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What we want and expect from the sport of Endurance


Let us explore this, what we want and expect from the sport of Endurance, in
a planned and methodical manner.

First a bit of the history of Endurance Competition in the US. It was, in a
manner, a military event constructed to determine the suitability of
particular breeds of equine for extended field use. From this, as it became
an almost annual event, we extend to the concept of it being not only a
strictly military event to one including civilian personnel. The 1940's saw
the demise of all but a token military equine contingent and thus the
lessening of interest and sponsorship by the Federal Government to one of
private individuals.

Over the ensuing years various uncontrolled events took place with varying
success. The lack of control brought some dissatisfaction with the sport
from certain humane organizations.

The beginnings of organization and control were forthcoming with the advent
of the "Western Sates Trail Ride" (the Tevis) and a small group of horse
aficionados in California. These people, whom most of us are familiar with,
began an organization to promote the sport and from that it grew into what
we have at the present time.

OK, history out of the way. Or should I say ancient history out of the way
as we need to look further into the history of Endurance Competition over
the past twenty years.

Endurance Competition, when we started  in the mid 70's, was an exciting
sport of one horse/one rider. Most competitors only owned one horse and the
team was very close. Only those persons who had "fortitude" really entered
those competitions. I will admit the sport was clearly dominated by the male
contingent at the time. Ride entries were seldom in the upper double digits
with 30 or more riders a large ride. There were a few exceptions like the
Tevis. Most riders camped out and slept near their horses. Crews to take
care of the horses during and after the ride were the exception and
generally consisted of close family like husband or wife. The welfare of the
horse was of paramount concern and in the development of the care for
endurance horse, many mistakes were made. For some reason drastic medical
intervention was virtually unknown and the loss of a horse was cause for
extreme concern. To have a horse treated was almost sinful, expressing major
neglect on the part of the rider. Let's face it our vets were learning along
with us.

As our knowledge expanded and the enjoyment of the sport became a bit more
wide spread, more people entered the sport. The incursion of a lot more
people wanting to ride brought additional problems along with the equine
physiological ones. The administrative problems developed into a full time
office staff, the necessity for computerization of records and the like.

Other problems, much more insidious, were developing that the "old timers"
did not envision. We have found that many of the more recent competitors
want to START at the point we had taken some years of development to reach.
The years we took learning about our particular horse and how to care for
it. We have found that many of the more recent competitors do not expect to
develop "fortitude" but expect to have crews to care for them and their
horse. Providing the best, the newest and the easiest way to the finish
line. They expect to "save time" and start out with a fully trained horse
(not, of course trained by them) all the latest tack, the ultimate in feeds
and don't forget the supplements.

Into all this we then add the ingredient called International Competition!
Now I am not sure when International Endurance Competition started. I have
asked around but gotten no definitive answer yet. (I am still trying) Seems
I saw something on the FEI web page that stated the FEI recognized
International Endurance Competition in the early 50's but I cannot verify
this yet.

Any way the first real US International Competition under the FEI was
Davenport CA. 1986 The first North American Championships. (I was there )

The AERC International Committee was formed in 1987 and it was stated that
"the FEI will not influence AERC Policy" (AERC Board minutes). Little did we
realize or know. We have some place in the low 300's for AERC International
membership out of some 5000 AERC general membership. That means that 6% or
less of the membership is concerned with the FEI scene. Now comes a problem,
of the AERC Board of Directors currently seated I find that well over 50% of
the Board are associated with International competition in one way or
another. Could this be swaying the decisions of the Board of Directors away
from the traditional AERC venue towards an increasing International (FEI)
type of competition? I would not say directly, but if a decision has to be
made, I am sure which way the pendulum would be swinging the most. IS THIS
FAIR TO THE GENERAL MEMBERSHIP? What does this mean to the general

Well, in my not so humble opinion, it means that there is soon going to be a
definitive schism with in the AERC if the general membership does not wake
up and make their voice heard. If the general membership sleeps through this
it will be their own fault. They must get some ACTIVE proponents of
ENDURANCE THE AMERICAN WAY on the Board of Directors. Directors that will
listen to the membership and not the money or big egos. Members who want to
keep American Endurance Competition American. Members who want to see
endurance riding not endurance racing on a prepared track with service to
the riders at all times. Hell, 15 years ago I proposed the Le Bois 75 here
in Boise ID. We have a local race track 3/4 mile round. I proposed a 100 lap
race, water available at all times, perfect footing, Vet stops every ten
laps, bleachers for the spectators and awards in the clubhouse. That is what
the FEI rides are offering now, especially in the UAE. My down fall was I
did not have million dollar purses. But for all that, our endurance rides
are being turned into flat track marathon races. I AM AGAINST THAT. (guess
that is why I cannot get elected to the AERC Board)

received every thing I have wanted and expected to get as far as my personal
desires are concerned. I believe I have seen the BEST OF ENDURANCE. However,
in my retirement I have wanted to keep active in the sport and return to it
something for what it gave me. I have tried hard and will continue to do so
even though it is becoming rather difficult. I would like to see Endurance
in America returned to the general membership of the AERC. I would like to
see considerable attention paid to education, trails and the advancement of
veterinary research.

The AERC International Committee was developed to be an adjunct to the AERC.
I would like to see this Committee returned to its Committee status. I
noticed on a certain web page that the AERC International Committee is "The
AERC liaison in the USA for FEI International Equine Endurance Rides". Now I
was under the impression that the USA Equestrian , Inc. (AHSA) was the
liaison for all equestrian events with the FEI. It is time to bring the
International Committee back into the AERC fold of committees and work
through the proper channels.

I expect to see leadership within the AERC Board of Directors. In that I
would like to see open and on going dialogue between the Board members and
the membership. I would like to see a meeting agenda from the BoD for each
and every meeting they have, well in advance of the meeting. (at least 30
days prior) How else can the membership convey their feelings to the
Directors? I would go so far as to institute term limits not only on Board
members but on Committees. We have members who have been on the Board for
generations. It is time for new blood.
Above all I want to see America Endurance Riding kept American.

Bob Morris
Morris Endurance Enterprises
Boise, ID

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