Right in the rule book (rule 6.3) is the requirement that every finisher of every American Endurance Ride Conference competition “must receive a completion award.”
But those are just the start. AERC recognizes mileage accomplishments starting at 250 miles for both human and horse. There are best condition awards for exceptionally fit horses. There are awards specifically for stallions, for mares, for those who compete in Pioneer rides of three days or more in a row, for 100-mile riders, for high-mileage families. There are age-based awards, for junior riders, young riders, and for older riders, including one very special acknowledgement.
One of the more recent awards to catch the fancy of many riders is the Century Club Award, which honors rider/equine teams who earn the recognition when they complete a ride once their ages total 100 or more.
So far the roster of Century Club members totals four:
Connie Berto and Eco Stardust (California). Connie dreamed up the Century Club award. She is a long-time endurance rider and she and her Morgan gelding, Eco Stardust (AMHA 129921), completed 5,000 endurance miles in 2013 – after Connie’s hip replacement surgeries in 2007 and 2013.
Mary Chmielewski and Quicksilver (Ohio). Mary (her last name is pronounced “mah-les-key,” 83, is a typical older endurance rider. She still trots out her own horse at competitions, and enjoys riding her 18-year-old grey Arabian gelding, GKA Quick Silver (AHR 570114). Mary even completed the AERC Trail Master course in her home state of Ohio in 2016. Her AERC mileage totals to date: 2,515 endurance miles (of 50 miles or more) and 1,115 limited distance miles.
Dorothy Sue Phillips and Montana Flyer (Wyoming). Dorothy is the highest-mileage rider of this elite bunch, with 17,695 endurance miles (those are competition miles – that figure doesn’t count all her training miles!) and 1,035 limited distance miles. She switched over to the shorter-mileage rides in 2015. Montana Flyer (AHR 527262) has 7,945 endurance miles and 590 LD miles.
Leon Self, DVM, and Cole Younger (Missouri). Leon started out judging AERC rides, but was called to ride for the first time . . . at age 81. His mule, Cole Younger, was then 24 years old. They spent a half-year conditioning before entering the Pokie Okie 30-mile ride in 2014. Even with a combined age of 105, the pair wound up earning High Vet Score.
The American Endurance Ride Conference will be honoring the 2016 accomplishments of their members and equines at their annual convention March 9 and 10 in Grapevine, Texas. Yes, even more awards will be handed out, recognizing both annual and lifetime achievements.
Mary speaks for every endurance rider when she says, “I love the endurance riders, the camaraderie and friendships that I have developed over 40 years of long-distance riding. The endurance people have a true love of their horses and the horse discipline that they have chosen. I will always have a horse and ride until my body says to stop. As long as I can climb up on a horse, I will ride!”
To find out more about the “to finish is to win” sport, visit www.aerc.org or phone the AERC national office at 866-271-2372.
The American Endurance Ride Conference (AERC) was founded in 1972 as a national governing body for long distance riding. Over the years it has developed a set of rules and guidelines designed to provide a standardized format and strict veterinary controls. The AERC sanctions more than 700 rides each year throughout North America and in 1993 Endurance became the fifth discipline under the United States Equestrian Team.
In addition to promoting the sport of endurance riding, the AERC encourages the use, protection, and development of equestrian trails, especially those with historic significance. Many special events of four to six consecutive days take place over historic trails, such as the Pony Express Trail, the Outlaw Trail, the Chief Joseph Trail, and the Lewis and Clark Trail. The founding ride of endurance riding, the Western States Trail Ride or “Tevis,” covers 100 miles of the famous Western States and Immigrant Trails over the Sierra Nevada Mountains. These rides promote awareness of the importance of trail preservation for future generations and foster an appreciation of our American heritage. For more information please visit us at www.aerc.org.