Reprinted from Endurance News, October 2012, Ride Managers’ Column, monthly publication of the American Endurance Ride Conference, www.aerc.org, 866-271-2372
My long-suffering husband, Richard, has a theory.
He says that if an endurance rider were to show up at a ride the afternoon prior without a horse, tack, helmet, hay and/or cash, that within a lap or two of walking around the ride camp and asking around, he or she could have all of the above and be ready to compete the following morning.
There is something special about the people in this sport.
If someone needs help, all they need to do is ask. So officially, here is the request:
AERC is at a crossroads. At the recent mid-year meeting, we spent a good chunk of time looking at our numbers, a bunch of charts and a bunch of initiatives to address this fact: AERC membership growth is stagnant.
The Membership Committee is working a grass-roots plan that has me as excited as just about anything the organization has spearheaded.
But we need your help!
The organization and office, over the last few years, have done an admirable job in controlling costs. There are no bleeding wounds to stop with regard to cost control.
Our major source of income is dues and ride fees, and no one (and I mean NO ONE!) wants to raise those.
So the controllable factor in our future is GROWTH.
When I look around, I see so much talent and willingness to help and get involved that I am confident that all we need to do is work collectively to grow our membership. I keep saying to the members of the BoD that I’m overwhelmed by the marketing team that we have in our membership – I just know we can do this!
If you have simply been waiting to be asked, consider this column to be AERC doing just that.
How can you help?
- If you compete on an atypical breed, why not write an article for your breed’s publication about how much you enjoy endurance riding on your horse, and ask others to join you? (If you’re not a writer but have a story to share, contact me, and we’ll get someone to interview you for the article and write it up.)
- If you have a local 4-H group, Pony Club, FFA, trail riding club or riding stable in your area, why not offer to come speak to their group about endurance riding?
- If you are an experienced competitor, why not sign up to become a mentor?
- Got a local newspaper? Regional horse publication? Tell them about endurance riding. Tell them about a local upcoming ride. Invite the paper or local news to send a reporter to cover the event.
- When you stop at the feed store, tack shop, or vet’s office, why not post a flier for an upcoming local endurance ride with a little note – “VOLUNTEERS WELCOME!”
- Why not work with a group of others in your region or area to organize and host an Endurance 101 Clinic?
- If you are a ride manager, how about an introductory/fun ride in conjunction with your LD and Endurance Ride? (Be sure to pass out AERC membership applications and drop the office a note to request New Rider Packets, chock full of information to help them get started.)
- Why not ask the newbie riders at your ride briefing to get up and introduce themselves briefly and encourage them to ask lots of questions, as well as have a few friendly veterans keep an eye on them as they get around their first few rides?
- What about simply seeing someone who is a little inexperienced and perhaps struggling with their horse – we’ve all seen the new person at the ride with a fire-breathing horse, an entirely different species than the docile beast they had at home – and say, “Hey, do you want some help?” or even “Hey, I’ve been there, too. Stop by my trailer and let’s talk after the ride; I’ll introduce you to a bunch of my friends.”
- Ask a day member – “Have you joined AERC yet?” And tell them all the reasons they should become a part of the AERC family.
- Share the magic of our sport with anyone who will listen. Tell them about the camaraderie, the sense of accomplishment, the ability of any horse that is metabolically and physically sound to get around a ride and our motto “to finish is to win.”
So when I say to all of you – “HELP!” – I am not just talking to the Ride Managers. I am talking to every single member.
Each of you is our biggest recruitment tool.
We did a little math at the mid-year BoD meeting, and figured that if each region could garner 50 new members for the 2013 season, we would be sitting comfortably from a budgetary perspective. No need to raise fees, or cut services, or change our way of doing business. I’m already winding up the members of my region, the Northeast, and I just know we can make this goal. How about your region?
Hey, can you help?
If you have ideas or suggestions on this topic, or you want to help but don’t know where to begin, please don’t hesitate to contact me.