Tuesday, January 14, 2014

AERC Hall of Fame Rider Robert Ribley Responds to Sponsorship Committee Motion

January 13 2014

AERC Board of Directors
International Committee
Veterinary Committee 
Competitions Committee
Welfare of the Horse Committee
Sponsorship Committee

I am writing to you regarding the motion put forward from the Sponsorship Committee that proposes to suspend concurrent FEI and AERC events as of January 1, 2015 if AERC requirements are not met by FEI by December 31, 2014.

I am an AERC member, rider, ride manager, comittee member on various committees, committee chair and previous AERC director.   I am not an FEI rider nor do I ever plan on becoming an FEI rider (though I do think they could learn a thing or two from me).  I have ridden in a number of AERC/FEI co-sanctioned rides and what I observe is the safeguards put in place for the horses are more stringent and of a higher quality than most stand-alone AERC rides.  The FEI co-sanctioned rides have experienced, qualified endurance veterinarians and treatment readily available.  I observe that where a horse may be disqualifed from the FEI portion of the ride because they have not met the FEI criteria, the same horse will finish the AERC ride because of the more lax criteria.  My experience in the U.S. is that FEI rides are more stringently monitored, and safe for our horses than our AERC stand alone rides.  I have managed AERC/FEI co-sanctioned rides and find the U.S. FEI riders to be professional, courteous, and though competitive they still compete within the guidelines and rules put forth to keep their horses safe.  The first FEI/AERC ride I managed I had concerns about the level of competition within the FEI riders and associated problems.  What happened in reality was that compared to the level of competition and squabbling amongst the LD riders fighting at the finish line for a pulse, the FEI riders and horses posed no problem.

100 mile rides within AERC are struggling to survive due to the decrease in riders willing to take on the challenges and dedication it takes to ride this distance.  The 100 mile ride is the historical foundation upon which this sport is based and the organization should do what it can to help preserve and support the 100 mile one day ride, the distance that brought this sport into existence.   Denying sanctioning to 100 mile rides (and the associated distances for any particular ride) because they are FEI associated will do nothing to improve the welfare situation for horses on the other side of the world, but will assuredly accelerate the demise of 100 mile rides here in our home country.  

While I understand the reasons behind the intent of AERC to dissociate itself with FEI if certain parameters are not met, I do not see where taking our organization out of the discussion will in any way help the situation for horses overseas.  If AERC has identified safety and welfare issues for horses in our sport that are outside of our country, and we trueley want to help improve the situation for these horses, then we need to keep our voices heard by remaining active and leading by example.  To simply withdraw from the participation and therefore discussion will not bring AERC any closer to a resolution.  

The majority of AERC members have not ridden in FEI rides, have not managed FEI rides, and do not have enough knowledge about FEI to make an informed decision on this motion.  It is a "feel good" motion that on first glance seems to solve a problem they have heard rumors about. This is similiar to the "feel good" law that was passed in California banning horse slaughter.  The "horse lovers" that supported this measure did not foresee the ramifications that resulted such as overpopulation of unwanted/starving horses.  The AERC membership, before being asked what they think about this motion, should be educated by those more intimately involved in and knowledgeable about FEI on matters such as how withdrawing FEI sanctioning in the U.S. will help improve the situation for horses and what the potential negative ramifications for AERC the passage of this motion would mean.  

I have seen AERC in it's early years from the perspective of a rider and am a good judge of horse abuse.   We were a different culture in the beginnings of AERC - it's a fact that horses were overridden.  We have changed culturally, and some of these changes have not been because of rule changes but because of our views on how we look at our horses.  Rules often cannot put a stop to overriding horses, but what will stop it comes from within the rider.  Endurance riding in other countries is relatively new compared to the U.S. and they are still developing their cultural way in the treatment of horses.   Riders in any country who put a value on horses and truly learn to value their horses will eventually develop the desire within to preserve the health and longevity of their horses.
I would ask that committee chairs that are copied on this email forward it on to their respective committees.

Thank you for all that you do for AERC as directors and committee chairs.  AERC is an organization that I am proud to be a member of and with good direction will remain the leader within the sport of endurance riding.

Robert Ribley
AERC # 2247
Elections Committee Chair

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