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Re: The Posse Ride (From the Ride Manager)

I don't for a moment blame you for the position you have taken with regard
to AERC''s lack of support. It seems that it is easier to point the finger
and assign fault than it is to take a courageous stand and support the ride
managers who are the backbone of our sport. I do not understand why it is so
hard to sanction the two riders who showed such willful disregard for the
safety of others in their mad dash for the finish. Even given that in the
heat of the moment, they erred tragically, it is unfathomable that they
would show such lack of concern for the welfare of the man they injured. I
do not think it is at all too severe to ban them from any future competition
in AERC sanctioned events. There can never be any excuse for placing
competition ahead of the welfare of anyone or any animal. To blame these
rider's actions on the ride manager's inexperience or lack of education is
clearly an inappropriate response from the AERC Board and you have every
right to expect a public recant of such a cynical and unfair response. From
all that I have read regarding this incident, it seems clear to me that this
was a wreck that could only have been avoided by the two riders. They chose
to place their own need to win above the safety of others and therefore
should bear the full responsibility for the ensuing accident. I am hopeful
that you will be granted an apology from AERC and that you will be able to
continue your management of the Posse Ride.
Pat Super

To: <>
Sent: Thursday, April 06, 2000 8:48 PM
Subject: RC: The Posse Ride (From the Ride Manager)

> Jeff Patterson
> Endurance Enthusiasts,
> During the 1999 Posse Ride there was an accident where two riders left the
course ahead of the finish line due to a hazard and ran over a spectator.  I
think everyone knows about it, or at least thinks they do.  Right after it
happened I was swamped with requests to write something on Ridecamp, but did
not feel it was appropriate to do so at that time.  I relied on AERC to
review my incident report and the facts provided and then inform the ride
community.  After reading the April Endurance News, I now feel compelled to
attempt setting the story straight myself.  To date, AERC has not provided
an accurate account of the incident.  In addition, unless it does get
straightend out, there will be no more Posse Ride.
> It has been really hard to set back and listen to all the hearsay and
opinions based only on rummor.  I have heard about every rendition of the
incident possible.  Some are humorous and some scary.  Realizing there is no
way I can cover all the facts using this media, I will attempt to cover only
the most important issues.  I would have love to attach the entire Incident
Report with diagrams, photos, and eyewitness statements, but that is not
> For those who are unfamilar with our camp, it was in a timbered setting at
an old logging camp which had been used for a church camp in most recent
years.  The camp sets in a deep canyon accessed by only one main road.  That
road was used as a common trail accessing most of our loops and the finish
line.  The road was gated off just beyond our camp which restricted any
through traffic.  However, the road was necessary to access the camp.  Every
rider, spectator, and crew member drove into camp on that road.  As well,
every rider left and returned to camp for vet checks on that same road for a
distance of at least 550 feet just about each time they made a loop.  In
addtion, that road was used as a finish line due to an absolute lack of any
other reasonable place to have one.  Of course since the wreck, I have heard
numerous suggestions of other places I could have put the finish line, like
a mile from camp on a one lane trail, or down the road on a blind corner,
etc, etc, etc. !
>  Let me assure you, a lot of effort, consideration, and advise from other
ride managers and vets went into deciding where to put the finish line.  I
just did not count on riders disregarding the fact that we were limited in
where we could put a finish line and refusing to cooperate with the
circumstances.  Other than a less than ideal finish line, our camp was a
beautiful setting with very nice trails, good facilities that everyone raves
about.  We even provided showers and indoor toilets with some RV hookups.
> We set up a very expensive PA system at the finish line for announcements.
As riders approached we announced them and cleared the road.  It actually
was working very well.  Along the road and parallel to the road just before
the finish line were our vet lanes.  We had four vet lanes regulation length
marked out on the ground with white chalk.  The outside line of the first
lane was approximately 10 feet from the edge of the road with the remaining
three lanes adjacent.  At the far end of the vet lanes closest to the finish
line were the vets' stations.
> Along the road before the vet lanes, but on the same side as you approach
the finish, were campers.  Across the road from the vet lanes there were a
couple camps but mostly open.  There were platforms from Army tents on that
side of the road making it difficult to park campers.  The road at that
point in camp was approximately 24 feet wide, not including the shoulder
area along the vet lanes.  To give you an idea how wide that is, it is about
the same as a standard secondary highway.  Upon approaching camp, riders
round a corner, approximately 550 feet from the finish line.  The approach
to the finish line along that road is clearly visable for that distance(or
almost two football fields).
> At about the same time as the three riders who had been riding together
the whole 50 mile distance approached the camp on their last leg, and headed
for the finish, the pastor of the church camp drove in to see how things
were going.  The pastor was driving a small red pickup and had made it about
to the beginning of where the vet lanes started.  The incoming riders made
their decision to race before they rounded the corner from camp.  Therefore,
they were in a dead run as they rounded the corner and approached the last
stretch of road to the finish.  The riders addmitted that they saw the
pickup in the road when they rounded the corner but thought they would just
go around it rather than to slow or abandon the race.  The incoming racers
were reported and announced over the PA but the driver of the pickup
evidently could not hear it and did not see them in his rear view mirror.  I
saw others attempting to wave him off the road but he did not understand.
The riders also addmit!
> ted that they saw a man (James Oury) sitting in a chair at the end of the
vet lanes well off the course, but stated that they thought they could make
it around him rather than chance spooking their horses by going around the
pickup.  Keep in mind that this is a small red Ford Ranger, approximately 5
1/2 feet to 6 feet wide in the middle of a 24 foot road bed.
> As I stood right behind the finsh line and watched the ordeal unfold, I
was in shock as to what I was witnessing.  I could see the three horses
approaching the back of the pickup.  It seemed as though something must have
spooked the horses because they veered to the right of the pickup and raced
right over James Oury who was sitting in the chair.  The first horse ran
around the right side of Oury, furthest into the vet lanes, clear into the
third vet lane.  As Oury jumped up from his chair to escape the first horse,
he moved to his left and was hit dead on by the second horse.  The first
horse was about a horse length ahead of the second and was whipping her
horse to the finish.  The second horse hit Oury and I watched him tumble
under feet like a rag until he was deposited out the side.  I recall fearing
that the horse was going down on him and would crush him.  After James Oury
broke loose from the horses legs, the rider encouraged the horse on to the
finish.  I had to dodge!
>  the two riders myself in my attempt to get to James Oury.  As all this
was happening, the third rider slowed her horse behind the pickup and
avoided the whole collision.  After these two riders crossed the finish
line, they brought their horses to a complete stop at the water tank
approximately 40 to 50 feet beyond the finish line. Personally, I was too
occupied with James Oury to pay much attention to the two riders after that.
I do know however, that one of the riders never did come over to see what
had happend to James Oury and the other only made a seemingly superficial
inquiry.  Both riders made their way to the P&R and vet checks as normal and
as though nothing had happend.  It was reported to me by P&R people that the
rider who hit James Oury asked them who it was that she hit.  When they told
her she remarked that she used to work for him.
> After Oury was life flighted out, and I returned to the crowd, I was
lambasted with demands to disqaulify the riders and to write a protest.
Riders, spectators, and eye witnesses alike were outraged and wanted me to
do something about what had happend.
> After a very pressured review of the rule book, I determined that I should
disqualify the riders under the rule regarding dangerous horses.  Had I had
the time and frame of mind to study the rules more I would have used the
unsportsmanship rule.  I approached the rider that actually hit James Oury
to tell her I was going to disqaulify the two of them, expecting to be
received with some remorse and emotion.  Instead, the rider demanded that I
could not disqualify her without a hearing.  Due to the atmosphere of the
crowd, I agreed to put together a panel and offer the two riders a hearing
right there at camp.  The riders agreed that a panel of ride managers
attending the ride would be a fair panel for a hearing.  A hearing was
therefore conducted.  During that hearing ride managers plead with the
riders to voluntarily disqualify themselves.  The hearing became an
environment of emotions and tears, so we compromised by giving them their
completions but taking way their placings.!
>   One rider ran away in tears and the other accepted the terms but in
protest for her horse and the loss of his points.  I had agreed to go along
with whatever the panel of ride managers wanted to do, so that was the
conclusion at that point.
> There has been much talk and many questions as to why we changed our minds
and disqualified the riders after we agreed to give them completions at the
ride camp.
> First and formost, our decision was made due to the advise and influence
of AERC, after contacting them regarding notification in case of an
insurance claim.  I was not going to set on this matter unreported, only to
find our insurance would not cover it because we did not notify them of the
incident.  Upon contacting Doyle Patrick's office, office staff refered me
to the Protest and Grievence Committee as the appropriate branch to report
to.  Jim Rogan of the P&G Committe took a very strong position regarding the
incident because of other incidents they have dealt with.  He asked me to
make a formal protest and provide them with a detailed report on what had
happened.  I was convinced after talking with him that it was more
appropriate to disqualify the riders, provide the P&G Committee with the
facts, and let them decide what the penalties should be.  Jim Rogan advised
me that it was his opinion that these two riders should be sanctioned for
life from any AERC event.  I want!
>  to go on record to say we defended the riders in this regard and in no
way ever promoted such severe action.  In fact, Darlene and I co-authored a
cover letter to my report and complaint that specifically requested that we
be given an opportunity to further comment on what we feel would be
appropriate and what would not be appropriate should they decide to employ
any further penalties other than disqualification.
> My conclusion to the matter was that disqulification was appropriate.
Regardless what was in the road, whether it was a pickup, a rider going out
on another leg of their ride, a child, a dog, etc., these riders had a
responsibility to take whatever measures they needed to evade a collision.
Although we made every attempt to make the finish safe, ride management
cannot guarantee the finish line will be unobstucted.  Anyone who thinks
they can, short of a fenced off and guarded zone, is kidding themselves.  In
addition, as stated above, there was ample room for these riders to avoid
the pickup and still finsh on course, as was demonstrated by the third
riding partner, who slowed down, went around the pickup, and finished
safely.  The rider who hit James Oury stated her horse was out of control
and could show us how his chin was cut from trying to pull him in.  However,
she managed to pull him up okay within 40 to 50 feet after crossing the
finish line.  Most of all, I couldn't!
>  help but consider the attitudes of both riders regarding the accident.
They not only justified what they did as competition, but they both, on
occassions, attempted to put some blame on Oury for reasons I have yet to
understand.  I will maintain forever, safety of others has got to come
before competition.  Both of these girls could have and should have made the
decision to slow down and take a safer approach once they saw the hazard,
rather than jeapordize a man's life because they were of the opinion ride
management did not keep the course unobstructed for them to race, not to
mention that they ran into a vet area full of people.  Had they not hit
Oury, there were numerous others that could have been hurt.
> Now that I have given you a thumbnail of the incident, let me address an
incident which occured the year before.  Only because I know it has been
brought up and is questioned.
> The year before at our ride we had placed the finish line down the road at
the advise of a long time and experienced ride manager.  As 2 or 3 25 mile
riders raced for the finish line, a horse being handled along side the road
close to the finish line spooked at the racing horses, pulled away from its
handlers, and ran into the path of the racing horses causing a collision.
No one was seriously injured but could have been.  I want to make a point in
this regard.  In 1998 the finish line was down the road approximately 200
feet from where the finish line was located in 1999 and we had a wreck.  It
was an unforseeable incident.  A darting child type incident.  However, this
incident has been beat to death in comparison to the 1999 wreck.  Although
it was unforseeable that the pickup would drive in just as riders raced in,
these riders had plenty of notice, unlike a darting child case.  Moving the
finish line did not prevent these riders from making a poor decision
regarding the !
> safety of racing under the circustances.  When your ride camp limits you
to a finish line that may pose hazards, riders have to cooporate by taking
pre-cautionary measures in their own actions.
> After reading the Aprill issue of Endurance News and seeing what AERC has
done to us in regard to liability, we are not in a good position to manage
another ride.
> Although the Board denied Janet's appeal, the Board passed a motion that
"this ride manager" needs to be educated in safety.  This is a declaration
that the Board did not and does not consider me experienced or educated
enough in safety to manage a ride.  Therefore, I would be crazy to expose
the Sheriff's Posse or myself to any accident that might happen at another
ride I manage.  We do not feel AERC is in support of Posse Ride management.
If someone falls off their horse in the water tank, ride management will be
at fault.
> Darlene (my wife) has ridden endurance for more than 15 years.  She has
ridden approximately 1400 miles in competition, completed Tevis, and has
helped at other rides on numerous occasions.  I have followed her and this
sport and helped at many of those rides over the years.  In addition, I was
raised on horseback and participated in just about every horse sport
available to me growing up in Montana.  I have been an active member and
officer of the Missoula County Sheriff's Posse (horse-mounted) for more than
15 years and have organized many public equestrian events.  I am respected
among my peers as a good source of equestrian information.  Not to mention
that I am a licensed private investigator who has made my living for more
than 18 years evaluating liabilites and investigating accidents, many
involving horses and livestock.  I have been quaified as an expert in court
in that regard.  I tell you this only that you may appreciate why I am so
insulted that the Board Members !
> of AERC have the audacity to brand me as a ride manager who needs to be
educated in safety.  I would kind of like to know who they are going to
commission to be my tutor!  Not that I am anywhere beyond learning, there
are always suggestions and comments that help us do a better job.  I just do
not appreciate being put in a position where I cannot even manage a ride
because I have been branded "unqualified" to manage a ride.  Barbara McCrary
wrote about our incident and not only misstated the facts but left the
readers to believe it was because of my inexperience that I was unable to
anticipate possible dangers with endurance riding.
> We would really like to continue with the Posse Ride.  We have lots of
riders who had a lot of fun at our ride encouraging us to continue.  This is
not just Jeff and Darlene Patterson's Posse Ride.  This is the Missoula
County Sheriff's Posse Ride.  There are a lot more very qualified and
experienced people involved here in this ride than just Jeff and Darlene.
However, unless AERC can rectify our reputation by correcting their comments
and decisions to brand us unqualified, in the same widely published forum as
they have chastised us, we just cannot do it.
> As I said in the begining, I wish I could lay the whole case out in front
of all who are interested.  This forum is just not adequate for the task.  I
am sure this will get around and there will be hundreds of questions and
comments, good and bad.  I did not come here to argue or debate with anyone,
just to do my best at what you all asked for in the beginning, but did not
feel I should do so until AERC had made their decision.  So thanks for
taking the time to read this long message and I hope it helps some of you
clear up some questions or concerns.
> I will leave you with this; riders have many times asked what they could
do to help.  Well, you can start by letting me know how you really feel as a
ride community.  Secondly, if you support the things I have said, let AERC
know how you feel.  I do not think any of us ride managers are all that
different.  I hope you all understand how the lack of support and actions by
AERC can affect you personally in regard to liability while managing a ride.
In court your defense to a liability action will rely on expert testimony
from your peers and an organization which regulates the sport.  If your
peers and the regulatory organization do not support you, you are S.O.L.  If
I were to end up in court over a case like this with AERC citing me as a
ride manager, who needs to be educated in safety, where do think that leaves
> Sincerely,
> Jeff Patterson
> Posse Ride Manager
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