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Hunters/Jumpers (was FEI...)


It seems to me that much of the discussion/debate about the AERC/FEI 
issue could be fairly amicably put to rest if people came to the 
understanding that distance riding encompasses more than a single 

International/FEI endurance racing bears as much resemblance to AERC 
endurance riding as show hunters does to show jumpers.  Though there 
are some obvious similarities (the horse and rider must negotiate a 
course in a prescribed sequence), there are also some obvious 
differences (which can pretty much be summed up in two ways: how you 
define the winner and some fairly superficial differences about dress, 
tack and equipment—which reflect the slightly different demands put on 
horse and rider as well as slightly different fashion statements that 
participants may want to make).

Because (like in hunters and jumpers) the courses and the skills 
required of the horse and rider are similar, it may be possible to run 
both events at the same venue, but you are going to run into serious 
problems if you try run both events under the same rules.

I think that it is long past due that it be accepted that the 
differences in the sports are acknowledged and accepted and attempts to 
reconcile them be abandoned.  So…here is my proposal:

The AERC will keep and maintain its own rules that defines winning at 
an endurance ride as crossing the finish line, will continue to keep 
track of lifetime mileage, yearly mileage (and any bonus points for 
crossing the finish line in the top ten), best condition, etc. and will 
distribute awards based on such.

The FEI will keep and maintain its own rules, the AHSA can continue to 
be the national organization within the US (or USET depending on how 
the two of those ever get their own differences worked out) that 
governs the sport that defines winning at an endurance race as 
completing each of the segments of the course is the shortest amount of 
time, and will distribute awards based on such.

The AERC, the AHSA, USET, and/or the FEI can work together on whatever 
agreed common concerns that they may have (like trails preservation, 
shared development of veterinary research that applies to both sports, 
etc.), and can butt out of each other's sports otherwise.

Ride managers (just like show managers of horse shows) can choose to 
run whatever competitions at their venues as they feel they have the 
resources and capability of successfully managing, and can defray the 
costs of doing so in whatever way they think will be successful.  And 
they may distribute their awards in whatever way they damn well please, 
and can keep their sanctioning from whatever governing body(ies) they 
choose just as long as they comply with those organizations' rules.

Riders can choose to attend whatever competitions suit them and their 
own personal (or professional—more on that below*) goals and can pay 
for whatever they are willing to pay for and get whatever gratification 
that pleases them in whatever way they like, as long as they, too, 
comply with the rules of the sanctioning body(ies) of the competition/s 
they choose to participate in.

As near as I can tell, this is exactly how the current structure of the 
assorted involved organizations (which also includes an assortment of 
regional CTR organizations, NATRC, the IAHA, and even the R&T 
association) is doing.  All that needs to be done is to consciously 
acknowledge and overtly state that this is the approach that both 
organizations are going to take.  That way, there will be no more 
bitching and moaning on the part of AERC members about how the FEI is 
encroaching on "our" sport and how "we" have to be sure to have a say 
in what "they" are doing.  

Endurance racing as defined and governed by the FEI has only 
superficial resemblance to the endurance riding that most AERC members 
participate in.  It is not the AERC's sport at all, it is the FEI's 
sport…let the FEI govern that sport how it so chooses.  If the FEI 
would like to avail itself of the experience of members of the AERC and 
what they have discovered in managing and sanctioning a similar sport 
and incorporate some of those lessons into their own rules, they can.  
And if the AERC would like to avail itself of the experience of members 
of the FEI and what they have discovered in managing and sanctioning a 
similar sport and incorporate some of those lessons into their own 
rules, they can.

Then, people who want to participate in the sport of endurance racing 
can do so (if they can find ride managers to put on such competitions 
for them) under a set of rules designed to properly regulate and keep 
track of participants in a head-to-head competition race of 25 to 100 
miles.  And people who want to participate in the sport of long 
distance trail riding can do so (if they can find ride managers to put 
on such competitions for them) under a set of rules designed to 
properly regulate and keep track of the thousands of miles going down 
the trail over an over again with the same horse and/or rider.

There is (as far as I can see) no reason that both of these sports (and 
any other events that an event manager wants to put on) cannot be held 
at the same venue, on the same day, on the same or similar course, 
sharing resources including some officials, etc.  And I see no reason 
that competitors cannot, if it suits their tastes participate in any or 
all of the events that may or may not be occurring at a particular 
venue (assuming that they as individuals can work out the logistics of 
doing so). Or participate in one sport at one venue and the other on a 
different day at a different venue.

Other horse sports (such as Hunters and Jumpers) successfully do the 
same thing all the time.

Personally, I have absolutely no desire whatsoever to participate in 
the sport of endurance racing as defined and regulated by the FEI, and 
if the AERC starts to change its rules to accommodate people that do, I 
will stop going to AERC rides.  But that is just a matter of personal 
taste.  I don't care for bowling either, so I just don't bowl.  That 
doesn't mean that I don't know people who DO like endurance racing as 
defined by the FEI and choose to expend their time and resources 
pursuing it (and I will even do what I can to support them if they 
happen to be personal friends).

I am encouraged to hear from Maryben Stover and Barbara McCrary (both 
members of the AERC Board of Directors) that what may or may not have 
gone on at the Biltmore ride with respect to the FEI aspect of the ride 
and how it was managed was of absolutely no concern to the AERC.  As 
long as the participants in the AERC aspect of the ride complied with 
the AERC's rules, then it is none of the AERC's business what else 
those competitors may or may not have been doing or what anybody else 
may or may not have been doing at the event.

Presumably it IS a concern of the ride manager to address and decide 
whether whatever caused displeasure in any or all of the participants 
is something that needs to be changed for future events.  And it is the 
concern of competitors to decide (if they were sufficiently displeased) 
whether to attend the same or a similar event in the future—no matter 
what their sanctioning or the cause of their displeasure.

And as near as I can tell the only real fly in the ointment to this 
approach is AERC International being part of AERC (it should be a part 
of the AHSA…if the AHSA will have them).  If International endurance 
racing is the sport as governed by the FEI and by extension the AHSA, 
and has nothing to do with the long distance trail riding as governed 
by the AERC, then the organization that riders with international 
aspirations should join and petition is the AHSA, not the AERC.  These 
riders and ride managers need to work together with the AHSA to have 
their concerns addressed.  The AERC can then officially stand to the 
side rather than taking the obstructive role that it currently has.  
Currently, these riders and ride managers have to be members of the 
AHSA anyway, why should those that are ONLY interested in the sport of 
racing be required to support and participate in a sport that they are 
no more interested in than I am in theirs?

People who are interested in both can join and participate in both. 
Just as people have been doing for years with respect to the IAHA, 
NATRC and (in my case) the California Dressage Society. :)

Does this mean that participants with international aspirations cannot 
attend AERC rides and use them as training and participation for what 
they are really interested in?  No…just as I can take my novice jumper 
into a hunter class at a horse show because it is a great venue to 
train a prospect about the balance, form and control required to do 
show jumping.  Just as I can take my novice endurance horse to a local 
poker ride to teach it about being mindful in a crowd…or even just 
because I think poker rides are fun.

It is long past time for participants to realize that there is more 
than one sport going on here, and that these two different sports need 
two different sets of rules.  Attempting to run both sports under the 
same set of rules will just prolong bickering among participants.  The 
AHSA has been dealing with the FEI with respect to other FEI 
disciplines for decades.  I can see no reason not to let them continue 
to do so. For the AERC to stick its iron in the fire as well would 
serve only to enmesh it in a quagmire that is of little or no interest 
to the majority of its membership.  And lest those people interested in 
international riding think that endurance will suffer at the hands of 
the AHSA if the AERC doesn't involve itself, I might remind them that 
one of the people working for the AHSA with respect to endurance is 
Mike Tomlinson, a long standing and well respected endurance rider and 
endurance veterinarian who is currently on the AERC Board of Directors 
and can keep both organizations appraised of what the other is doing.

Orange County, Calif.

p.s. With respect to the question of professional vs amateur, I would 
also suggest the same split.  The AERC should make a distinct point of 
describing itself as an amateur sporting organization that sanctions 
and provides governance for amateur sporting events.  The AHSA and the 
FEI are long standing professional organizations with multitudes of 
professional participants, with stricter rules in place necessary for 
governing a professional sport (and with the necessary lawyers on 
staff).  Since most of the membership of the AERC (especially if the 
AERC doesn't involve itself in international endurance racing) are 
hobbyists participating as amateurs and the sport of long distance 
trail riding does not particularly lend itself to professional 
participation anyway, there is no reason for the AERC to involve itself 
in the morass of any professional aspects of the sport either and leave 
the managing of professional endurance to the AHSA.  Personally, I 
think the AERC would do well to take the same approach as the WSTF and 
clearly state that participants understand that AERC is an amateur 
sporting organization that governs amateur sporting events and takes no 
responsibility whatsoever for the professional gains or losses of any 
of the participants.  So if Ride Managers want to run big money rides 
with large prizes that are likely to attract professionals, then it is 
the AHSA and/or the FEI that should be the sanctioning body they 
choose, not the AERC.  The AHSA has been governing horse sports with 
big prizes for years.

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