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[RC] AERC Convention ..Why Go? - Paul

Well I just got home from attending the AERC Convention In Louisville Kentucky. What a great time!.  It got me to thinking about why somebody should want to go. My wife wondered what was worth the time and money spent?
Many people may think the only reasons to go to the convention are if they are involved in the AERC leadership and committees. Or if they, or a close friend, is receiving a National award. Or if they are a top National or FEI rider wanting to keep up with the latest rule changes and training concepts. For many people, they may only go if it is close to their homes.  Here are some other reasons to help motivate you into attending the next convention, no matter where it is.
#1) Meet real people,  not just their email account: We all post on message boards, and blogs. We exchange emails. At Convention, I met people for the first time in person that I had corresponded with for several years. It was fun to finally connect the people with the posts. Hey, after three or four years, I finally met Steph Teeter.
#2) Get to know the people you have been riding with: We meet many people at rides while out on trail and in camp. Usually however we are so busy taking care of our horses and then having to rush back home that we don't get to know who they really are. Surprisingly :-) many are very nice and normal people. It is fun to discover their backgrounds and what drew them into this sport. You get to share stories about the rides you have done together and plan future rides.
#3) Connect with people from other regions: Many of us have a goal of "someday" doing the ??? Ride. At Convention, you may meet the Ride Manager or other riders who have done the ??? ride many times. They can give you tips and re-motivate you into making "someday" happen sooner.. If you planning to attend the ??? ride this year, it helps to connect with people who can give you tips on camping, trails, climate etc. Which leads to the next reason.
#4). Motivation: While you area may be cold and snowy, at Convention you can talk to folks who have already done several 100 mile rides. Or people who have recovered from an injury/health issue similar to yours and are back in the saddle. Or people who have found a new reason to ride. A speaker may say something that clicks and your heart rate will go up. Somebody will be talking about their ride at ??? last year and how fun it was. Your juices will get flowing, and it's fun time again.
#5) Unexpected Learning:   You may look at the scheduled talks and not see something that gets you excited. Then while wandering around the trade show, they are having mini-seminars and you hear Valerie Kanavy say something that instantly connects to you about a problem you are having. Later, you overhear a vendor telling another rider how a person fixed a problem you also have had by doing XYZ.  You may be a casual rider who has no FEI or National ambitions but we all face the same challenges doing this sport. Those who push the envelope a bit more than we, may have found solutions that will help us in our more modest ambitions. You wouldn't dream of attending a big ride and asking some of the top riders to drop everything they are doing and tell you why they do this or that. Here they will gladly spend hours visiting with folks of all levels and abilities about endurance riding. Where else does that happen in sports?
#6)  Hands on the Stuff:  The trade show gives us a chance to actually put our hands on the stuff we have only seen in catalogs or manufacturers web sites. We can lift saddles, sit on fiberglass horses in the saddle, feel the headstalls. etc. Even if you don't buy something today. you can start thinking about it for "someday."
#7)  If nothing else it is refreshing to see these folks cleaned up: Most of us clean up very nicely and conduct ourselves in a fairly normal manner. Some of those wild eyed delirious people we have met before on trail actually are fun people to hang out with. They use silverware and napkins when they eat and most everything else regular people do.
You may wonder how in the world you can spare several days away from home work and horses to just go hang out with a bunch of other riders, but when it's over you will be amazed at how short a time it really was.
Paul N. Sidio   
Spokane MO