October 14 2014
The AERC Board of Directors, after much consideration and enthusiastic input from our members, recently voted to return to an "Open Record" policy with regard to all horse and rider statistics as historically available on the AERC website.
In order to offer a more complete understanding as to how this issue has evolved, it should be noted that there were two main concerns that led to the experimental decision to close AERC's Horse and Rider History records: 1) How to reverse declining membership, and, 2) How to gain new members, primarily through adding value to AERC membership.
Our membership has steadily decreased since 2008. The "Open Records" policy hadn't seemed, historically, to have had a measurable effect in gaining or retaining members. It was suggested that making a part of those records a "membership-only" benefit might help encourage riders to join or renew. During the decision making process that led to closing the records on a trial basis, the Board had received significant member feedback, including complaints from current members that a non-member has almost all of the value of membership without paying dues. Their miles show up online in their history, even riding as a day member. AERC still adds to the lifetime miles of their horses every time they compete. They can still access a number of articles in Endurance News online and they have access to all the educational material AERC provides. They benefit from our trails support, grants, and research. While the records are open as they have been, a non-current member, at first glance, seemingly has almost all of the benefits of a dues paying member with the only disadvantage of paying a day member fee.
Under a completely open records system, some felt the impression could be given that the only advantages to joining are not having to pay a day-member fee and a more complete Endurance News, though, of course, full AERC membership offers much more indeed. Shining a brighter light on the value of membership was part of the reasoning behind the decision to make the Horse History and Rider History limited to members only. All other records such as the ride calendar, ride results, point standings, horses owned/ridden, member location, were to remain open.
However, in the time since the decision was made to close the records, there has been strong opposition voiced on the part of many of our members and non-members regarding the closure. While too numerous to mention here, many substantive examples have been put forth as to why open access to the AERC records on behalf of all interested parties of the general public benefits AERC, its members and prospective new members, as well as aids indirectly in horse welfare and trails preservation efforts. Upon re-examining this issue and the consideration of the associated member feedback, it was voted at the recent AERC Board of Directors teleconference on October 13, 2014, to reinstate open records access.
The Board would like to thank all the members who took the time to respond and give their feedback regarding records access. Member input is critical in assisting the Board as it leads AERC though times of economic uncertainty and declining membership. We have listened and responded. The records will be reopened shortly. The Board is tasked with assuring AERC remains a viable organization in the future, and to do that we must sometimes make decisions that are not popular. This has been a very positive experience in light of the magnitude of member feedback stimulated by this issue.
Other projects currently underway designed to encourage growth and stability for AERC include: hiring a marketing contractor to increase AERC's brand awareness; an improved mentor program; more educational clinics at many levels; more educational videos available on AERC's YouTube channel; an updated website; and a program to recruit new ride managers. We invite you to stay abreast of changes within AERC, now and in the future, through the AERC website. If you have any questions, comments or a desire to get more involved in helping AERC to grow and prosper, please feel free to contact the friendly AERC office staff or any Board member for further information. Thank you, and we hope to see you at an AERC event soon!
AERC Board of Directors