Thursday, January 01, 1998

AERC in 1972? - Phil Gardner

Since Phil Gardner does not contribute to our list very often, it might be interesting to some of the newer endurance enthusiasts to know that it was Phil in the early 70`s who looked at the various rides (probably about seven or eight) )going on around the country and thought the horse could use a little protection and that we needed a uniform set.of rules. And so he gathered in Auburn, California (Tevis Cup Country) a group of five or six people and together they pounded out a simple organization governed by only five simple rules. To be sanctioned by the newly formed American Endurance Ride Conference you must agree to the following:
1. The first horse to finish (in the least amount of time ) in acceptable condition is the winner.
2. There shall be an award for the best conditioned horse.
3. There can be no minimum time limit.
4. The ride (horses) must be controlled by veterinarians
5. Everyone finishing a ride shall receive a completion award.

That was it! And in our naivete we actually thought that covered every possible contingency. We were a happy enthusiastic group with Phil as our first president and we undertook to spread the word of this incredibly exciting sport. No one had ever heard of electrolytes, fanny packs, gatorade, heart monitors or any of the other hundreds of items that have made our lives as endurance riders in the 90`s easier. And we grew and saw the necessity of more rules, and we grew some more and added more rules until Phil`s fledging American Endurance Ride Conference now has a twenty-two man board, sixteen active hard working committees and a budget in the thousands of dollars. It is the internationally recognized body representing endurance riding in the United States and every country that now recognizes endurance riding has based their rules on those five simple rules that Phil and his buddies formed that first night they met in 1972. Those of us who were in it from the beginning now swing down the trail with a generation of riders that were not born when our Conference was born. We attend conventions and watch those who have risen to the top accept their awards if they can tear themselves away from a fabulous trade show. We go home with a list of about 500 hundred rides nationally from which to choose. We can read any or all of a number of "how to" books. We have watched the first simple criteria of "fit to continue" determined by pulse, respiration and soundness to now include hydration, capillary refill, mucous membrane and cardiac recovery index checks. We have watched required pulse recovery which in the 1970s was usually 70bpm drop to 60bpm.

And we are able to participate in the ridecamp forum with an active and healthy exchange of ideas. At the convention this year, Phil, you walked quietly through the trade show and I wonder what thoughts went through your head on the 25th Anniversary of "your" conference. We have come a long way and we have a long way to go. Thanks, Phil, for starting us out in the right direction.
Julie Suhr

Thank you Julie for your flattering post on #281. Being at the convention this year, it brought a great feeling of pride that I had a part is starting AERC. Like many there are times that I question a new rule or action of the board. However at times like this it is important to see the whole picture. We are a small group in the scheme of things and that we are able to maintain a functioning national organization such as AERC is a marvel. Considering that the thing that endurance riders like to do most, next to riding, is argue about riding. It is a minor miracle that we are able to pull together for the common good.

Consider what would happen if AERC did not exist. How different would the rides be in different regions if the sport hadn`t been defined by a set of standards. How safe would endurance horses be without the work and educational efforts of the veterinary committee. How many trails would have been lost that have been saved by the dedicated people who are so vigilant in this area.

It is not uncommon to go to a ride and hear a lot of bitching about AERC, too many rules, not enough rules, the dues are too high, the money is not being managed right, the office is unresponsive, etc, etc. It is important not to loose sight of the fact that these comments are the signs of a healthy, active organization. We do have an office with a paid staff, a good publication in the Endurance News, a multitude of awards, international representation, trail preservation, horse protection that makes endurance riding one of the safest sports for the horse, standards for events, education for new people to the sport, and on and on. These things far outweigh the fact that an occasional rule is passed that we don`t like, or that a few dollars of our dues are spent in a way we don`t think is wise.

If the people starting out in endurance now want to be able to do it when they are in their 60`s and 70`s, it is important to recognize the overall need for AERC and to keep it healthy.

Phil Gardner

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