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    Re: [RC] Very young riders in AERC rides or at any rides - Heidi Smith

    > The new NASTAR age categories are as follows: 1-4, 5-6, 7-8, 9-10, 11-12,
    > 13-14, 15-16, 17-20, 21-29, 30-34, 35-39, 40-44, 45-49, 50-54, 55-59,
    > 65-69, 70-74, 75-79, 80-84, 85-89, 90+.
    I just checked out the Pony Club website as well--they do not have a minimum
    age, either, although their maximum age is 21.
    While I agree that most children age 5 are not ready to endurance ride, I am
    not at all in favor of "legislating" a minimum rule.  Our junior sponsorship
    rules make it very difficult for parents to be "little league" parents,
    since they can't pawn their kids off on someone else to compete.  If they
    want their kids out there, they either have to sponsor them themselves, or
    the kids have to be sufficiently competent that others are willing to do so.
    Unlike skiing, where the child can be pretty independent, a young endurance
    rider has to stay right with a sponsor, so that sponsor is pretty much in
    control of pace, stress, etc.  I disagree that endurance is necessarily
    mentally challenging.  On the contrary, it is repetitive and soothing to
    many.  I also disagree that kids should be "lumped" into age groups
    suggesting that they do or don't understand a particular concept until they
    are a certain age.  While most kids may not understand competition prior to
    age 8, a fair number do, and furthermore, can equate the rides to a
    long-term goal.  I had the privilege of being the first person other than
    Marney (mom) to sponsor Scotty Nance the year that he was AERC National
    Junior Champion, back in the old days when a championship was a year-long
    process.  He was only 7, and had stood by the previous year watching his
    older brother be Junior National Champion, and by gum the year he was 7, it
    was his turn.  Marney was in a horse wreck and hurt her foot just a few
    months into the season and was grounded.  I happened by Gene Nance's clinic
    as I was getting ready to leave to drive from central Oregon to Idaho City,
    Idaho to do the 75-miler at Boise Basin, and mentioned to Gene that it would
    sure be fun to have someone else go along.  He asked if I'd be willing to
    take Scotty, and having seen him ride, I said sure.  He called Scotty on the
    phone and asked him if he wanted to go to the ride, and got a positive
    response.  Scotty packed his own suitcase and as much of his tack as he
    could by himself (he was kinda small--couldn't lift hay bales yet), and had
    his horse ready and waiting when I drove up.  The first thing he asked me
    was if I'd ever been in a wreck--he didn't want his horse to get hurt.  The
    next thing he said was, "If I was older, I'd help you drive."  He was a
    trooper all weekend, knew what his horse was supposed to eat (needed a bit
    of help packing it), knew just how the horse was supposed to be tacked up
    (did need help to put the saddle on), and was appalled when a reporter for
    the local paper asked him if he was there to do the 25.  He gave quite a
    nice interview to the reporter before we mounted up and went on our way.
    You betcha I did my best to keep him out of jams, etc., that might be
    tough--but he was a trooper all day, trotted his own horse at vet checks,
    continued to be totally involved in the horse's care, etc.  I think we
    finished 3rd and 4th on the 75.  As to not being aware of competition--he
    was quite put out that awards were not when they were supposed to be, but
    rather kept being put off and put off.  He did, indeed, sleep like a rock
    that night--we were only 40 or so miles from where my parents lived, and
    drove there after awards--he fell asleep in the truck, and my dad carried
    him into a bed when we got there.  But he was up well before I was the next
    morning, not at all put off by waking up in a strange bed, and was happily
    relating his endurance career to date to my mother over breakfast when I
    came staggering out on Sunday morning.
    I was never able to have kids, but I think one of the most damning things we
    can do to children is to put limits on excellence.  I would hope that if I
    had had kids, I would have had the wisdom to let them sort out what really
    had meaning for them, and to help to enable them to realize their goals, no
    matter what age those goals manifested themselves.  I look back at my own
    childhood, and while I was not as precocious as a rider as are some kids (I
    was riding for cattle at 5, and likely would have been capable of LD's by 7
    or so), I'm sure grateful that when I DID have the opportunity to start
    distance riding at 15 (CTR, and I was MORE than ready--just didn't have any
    adult backing prior to that), and when I found my foundation stallion that
    same year, my dad didn't just automatically recoil with the then-standard
    line that stallions are not appropriate for teenage girls.  At 15, I was
    100% responsible for his care and handling, handled him for breeding myself,
    etc.  Do I think all 15-year-old kids should be out on the trails on
    stallions?  No.  But what a shame it would have been if I had been prevented
    from doing what I so badly wanted to do and was CAPABLE of doing by some
    silly rule.
    I'm quite willing to take small children on a case-by-case basis at rides,
    and leave the choices up to the people who know them best--their parents.
    The poor choices I've seen at AERC rides have been eclipsed by the good
    choices I've seen regarding when children are ready to do what.
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    RE: [RC] Very young riders in AERC rides, Bob Morris
    Re: [RC] Very young riders in AERC rides or at any rides, Charles
    Re: [RC] Very young riders in AERC rides or at any rides, Joe Long
    Re: [RC] Very young riders in AERC rides or at any rides, Charles