that's a whole issue in and of itself! There are many experts who handle this subject well so I'm not going to go into it here.

When doing his first few endurance rides, I will start him in the back of the pack and take it extra slow to ease him into it. Learning to eat and drink on trail is so critical to the success of an endurance horse that we will take as long as he needs to acquire these skills. Patience is the name of the game!

Finding and then starting over with a new horse can be challenging but very rewarding. It's very exciting to see the potential in a youngster and bring him along your way. It gives you a chance to fix mistakes made with prior horses and try new things that you learned during your journey. Happy trails!

Junior/Young Rider News: Helping our young riders get involved

by Steph Teeter

This year I started taking my grandsons to "horsey lessons." They're learning to ride and to handle horses. They're only 5 and 8, so it's a little too early to tell if they'll take up endurance riding! They're taking lessons from a delightful and talented young woman, whose entire family does horses, so I figure having the lessons as well as exposure to kids their own age who ride and train and love horses too will be the best possible path to a happy horse-riding youth.

This family has lots of kids, ponies, and horses, and they've had a lot of fun doing endurance riding when they can. But one thing that I've seen with this family, as well as others in the past, is that the desire is there, and they have capable horses and ponies, but the expense is a major limiting factor.

The kids will bring cookies and caramel corn and all sorts of baked goods to sell and try to raise money to cover expenses, but cost is still the biggest hurdle to engaging youth in this sport.

In the past we've offered half-price entries to juniors at our rides. That helps. This year we went a little farther and let juniors ride for free. It costs ride management some extra dollars, in AERC and land use fees and the price of awards, but I still think it's the right thing to do.

Maybe we'll ask for donations to help cover the costs. All us "old folks" need to make sure our sport carries on!

Something for all you riders and ride managers to think about. Would you be willing to contribute to a junior/young rider fund at your ride? If so, maybe ride managers can use that in their ride flyers to draw in more youth -- and give the kids more opportunity to experience our sport and carry on the family tradition!

And in case you're not aware, there is now an AERC Junior and Young Rider Facebook page -- check it out and spread the joy!  n

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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.