Adapt or Die
AERC and its ride managers are businesses that provide recreational events for horsemen on the North American continent and they must learn to adapt or die. Its time for AERC to grasp the fact our sport is failing to keep up with its changing demographics.
Participation in AERC events is on a downward spiral. AERC riders are growing older and becoming physically unable to continue participating in the sport many of them have centered their life around. There simply are not enough juniors and young people to make up for the dwindling numbers. When I started this sport I went to rides in a brand new pickup truck that cost $1600.00 pulling a new two horse trailer that cost $495.00. I slept in a tent and bought hay that was $17.00 a ton. I used the best farrier in southern California, and he was more expensive than any of the others. He charged $7.00 to shoe a horse. The vet got $10 to worm it. When it came time to choose a profession, I chose to become a veterinarian. Now the farriers are getting in the hundreds to tack on shoes and the owners can worm their own horses for under $6.00. If veterinarians had failed to adapt, as AERC has, they would have starved to death.
There are several things that AERC can and should do. Probably the most productive would be to eliminate the LD division. For that matter, they can eliminate the Endurance division as well. It’s really simple and its what XP Rides will do in 2018. We will no longer talk about LD riders and 50’s or Endurance Riders, as they are all XP Riders. They are mostly all AERC riders as well. This simple fix will encourage our older generation to keep going down the trail, adding to their lifetime AERC mileage. Is there anyone really worried that someone is going to beat Hosebag’s 65,000-mile record by combining his or her Endurance miles with their LD miles? Bear in mind that LD riders generally pay twice as much per mile to both AERC and ride managers, yet they are considered second-class citizens. They aren’t second-class, they are the ones who have saved the sport as many rides, including the XP, would have faded away without the support of the LD riders.
In 2018 there will be no longer be LD divisions in XP Rides. There will only be mileage divisions, period. AERC should do the same. All the year end, regional and national awards can be slightly modified in name only to reflect our adaptation to a system that treats all our riders as equally important. In a perfect world, as I see it, new riders would start at the lowest distances, even intro rides, and work their way up to try longer and more challenging distances and events, finally escalating to the highest level of endurance competition, The Tevis Cup. We need to stop the bickering over the different levels. FEI, hundreds, Tevis, fifties, twenty fives, intro rides and multi-days are all important and their advocates can devote their energies to improve their favorite venues instead of insisting everyone fit into their shoe.