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    [RC] Ride Manager Integrity - Howard Bramhall

    It's quite amazing to me how a debate over what I thought was absolutely nothing has turned into something that is quite the rage now, not only on Ridecamp, but it appears, also, within the AERC BOD.  And, it's all about the start of an endurance ride, which, when it first appeared on Ridecamp, I though was just one person accusing another of not keeping up with the records correctly.  Especially, since the person doing the record keeping was also a rider, and seemed to have omitted her name as a starter in a ride where she did.  It just looked to be a catfight, to me, which can get very interesting, even if it's only on the computer.  But, hey, I knew these two women would have to face one another, live and in person one day, since it appears they attend some of the same rides (gee, this scenario is actually something I can relate to quite well), so, I continued reading.
    Then, we had a big debate as to when and where the start of a ride actually begins.  Heck, even this stupid Florida redneck thought he knew the answer to that one and it just confirmed for me that few endurance riders can ever agree on anything.  I thought the whole discussion was getting silly until I realized what the debate was really about (yea, I'm a little slow sometimes).  It was about the integrity of Ride Managers, in general, and the idea that some of them might not be reporting accurate information to AERC, especially when it involves money.  Ah, now I'm catching on as to why this thread is weaving a rug large enough to cover the foyer of the Arthur Anderson Accounting Building.  My question is this:  Is this the rug we really want to make?
    Ride Managers are rarely investigated within AERC.  Their integrity seems to be a known quantity; they are seldom challenged and deemed off limits for such questioning, by most riders, as are the veterinarians, who control the ebb and flow of the actual ride.  And, by most parts, the main reason for this is we need these people (ride managers & ride vets) more than anyone else to have an endurance ride. 
    Few folks are masochistic enough to take on the job of a Ride Manager.  Most of these folks, who take on the job of managing a ride, have exceptional leadership qualities.  They perform incredible organizational tasks and put the whole thing together.  A Ride Manager is able to obtain the necessary funds to pay for everything needed to make the ride a success and they are able to provide enough volunteers for the ride to keep the riders happy (this is not an easy thing to do).
    I was involved with a ride recently, as an assistant to the ride manager, and I have to tell you it was much more difficult than I ever imagined it would be.  To top things off it was a night ride (there's a good reason why not too many of these things exist) and, even though the numbers were light, I was pretty much convinced we had lost ten or so riders around mid night. Gators and water moccasins are nocturnal.  I abstained from drinking any beer that evening, consumed mass quantities of coffee, and worked and worried more than I had ever done since my Air Force days, when I came close to killing quite a few of our best fighter pilots as an air traffic controller.  I thought I was reliving those days of terror all over again. 
    Luckily, we found everyone and all was well, but there was a time when I thought I will never be involved in something like this again.  Then came that next day, and, at the awards breakfast, riders actually applauded us.  I got kind of choked up about it all, and couldn't believe they would do this.  Because, in my mind, they had darn good reason to yell and chew us out.  But, they did not, not a one of them took this option.
    So, now we are going to accuse some of these managers of cooking the books?  Of not reporting things, intentionally, because we will except zero tolerance of any errors involving starters and record keeping (don't you just hate the term "zero tolerance?").  Do you realize how absurd the idea of "zero tolerance" is, at an endurance ride? I mean, come on, if you don't lose a horse or a rider at one of these things, that's a success; nothing else is relevant!
    This is a mistake folks, we need to tread more carefully down this road.  I don't want to accuse the AERC BOD of making a knee jerk reaction here to this start thing, but did ya'll really have a "special meeting" just because of this thread on Ridecamp?  Am I understanding that correctly?  If it's true, I'm a bit upset that you would do such a thing.
    What are you going to change?  The rule seems clear enough.  You're going to send a letter out to all Ride Managers questioning their integrity?  Warning them that AERC must be paid each and every dollar or else?  I'm amazed that this would happen because of a few folks gossiping here online.  Truly amazed!
    Here in the Southeast we have an exceptional AERC Board member who is involved with the Sanctioning of rides here.  Ya'll probably know her, and if you don't, you should meet her if you ever get the chance.  I'm speaking of Susan Kasemeyer, and there isn't much that gets past Susan.  She has her hand on the pulse of every ride held in the Southeast, and if there's a Ride Manager down here who isn't doing the right thing, I feel purty confident that Susan will shut them down quicker than George Bush can say "accounting is complicated."  She is that good.
    I've been to some rides that didn't turn out all that well, as far as awards or trail marking, or water, and things like that.  But, even at those rides, I can say with confidence, the folks made the attempt.  They tried like heck to make it a good ride.  They learned, and, at the smaller rides, they lost money.  Money that came out of their pockets.  Only the really big rides make money.  Out of ten Florida rides held this year (OK, my numbers might be off, but not by much) only two made money, and those have been around for awhile and are held at the right time of year.  Otherwise, they all lost money, and guess where that money came from?  It didn't come from AERC, I can tell you that.
    So, let's please be careful of knee jerk reactions.  They seldom fix anything, and if there really is a problem, a letter from AERC Headquarters isn't going to correct it.  I'm not sure there even is a problem, but, if there is, maybe, you should look at your Regional Director, the person in charge of Sanctioning rides in your region.  Because, I'm pretty sure that if anyone knows, besides the Ride Manager, that something ain't right at a particular ride, it's this person.