AERC John Parke Hot Topics Session, Buncha HOT Topics, fun reading!
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John Parke, attorney, rider, ride manager, returned on Sunday for another Hot Topic session he named Dogs, Guns, and Steel after the famous title of the recent-ish book Guns, Germs and Steel, because John Parke has a sense of sardonic humor. This session he did NOT have a set agenda, he wanted to hear from us; what are the Hot Topics from us…..
Note: Hot Topics are a gambit I use in my classes to signify topics that are germane across all grade levels, and all subject areas. This is similar, Hot Topics cross breeds, races, racers, rider, ride managers, veterinarians, etc. Therefore, Note to Self and Others: Recommend that Hot Topics need to be held at different times of the day; some early morning and some over cock/mocktails in the evening….. to get a broader participation and input.
John Parke started us off with some of the topics that have been hit hard on the Board, and on the AERC FB page, etc. *Dogs in Camp* is a BIG topic and a very controversial one, BUT it was apparent to me during the discussion via FB as well as here in the Hot Topic session, that AERC is REALLY reluctant to make a RULE about Dogs in Camp and would really rather leave it to Ride managers; to me? that is a cowards’ way out….. but, I think I understand. I also think RM’s maybe WANT some backup for their dog policies from AERC, but RM’s can email AERC about that. If we are depending on membership and a significant # of members HAVE dogs who want to bring them to rides, well …… folks we have a problem and thus as a membership WE need to solve the problem. Thus, there seems to be no solution EXCEPT status quo which seems to be let the Ride Manager decide and do the policing; which does not seem altogether right either.
Personally, I am NOT a dog person. I do not want pets in camp, other than horses. I want all cockatiels, snakes, cats, rats, and dogs to stay home and stay out of camp…. I would be much more comfortable if I never had to deal with another dog ever! and I do not mind saying so. However, I will also say, that since I do not happen to rule the world, yet, that I do end up camping with over 450 lbs of dogs who belong to my friends and fellow riders… because I am egalitarian and am willing to see what happens, we all camp together and I have more than 5 dogs at a time in and around my horses during ride camps. My horses are all great around dogs, I ride with friends who have dogs….. we sometimes ride with 3-4 dogs at once…. My horses are VERY good around dogs; they don’t kick, or bite, or even mind dogs all that much; which is a VERY good thing.
In addition, I am training my horses to not be afraid of dogs, so if a dog charges my horses we turn to face and even chase dogs….if the dog is aggressive. I have also been known to take a dressage or lunge whip to an overly aggressive dog. The ecology of this is that dogs are predators and horses are prey; and as humans we are apex predators and opportunistic species and are charged with the care of our horse.
My horses and I are good citizens and are respectful community members; which means we follow the 3 R’s— we Respect the Ride Manager’s Rules about Dogs– on leash, means ON LEASH AT ALL TIMES —not off leash at ANY TIME! we RESPECT the landowners rules, if the landowner wants dogs on a leash, then dogs needs to be ON A LEASH AT ALL TIMES, and we RESPECT each other; which means, if my camp mates leave their dog off leash in our little personal camp, and that/those dogs(s) never leave(s) their owners’ side while we are in our camplet during a ride, we don’t get bent outa shape aboudit. Ya know? And I know, you all know what I am talkin’’ about. I also think most people would agree with this. We do not all think your dog is cute enough to be allowed to be a nuisance, at anytime. So, please be RESPECTFUL of our feelings as well. We don’t want your dog wandering loose, peeing and pooping on our stuff or scaring the daylights out of us ( recall, dogs are predators with huge teeth and bone crunching jaw capacity and even if not your dog likely has the attitude that goes along with that ( Doberman, Chihuahua, Coonhound, Boxer, or Rottweiler, or whatever). That was the general consensus of the FB discussion as well as the session at AERC…
I do want you to know that when I mentioned this at my BCHW chapter meeting? They all agreed that everyone better keep the dogs away from the mules…. Whazzup with that? Do all mules stomp dogs? Really?
Then, onto another HOT topic: Guns…. Concealed weapons permits, carrying guns into National Parks, wilderness areas, and who is shooting on the trails…… and IF you shoot….. what about training your horse to be OK with you shooting your gun near them? Suggestion, a good suggestion, is to take your horse, and you, to a bomb-proofing clinic wherein you learn how to train your horse to do this. We have all seen the Cowboy Mounted Shooting, so we know horse CAN be taught to do this.
My personal stake in this one, is that I ride alone, a lot. And I think I may want to start carrying my gun. But, my horses are not accustomed to me shooting off of them. I could do it …. ONCE, as someone facetiously commented. I am not so much afraid of wild animals, as I am of evil people I might encounter. Someone shared that Michael Martin does these clinics out of Eagle Pt, Oregon and I know the Mounted Police organization is having clinics in the pacific northwest area this year.
Next Hot Topic was relationships with other user groups: motorcycle groups, mountain biker groups. Hiker groups, etc. One lady, cannot remember her name BUT she wrote an article for Endurance news about dogs in camp…. She shared about one defining event where her relationship with her mountain biker group was cemented after she rescued one lady who was hurt on the mt biker event.
Next Hot Topic was the language in the contracts we sign for using BLM and USFS land prevents RM’s from asking for release or indemnification so that language contradicts our ride liability releases. This discrepancy has not yet had an impact nor been tested in court, yet. Neither organization has tried to enforce it.
Another Hot Topic is *Short Rides*, which we all took to mean Trail Rides/Fun rides and Limited Distance rides—the conundrum here is that our organization is losing members and if members want to do trail and limited distance, why not count those miles? The organization may need to change. I spoke up and said that the organization should start keeping track of ALL miles, endurance, LD, and Trail as incentive to new people as that is the Hotter Topic: member attrition about 30% a year. The Board is in discussion about all of that. Our regional organization DOES do that and counts a *mile as a mile*; except not trail miles. That led right into the Member Attrition topic, our membership is declining and our demographic is aging (NOT aged). It is also a turnover problem and the topic came up around *elitist* attitude/ perception by new riders—feeling unloved, unwanted, not a *part* , feeling as outsiders, etc. VERY interesting because Aarene, and others who are on the inside have a perception that they are *helpful* and they do help people. How can that discrepancy exist? Well, because at Ride camps, as you know, we are all busy attending to our stuff, and caring for our horses. One sociological reason might be that *busy-ness* can lead to someone not feeling a *part* of things at Ride Camp, especially if they don’t know HOW to care for their things, attend to getting everything ready nor care for their horses*; so they see us/ya’ll being * busy* and want to know what we are doing but are reluctant to butt in while we are busy. I know that feeling well…. I stand there watching as people buzz around, and I wonder what I should be doing…. You know the feeling? There is a general consensus around the exclusionary feeling of Ride Camp and the cold feeling by new riders whom we/you WANT to welcome. Indeed, there is also the intimidating feeling because it is a RACE!
Here are some ideas put forth by RM’s and other riders: you may recognize some that your regional organization is doing and other ideas you may want to try:
1. Beginners meetings and Endurance 101 clinics, before and after regular ride meetings
2. Have a *Welcoming Committee* who acts by identifying and welcoming new riders, hangin’ out with them, dragging them to meetings/clinics/ acts generally helpful.
3. Have fun rides at every endurance ride (here is where I said, and COUNT THOSE MILES) with added incentive such as awards for all miles, awards and recognition for bumping up as you go up in miles, I was introduced to Mollie Krumlaw whose organization has an interesting idea around that, I will get the details and post here when I get them.
4. Educational activities: Dr. Susan Garlinghouse is making short, educational YouTube videos for organizations to use and show to everyone, new riders especially (I asked her to please include her talk about the *sweet spot* in terms of rating and pacing your horse).
5. LOVE this one: one organization has made weatherproof signs for who is who, titles, etc. and they plant these large signs outside their trailers so people know who is who and who is camped where.
6. LD is where the new riders are….the endurance riders admitted they need to socialize more with the people who ride LD.
7. Put labels on vet cards; NEW RIDER; so vets know and others know, so they can be made much of and garner more help; perhaps going away feeling more cared for and be more likely to come back.
Overall, we need to cast a bigger net, be ambassadors of our sport.
I know you all have your own stories about all of these topics, I urge you to share them here and the Board of AERC wants to hear from you as well; John said to email them with ideas about any or all of the above Hot Topics. the BoD contact page is here: http://www.aerc.org/Membership_Bod_Board.aspx