Dear AERC – Part 2. The Ideas

The following article is a collaboration from all of us at ESRR.

We at ESRR share our successes and failures.  We love this sport and we want it to grow and improve.  We have been addressing some very controversial topics recently.  There has been good conversation.  The Green Bean Movement is alive and well.  There are a lot of great mentors.   And tons of other goodness.

This post is about ideas.  Here are some of ours.  And we want to hear yours!

  1. Equal enforcement (or non-enforcement) of rules – This one is very polar- some say “yes, I have been there before” and others say “what are you talking about, this never happens.”  This shows that there is no standardization.  If there is no standard enforcement of rules, it looks bad on the organization as a whole.  Example, not every rider in the Group 7 middle east is going to ride til their horse drops dead, but the few bad apples taint how we see their entire region.  The terrain will be different, and the climate, and many other things (we love the variety).  People love and embrace the flexibility that you can do things in a ton of different ways and ride your own ride.  How do we do we keep the variety and still have a sanction mean the same thing across the board? – R & S
  2. Ride Rating System (difficulty)  & feedback form – the beauty of endurance is its done through many different terrains and climates. ESRR tries its best to review rides we attend and share information we think might be relevant for someone considering that ride, but we only get so far. Those who are going to a ride for the first time (no matter how many times they have ridden elsewhere) could benefit from more knowledge.  Better preparation will lead to better completions.  While we don’t have a set formula for this, we want to open up discussion on what you would like to see rated – things like trail surfaces, average temperatures, quantity and type of trail markers, shade in ride camp… hey even the ride meal if you want to go that far.  What do you want to know before deciding to go to a certain ride?  Get creative and tell us in the comments!  Our vision would be that for new rides, this is completed by the ride manager and/or trail master, and as the ride continues, riders can rate the various factors.  How do we do this? Perhaps a sliding scale? Maybe checking all boxes that apply?  Surveys are great, but something that can be public and found in one place (rather than googling the $4!+ out of something).  -S
  3. Ride Review System – The USEA does a great job on this.  Of course the AERC suggests you talk to the ride management.  And says there is already a process in  place (to pay them) to consider your grievances.  Or that you can ‘vote’ by attending or not attending.  But new riders are not likely to speak up.  And few are willing to pay to have their concern heard.  The AERC at the organization level would benefit from event feedback to understand what members like/don’t like and perhaps when there are consistent issues that merit review of event sanctions. -R
  4. Terminology –
    1. Are you an endurance rider even if it’s <50 miles?  While the intent of comments like, ‘it’s ONLY an LD’ may be benign and traditionally ‘endurance distance’ starts at 50 and involves physiological changes to the horse, what’s the real harm in letting everyone in under 50 mile rides be endurance riders too? – R
    2. Race vs ride… why is “race” a dirty word? (PS my boss is more likely to give me the day off if I say I am going to a race).  Do marathoners say they are entering in a run?  Maybe… i have never run one. Anyone want to weigh in on this? – S
  5. Veterinary grading standardization – A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of scribing for and training under some particularly wonderful vets (story to follow).  One thing that I found remarkable was we had a sit down at the start and discussed what would constitute a mark outside of perfect – what EXACTLY is a B skin tent (assign it a value in seconds), how long should we wait for gut sounds before we give them a – or a 0 (and what exactly is the difference between a + and – and 0, or do we even bother with using the 0?), what is going to constitute a re-check?  This was great, it meant that we were judging a little harder on the riders, but it meant that everyone was treated fairly.  This would be great to see across the board – not just setting a standard for a ride, but for every ride.  Continuing education plays a huge role here.  And riders, take judging courses and study under the vets as their scribes so you can learn exactly what they are looking for and know when you are getting a fair shake (also helps to understand that vets DO want to see you complete!) – S
  6. Rider skills development program – having done a lot of publicity for our local club, I first came up with this idea when doing Ride N Tie demos at the Royal Winter Fair – I want to learn to ride, I think I might like RNT/END, where can I learn?  Ugh… huge barrier here.  There is no such thing in our neck of the woods where you can start as an up-down rider with the goal of riding endurance. Whenever this comes up I have to refer them to a hunter or dressage or western barn… and do they ever end up in our sport?  I haven’t heard of one yet… no they get sucked into something else.  So what I would like to develop is a system of levels that can take someone from never touched a horse to first ride (and eventually beyond).  Like what the pony club does.  A list of skills, broken down in a logical path, that we can give to trainers in other disciplines to help them bring along new riders and have them be competent alone on trail and managing their horse.  Eventually, I would like to extend this to the higher levels – work in things like better equitation, presentation, advanced crewing skills.  Things that will take you from competent to great.  So again, please comment away with what you think the skills required to be competent and great are – because I need the collective experience of all AERC to build this.  -S
  7. Trail delegate – someone unbiased to check the trail conditions and marking prior to the ride start.  Basically we would like to see someone representative of AERC on site to ensure that the  it meets the standards/guidelines that AERC sets out, that the marking and/or GPS are correct, and that there are no safety concerns with the course (FEI does this).  We never expect it to be perfect, and no doubt we love a challenge, but some hazards are unnecessary.  Notice a trend here?  You should!  Standards and enforcement, enforcement and standards.  -S
  8. Safety – Two sides to this one –
    • First is that helmets should be mandatory.  No excuses.  We don’t care if the ride is older than AERC and is too old to change.  Its a hot region?  Great, lots of helmets have amazing ventilation these days (and can be used as a bucket to dump water on your head at the troughs and holds!).  No more black velvet hunt caps.  Too itchy or uncomfortable?  Its endurance… endure it.  It’s my decision and only affects me –   Nope, it affects everyone who rides with you and has to clean your carcass off the trail, it affects your family who has to feed you through a tube and change your diapers for the rest of your life, and it affects your horse who may get caught in limbo when you can’t take care of it.  Grow up and buckle up.  – S
    • The other side, paramedics or dedicated first aider on site (not riding or tasked with other jobs).  I recently talked to someone who surveyed riders to see if they would pay an extra $5 to have a paramedic on site for their ride.  The response was overwhelmingly no.  Seriously? Do you know what difference it could make (especially in remote locations) to have a paramedic onsite vs having to wait for them to arrive on scene?  In some cases it could literally be life or death.  We spend a lot of money to be able to compete in this sport, what is an extra $5 really?   I would like to see a rule put in across the board mandating this.  It shouldn’t be a luxury, it should be the new standard. – S
  9. Mandatory Volunteering – in my area many of the small, local saddle clubs and associations are becoming defunct and no longer putting on events because there isn’t enough manpower to go around.  To tackle this, some are requiring that riders volunteer at at least one event in order to be eligible for year end awards, whether it is the rider themselves or someone the rider designates, such as a friend or family member. Not only does this help address the lack of volunteers that many events seem to encounter, it also gives the participant a better idea of how much work goes into making an event happen. – A
  10. Cavalry – Like Old Dominion offers.  “The concept of the cavalry is to mimic the rigors and primitive conditions a lone calvary rider would have faced in crossing the wilds of uninhabited territory far from human intervention. The modern test of a solitary horse and rider is to compete on their own, without help, across 100 miles of natural countryside.”  Perhaps in some areas where there is no grass hay would be part of what is provided.  New riders don’t always have crew.  Maybe it would be good to recognize the extra effort needed.   – R
  11. Outreach – What do we need (besides ponies) to have our events?  Land!  And access to land!  I see cyclists and hikers with more sway to influence policies.  And make trails.  Granted there are WAY more of them…so until there are more of us, can we coordinate with any other horse groups with a common interest?  Foxhunting and Eventing comes to mind.  Maybe we all benefit if we pull together!  This ties into #6.  In the off season, both eventers and foxhunters would benefit from endurance riding!  Let’s invite them! – R

What are your ideas?  What does your favourite ride do?

Even little things like putting your ribbons in bottles to keep the cows from eating them is an idea worth sharing!

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