They say that when you’re a hammer, everything is a nail, and perhaps that is true.
I teach for a living, my mom was a teacher, and so when I look at the issues facing AERC and its future success (and yes, survival) of course I think that the answer is EDUCATION.
For those of you who were on the BoD when I was a NE Regional Director, or when I was Chair of the Education Committee after my BoD term, you already know the drill.
AERC Educational Clinics work to make AERC grow and thrive.
Endurance 101 Clinics are designed to prepare new and wannabe members and competitors with the fundamentals that they will need to get themselves and their horse to and through their first competition safely and successfully. The attendees that walk away and never compete still have a better appreciation for the sport, horse health, and if the clinic goes as designed, they’ll know how to use a stethoscope and do a fundamental metabolic examination on their horse. Don’t we all wish we’d gone to our first ride with a little more basic knowledge?
Endurance 201 Clinics are designed to get the horse and rider out to experience a marked trail, a vet exam, and how to pace to get through their first competition. A practical application of the 101, if you will.
And then Beyond the Basics Clinics, designed to provide riders with the skills necessary to “up their game” and move up to multi-day or 100 mile rides, or simply compete more successfully by learning more about electrolytes, nutrition, metabolic issues, biomechanics, ride strategy and conditioning, as well as hoof balance and post-ride care and rest.
The clinics work not just to educate but also achieve the following:
- An appreciation for what AERC does and stands for, beyond sanctioning rides. (At the clinics I taught, we offered the clinic at a discounted rate for members, or offered a discount on membership to those who joined that day if the clinic budget would allow it.)
- Local riders meet other local riders, they meet local mentors and experienced riders. They start local Green Bean Facebook pages and meet up to ride and condition and ride share and share plans for their first competitions. They swap tack, they commiserate, they support one another through the ups and downs as they learn the sport. And anyone who doesn’t believe that a massive part of what makes AERC so special is our unique “tribe” is clearly not a part of the tribe. These clinics build tribes!
- Educated new competitors who arrive at their first ride safer for all involved; ride managers, fellow competitors, ride veterinarians, horses.
- New members who not only get to their first ride but have the camaraderie and success to keep at it, renew, keep going, move up. These are our up and coming ride vets, 100 milers, volunteers, trail workers and ride managers.
- Increased “talk” at the local level. You know that old shampoo commercial if you’re of a certain age – “I told two friends and then they told two friends and so on and so on and so on.” (If you’re too young, here it is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=brC_jK6stBs)
- They provide riders who want a new challenge and are unsure or petrified or wanting to know more before taking the plunge to move up to 100s in Beyond the Basic clinics. The results? More 100 mile riders. (How long have we been talking about how to make the 100 mile distance grow again?)
Why do I know this is true?
Because it worked in the Northeast Region.
I was so impassioned about the clinic concept that I created Endurance 101 Powerpoints, wrote a motion to the BoD (passed) to subsidize endurance clinic insurance funding, re-hashed the Beyond the Basics powerpoints and content and I told everyone who would listen that they too could organize and/or teach a clinic.
And I taught clinics. Well over a dozen. Endurance 101s locally and out of state, to local riders and not-so-local riders, to 4-Hers, at the local horse expo. Beyond the Basics in Vermont, Pennsylvania and Virginia with the help of some fabulous other endurance riders and veterinarians with the desire to provide others with a slightly less steep learning curve by sharing their successes, failures, knowledge and passion.
I wrote about those clinics and the remarkable things that happened:
Articles in Endurance News–
I learned so much about myself and how new and learning competitors ticked that I blogged about it, hoping to inspire others and show others the resources that were out there. Blog Posts —
I wrote to the BoD more than once, a half dozen times, even when I was no longer on the BoD to try to spread the good things that I saw happening in our region.
I begged the previous BoD to encourage the same in their regions. I cajoled. I nagged. I finally threatened, and that was the last straw. It was so obvious to me that this was one of the PRIMARY focus points our organization needed to secure its future in a time of fewer horses, fewer riders, less land to ride, fewer trails and aging members.
The clinic program was never meant to be the Traveling Patti or Traveling Susan Garlinghouse Roadshow. (Although if we could clone Dr. Susan, wouldn’t that be grand?!) The clinic program was meant to be a grass roots program to hook local experts up with local riders and mentors and allow the jigsaw puzzle of the “tribe” to form.
It was our leadership’s failure to jump on board, to commit to making this happen all over AERC in an active and committed and driven way that caused me to finally throw my hands up in frustration and say “uncle.”
Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys became my new catch phrase.
But I love AERC, and the fact is that it is still my circus. And at least one or two of you are amongst my favorite monkeys. I know that with focus and a motivated membership, WE CAN DO THIS.
So when the VP column came out suggesting all sorts of ways to change the organization to find creative ways to “fix” a problem that we’ve seen be so wildly “fixable” in my region, I had to speak up.
Everything I have written above I write in the most constructive way possible. I am willing to help. The materials are available, the insurance is available, and I must tell you that one other resource is available, and that is our MEMBERSHIP.
The wealth of knowledge in each of our regions is rich and diverse and full of characters and people who want to TEACH others what they know, who are willing to reach a hand out to draw others up to their level rather than look down. I was overwhelmed at the riders and veterinarians in my region (and outside of it) who said “of course, I’d love to help.” Dinah Rojek, Kathy Broaddus, Lani Newcomb, Art King, Susan Garlinghouse (who pinch hit for an ailing Nick Kohut), and Daisy Bicking. Some of you may not know these names from my region, but you have your own Dinahs and Kathys and Arts, I know you do.
Let these people be a part of our success. Get them to OWN the excitement and passion that is bringing along new riders in an organized way.
Make endurance clinics, 101s and 201s and Beyond the Basics a part of our AERC Strategic Plan. Before talk of sanctioned 40-mile rides, and new divisions and changing our by-laws?