Reprinted from Endurance News, November 2012, Ride Managers’ Column, monthly publication of the American Endurance Ride Conference, www.aerc.org, 866-271-2372
I find it a privilege to work with AERC’s Ride Managers’ Committee, because I think that the willingness to take the risk – so many risks! – to manage an endurance ride means that those in the role of Ride Manager should be able to wear super-hero capes, or get handed little halos or wings or trophies once they survive the effort.
Ride Managers are the heart and soul of our sport.
AERC sets the rules and standards for our rides, but it is those who manage rides who actually put these rules into practice, make them work on ride day, and we count on them to do so with integrity.
The good news is that compared to some equestrian sports, the rules we have are relatively few and simple, but in the end, we count on ride managers at the local level (and the riders supporting them) to keep AERC rules and standards with integrity.
Sometimes riders, and even ride managers, disagree with the way a ride manager manages a ride, or does awards, or what they do for a meal (or not), or the way they set up their camp, or the method they use to mark their trail, or one of a million little things that makes each ride its own. But to me, this is the BEST part of AERC rides in this country, the incredible diversity and opportunity we have to manage our rides in our own way, with our own spin and our own flavor! I’m rarely interested in arguing about a lot of these nuances. Vive la difference!
If you’ve got ideas that are better, save your criticism, and jump right in! Run your own ride, do it your way! We will help in any way we can.
During the time I’ve spent discussing issues with people involved in our sport, and observing others’ views (even those with which I disagree vehemently) one of the primary fundamentals I am reminded of repeatedly is that almost without exception, people believe that they are doing the RIGHT thing for the sport, the riders, and/or the horses. At AERC, we have a massive and expansive umbrella with opportunities for people with widely differing goals. That is something to be celebrated and embraced!
There can be a fine line between individuality and integrity, however, and I don’t know a ride manager who hasn’t been faced with making decisions that put us in the hot seat of demonstrating our character:
- A rider rides a loop in the wrong direction – they’re not eligible for points – do we look the other way?
- Riders complain that our tough trail is too long even though our diligent measurements show that is not – do we cut off several miles so that the riders and horses have an easier day?
- Someone comes in overtime — a frustrating situation where the rider is not eligible for a completion – this despite the fact that every last ride manager I know wants nothing more than to give it to them
- A rider breaks a rule of conduct – do we have the ‘stones’ to follow up, or do we hope that someone else takes care of it down the road, so that we can avoid getting into the fray?
If we are ever in doubt about what to do, it is a good rule to ask ourselves what we shall wish on the morrow that we had done.
Managing a ride with integrity is not always easy, not always simple. Ride managers, I believe in my heart, do the best they can each time, with the best of intentions. We make mistakes from time to time, misinterpret a rule or decide to sidestep something because it is the path of least resistance. We do better when and because we know better.
AERC counts on us to keep striving to get it right.