To Finish Is To Win

American Endurance
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Endurance News -- September 2020

President's Letter
Vice President's Letter
Ride Managers' Forum
Classified Advertising

President's Letter: Riding reality has changed in 2020

by Nick Kohut, DVM

If this had been a normal year, I would have worked a dozen rides by now. Instead, I've worked three and there is only a slight chance for more this ride season. For those of you who haven't had the chance yet to participate at a ride this season, let me share my insights from those three that I've attended. Each ride management team put a lot of thought and effort into their Covid response plan. All of the rides limited entries so that social distancing could be more easily practiced. One of the rides had someone checking temperatures on incoming riders and another tried, but the thermometer failed to work accurately. The only ride that had a riders meeting used a wireless mike with a PA system. Riders gathered at a socially acceptable distance or stayed at their trailer to listen. The others sent out written ride briefings. One issue with this method is in making sure everyone is aware of any last-minute changes such as trail rerouting, start times, etc. All of the rides required those coming into the vetting area to wear a face mask. The riders did an exceptionally good job of wearing their masks or using a face shield. One of the rides had an away vet check and I observed a number of riders putting their masks on as they came off of the trail and up to the in-timer. At one of the rides, as the heat and humidity became oppressive, the vet staff tended to forego the masks but avoided close contact. All of the rides allowed the riders to remove their masks during the trot-out. None of the rides had the riders carry their rider cards. The ride with the away check had two sets of cards. The ones used for the initial vet-in were transported to the away check and another card was kept at the finish. Needless to say, this did require more work by the volunteers. As riders came in, went up to pulse, and went back out on trail, volunteers at the timing tents not only had to keep track of the times, but they also had to sort through the cards to match them with each rider. While this sounds like an arduous task, the volunteers at each of the rides did a fabulous job. Hopefully, everyone remembered to thank all of the volunteers. Two of the actual rides were quite different from previous years since they had to reschedule from the spring to the summer. Not only were temperatures more of an issue, but the increased foliage made the trails appear quite different. To deal with the heat, all of the rides adjusted the start times to avoid as much as possible having horses on the trail during the hottest part of the day. At one of the rides, horses were required to have their pulses retaken prior to leaving each of the holds with a 60 bpm pulse needed to go back on trail. There were no meals or award presentations. One ride provided food for the riders at the away hold and two of the rides fed the volunteers. One ride had a food truck where meals could be purchased all day long. Other than what I have mentioned, the rides appeared to run as normal. In many ways this was a good thing, but I fear it could also have been a bad thing. I noticed that once outside of the vetting area, many of the riders and crew no longer kept their masks on, nor were they all maintaining social distancing. We all continue to hear of increased Covid cases occurring around the country. Outbreaks have been traced back to gatherings where social guidelines were ignored. A number of locations are re-imposing restrictions on travel and gatherings. Riders already had to forego coming to the rides due to quarantine requirements by either their home state or the one in which the ride was held. We all need to continue to do our part to help bring this pandemic under control and, by doing so, to ensure that we can continue to have rides and enjoy our sport.

Vice President's Letter: Avoiding fear of the new: neophobia

by Michael Campbell

Many thousands of years ago, your ancestors gather in a small family group or clan near an oasis, relaxing. Then someone spots a stranger approaching on the distant horizon. Anxiety in the group rises. Is it a male or female? Young or old? Tall or short? A threat or not? To social prey groups, anything new might be a threat and must be avoided if possible. Neophobia: literally, fear of the new. A normal feeling of caution about new things or changes in our environment. Defense mechanisms are avoidance or aggressive defense. For AERC to survive and thrive, we need new members. AERC needs new blood to grow into the future; new members with the enthusiasm and fortitude to energize and lead endurance riding into the future; new riders who are willing to learn about our sport and the care of horses. They are the strangers on the horizon. But when you go to a ride and see a stranger, your first reaction is neophobia; your defense is avoidance. Think back to your first ride. How did you wind up at an endurance ride? Maybe you went with a friend or heard about the sport and were just curious. Who were some of the first people you met there? What made that first person memorable? What kept you coming back? We humans, like our horses, are a social prey species. We need social contact. Some part of your motivation for going to that first endurance ride had to do with a desire for contact with others of a like mind; with similar interests in horses. And someone you met encouraged and supported that interest; reassured you. But (there's always a "but"), like our horses, we are subject to neophobia, fear of the new. One day, toss your jacket across the fence while you're out working. It will be some time before a horse comes near that jacket. Almost any new stimulus and your horse will be cautious until he learns that it's safe. It's a smart thing to do because there are more things out there that can hurt than help. Like our horses, we tend to be neophobic, too. We're cautious about new situations until we know how they work and what to expect. What does this mean for a new rider coming to his/her first endurance ride? The new rider sees lots of folks who all seem to know what they are doing. The new rider may not be sure where to park or how to set up pens and a campsite. He/she isn't sure where to go for registration. He/she sees different kinds of tack and other gear. They're not sure what a loop is or how fast is appropriate. The new rider must learn a new language: hold time, P&R, vet check, out time, vet card, etc. The new rider must learn a new culture with ride meetings and trail courtesy. Experienced endurance riders know how to pass on trail or when it's okay to leave a water trough or how to wait for the gate to be closed and the rider mounted before moving on. We all had to learn what is acceptable in this new culture. At that first ride, someone probably encouraged and supported you in some small way that helped you understand that you had accomplished and learned something. At your second ride, you were much more confident. As you continued, you completed more rides and learned more about the endurance culture. Your neophobia began to fade and you began to fit in. You met more like-minded riders and you adapted to the new culture. Chances are that someone, early on in your endurance career, helped and encouraged you in small ways. That person didn't comment on your heavy western saddle but explained how the start would work or how to present your horse to the veterinarian. No criticism, only support in these early stages, when the new rider is overcoming neophobia. When you get a new horse or train a horse to load into a trailer, you encourage the horse to take a step toward the trailer. When the horse resists, you correct and encourage. You help your horse overcome neophobia just as many people have helped you through your life. To the experienced AERC member: All the new rider needs is a smile and reassurance to overcome neophobia. You can reassure a new rider by noticing first what he/she is doing right by acknowledging the nice horse, trailer, how well they handle the anxious horse, etc. The most charming thing you can do for a newbie is ask them a question and let them talk. The unconscious thought is: "If you're smart enough to be interested in me, then you must be pretty smart." In the Central Region, we usually have a new rider briefing after the ride meeting. It's a good opportunity to meet and support the new folks. When you see that green ribbon on a horse, slow down and ask how the ride is going. Wear a purple ribbon or bandana to let new riders know that you're available for questions. To the new rider/member: Smile and ask questions. The act of smiling reduces anxiety and endurance riders love to talk about their sport. They will automatically assume that if you are smart enough to ask questions, you must be pretty smart. Let the ride manager know that you are new and ask who might have time to be helpful. Attend the new rider briefing. In Texas, Dr. Gail Conway usually conducts these meetings and is always helpful and reassuring. Tie a green ribbon in your horse's tail to let the vets and potentially helpful riders know that you are new and open to assistance. Neophobia is elemental in all social anxiety or social conflict -- political, religious, racial, gender, etc. In the American Endurance Ride Conference, we can reduce social anxiety for our new members, who will one day be our leaders, with a smile and support. It's kinda like your first day at school, first day on the job, first date or . . . well, first anything.

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.