Education, Rider - Ashley, Uncategorized

You Might Be An Endurance Rider if…

*cover photo courtesy of Wendy Webb photography

Well, I did have the idea to write a humorous “you might be an endurance rider if” article for you, a la Jeff Foxworthy, but the recent issue of the AERC magazine has me changing the tone.

article

I’ve been humming and hawing about whether or not to renew my AERC membership this year as I have been a little disappointed with what views the organization has chosen to support.

When I first discovered this sport, I was in love. It seemed like everyone was so welcoming and we could work at our own pace (which for the most part it is, in my region anyways). I couldn’t tell enough people about endurance/distance riding and how awesome it was. But the more I delve into it, the darker it seems to be.

“We want to encourage new members, but they can’t be top tenning because they must not know enough about conditioning and pacing.”

“We want new people to try out this sport but we have to tell them they aren’t tough enough or not cut out for it because they don’t want to ride 50 miles or they don’t want to ride in the rain.”

I thought this was just the opinion of a few endurance riders but the president’s letter in the recent issue of Endurance News has prompted me to write this.

I thought his letter was going to be a cute little fluff piece, much like my originally planned article was going to be. However, one line in his letter made me do a double take.

“We need to look at the negative signs that a person is not suited to the sport of endurance.”

Why? Why do we need to look at the negative? Why not look at ways of how can we make it fun for new people and make them want to try it. A two hour training ride is going to be a bit much for some people who aren’t used to it. Why not start them out smaller? Once they get their feet wet at an intro 6 mile ride, maybe they’ll be bitten by the bug and want to try an LD, and maybe a 50 miler after that?

Paul Latiolais, you claim that this is a good time to recruit new members but you are pushing many away with your attitude that seems to be shared among many members of your organization.

No, not everyone is going to enjoy distance riding. But that is the beauty of the horse world. There are so many disciplines to choose from. Believe me, I’ve tried almost all of them. But we need to be encouraging people to step out of their comfort zone and at least give it a try rather than putting them down and calling them weak.

It’s not just equestrian sports that is suffering a decline in participation.  This article from CBC looks into why youth enrollment in sports is declining, but it can be applied to why sport enrollment in general has decreased.

The basic gist of the article is that there is too much focus on the elite athletes and not enough support given at the grassroots level. Sure the upper levels of any sport are exciting, but those athletes had to start somewhere. If those athletes didn’t get the support and encouragement they needed, would they have gotten to the level they’re at.

*Personal side note: as a child, I was terrified of animals to the point of being scared to go to the park to play because of squirrels.  Two years ago, I completed my first FEI endurance ride. Without the right support, who knows if I would have even been in the horse industry.*

From the article, “Nearly three quarters of Canadians — 73 per cent — agree, saying that children’s sports have become too focused on winning at the exclusion of fun and fair play, according to the study.”  We see this in the horse industry. Kids (and adults) are pushed to get into showing or competing, they burn out because it’s not fun, and they leave the industry entirely. Would these people still be in the industry today if they were told that they could try new things out and just have fun?

We need to be encouraging people to try out distance riding instead of pushing them away. I can only speak for my region in Ontario as that is the only location I have done distance riding, but the Ontario Competitive Trail Riding Association offers 6 mile “training rides”. It is a fantastic opportunity for people to try the sport.  Anyone, and I mean anyone, can do a 6 mile ride if they ride regularly. I’ve worn my GPS watch in a regular 1 hour dressage lesson and I easily go 3-4 miles in that hour. They even offered a “first ride free” program for the lower distances last year to get people to try it.

One of our ESRR members, Sarah, was at the University of Guelph Equine Symposium this past weeked, where youth engagement and retention in horse sport was discussed.  We can’t wait to hear the results of this conference and will be sharing them with you guys as well.

WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!

I would love to hear what other regions (and other discipline associations) are doing to encourage increased participation in equine sports. Either comment here or on our social media channels with your ideas.  Let’s work together to help keep this industry flourishing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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3 thoughts on “You Might Be An Endurance Rider if…”

  1. I’m recently new to endurance and this will be my 3rd season with 25 rides on my record. I came from USHJA and USEA organizations for Show Jumping and Eventing. I think Endurance is definitely more welcoming than the hunter/jumper world which is an industry driven around money. Eventing is a little bit in between the extremes of USHJA and AERC. Therefore, I think AERC has been the most welcoming sport based upon my previous experience.

    In real life, I honestly don’t see a lot of negativity or mistreatment towards newer riders. I think as a new rider it’s really important to do your research. Where I do see the bullying is online on the AERC Facebook Group. I think the AERC moderators should delete everyone at the end of the membership year and have people ask to join again after they’ve paid for a membership (I think you can still be a member even if you don’t ride). This would weed out all of those people who are sitting around bored waiting to pick on someone. I’m sure there are a lot of people on there that want to be “Google Experts” and maybe did a ride season once in their life.

    My day job is a Physical Education teacher and I’ve been an Athletic Director before. Opinions are being tugged in either direction right now in the world of youth sports where some families believe it’s about having fun, making friends, taking responsibility, and establishing a work ethic. Others, believe it’s a way to earn a scholarship into college and are sometimes pushed beyond enjoyment to meet that goal. I don’t think it’s an organization’s responsibility to cater to either group either way. People and consumers need to decide and research what they are getting themselves into. If a parent is concerned about their child getting hurt than maybe tackle football isn’t something to consider.

    Bottom line, I think AERC generally does a great job welcoming new members. If you are more competitive and ready by all means attempt an FEI ride. If you want to ride more for fun there’s no shame in doing Intros and LDs (The intro rides I’ve witnessed are usually 12-15 miles). I think NATRC is a great stepping stone to Endurance too. We live in a world nowadays that attempts to accommodate people when really people should find things that accommodate them. Don’t like the Ride Managers rules? Don’t do the ride. Plain and simple. The U.S. has become such a demanding society where everyone feels entitled to be treated like a customer. Americans like to point the finger at someone else all the time and we’ve gotten so used to that we neglect to hold ourselves responsible too.

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    1. Thank you for weighing in and providing your perspective as someone in athletics. You mention that in today’s society, everyone feels entitled to be treated like a customer. Businesses create a product or service for customers to buy. What if sports associations ran more like a business and tailored their product/service to what the customer wanted? Do you think sports associations would be in the same declining situation they’re in now?

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  2. I’m relatively new to endurance. I’ve done two LDs, 2 intros and volunteered at 4 events in my region. I’d definitely agree with Ashley that the in person warmth is VASTLY different from the bickering that’s seen on facebook, especially in the winter months when no one is riding as frequently. I don’t think the group should be limited to members only, however, as I’ve been in that facebook group and only just now bit the bullet and paid for an AERC membership as well as a green bean membership.

    I like how welcoming the rides are and the ‘come as you are’ head space. You don’t have to have a fancy endurance saddle, you can use what you’ve got.

    I’m not sure how to engage more ridership. For me it’s money and travel distance. I’m a mom and I work, so my days off are limited and my conditioning time has to work around my family time. I may end up doing 50s, but I’m honestly content at LD. I definitely don’t like that I’m basically poo poo’d as serious because I don’t have dreams of Tevis or OD100. I’d be cool with crewing, but not riding it all at once. I know what my horse is capable of and that’s not it.

    Maybe if there were more endurance clinics in that 6-10 mile range where a ride is mimicked, but with a short distance and only one loop. It would show people what you need at a vet check, and teach them how to pace and help their horse pulse down. I know the PNER runs some but I haven’t seen them here in the Upper Midwest where I’m currently located.

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