[If you are an AERC member and would like to voice an opinion on this topic, here’s a link to email your BoD members. Please note that most of them do not read or participate on Facebook, so while such discussions may be gratifying and allow you to vent your spleen or defend yourself, this is probably the more effective means of communicating your views as a member. https://aerc.org/static/Membership_Bod_Board.aspx ]

Good morning AERC BoD and members, USEF and FEI representatives.

I know a great many of you, and I know how difficult it can be to navigate the turbulent waters of the AERC BoD or Committee Chair role. I served on the BoD for one term, and also served for a long time as Chair of the Ride Managers’ Committee. So first off, thank you for your service to the organization and the sport I know we all love.

I’ve learned that the amount of time spent on Facebook and my mental health are inversely proportional.

The divisiveness of the discussions re: AERC’s relationship with Region VII and FEI and USEF are savage. I know that many of you do not participate on Facebook (see above; I understand why not) but there is a reality that we need to face. Whether or not the USEF/FEI/Region 7 issue itself affects our organization and the outside perception of it, the social media fights certainly do. We are not putting our best face forward and I think we’ve all realized how critical Facebook has been to AERC’s growth/new member recruiting over the past 8-10 years.

One could attempt to squelch that discussion, but I don’t think that is a long term solution, or even a good short term solution.

We appear to have reached an impasse that grows further apart and without the sage wisdom about “seeking first to understand.”

Who knew horsepeople could be so opinionated? 😉

On one side we have our long-standing grass roots members who want us to distance ourselves from the Region VII atrocities by disassociating with USEF and FEI and focus on our sport in North America. On the other side we have members of AERC who stand firmly on their right to continue to compete in Region VII, given their own focus on riding with integrity.

The longer the fight goes on, the wider the chasm seems to get. The tone and commentary has gotten so vicious that I find myself wanting to disagree with people whose comments I agree with simply because they are offered with such vile contempt that it is embarrassing (or should be). For them. For the organization. For what I have long considered to be “my tribe.”

This divide is not new. I wrote this blog over four years ago on the same topic: http://enduranceintrospection.com/wp/a-personal-rant-about-whats-become-of-fei-endurance/

And that was before Splitter’s Creek Bundy.

Every winter, it is new atrocities, new rules being broken, more equine fatalities.

Some of our oldest and most respected members –champions of the AERC philosophies we all hold so dear– say that writing another letter is not enough. It is time for some sort of action on the part of our AERC members. I tend to agree.

The question is, what action can we take that still leaves us a seat at the USEF table going forward but sends not only a strong message of solidarity to our membership, but also to the world and our fellow countries and National Federations struggling with the same civil war among their rank and file members.

Here’s what I posted on Facebook this morning. It’s not some new or great or well thought out concept, but it is a starting point for a solution going forward:

Tip-toeing in here with a thought to try to build some sort of consensus … I suspect that if the AERC-I/USEF members of AERC were to make an announcement that they would no longer ride in Region 7 other than the Boudheib venue, as an act of solidarity and protest to send a message to USEF and the FEI, until such time that FEI acts to punish the rule violations going on there … I believe that we would see a united AERC applauding their decision. From the grass roots to the entirety of the BoD. And I think publicizing that decision would go a long way to demonstrating to other countries our leadership; by acting in the only way we really can (and stay connected to USEF so we continue to have a voice) to express our outrage for those venues and stables who are continually thumbing their nose at the FEI rules and our own values re: horse welfare. (Just trying to throw an actual path forward that would show unity rather than continue to contribute to the us vs. them discussion.) It’s a compromise between the most polar views on each side of this divide. (One saying we need to divorce all relations, the other saying that international riders could and should ride wherever they like.) Now I am heading to work and suspect this will start a whole new war, which is exactly what it was NOT intended to do and one of the reasons I consider Facebook bad for my mental health.

Take good care. I hope this suggestion will be received with the well-meaning sentiment with which it was intended. I have dear friends, who I respect greatly, on both sides of this divide. It pains me greatly, and leaves me with a pit in my stomach.

Thank you for your time.

— Patti Stedman (M20888)