A recent "debate" has sprung up on the AERC FB page which I for some unknown reason and against all rational thought participated in. I know. Not smart. I always get so riled up on these things and it makes no difference in my real life at all. When will I learn?
Anyway...it all started innocently enough. One of the AERC leaders wanted to know if any new people to the sport (no definition of what "new" means) would want to be hooked up with people attending the same ride as they are that are willing to mentor them through a ride.
Great idea! I had this at my first ride by accident and it helped tremendously. I am all for this. And it would seem that pretty much every other person is as well.
But then the wheels fell off as is typical when free help is offered to the population at large.
The leader than asked what should be expected of the newbie upon showing up. I responded and got beat down by the potential mentees and backed up by the potential mentors.
Basically, I think that upon showing up to your very first ride there are numerous things you should already have down pat. These are things you know well in advance are going to be present and for pure safety reasons need to have prepared for. Here was my answer:
Your horse should know how to handle the trail that you will be riding on: water crossings, roads, hills etc... and all should be approached safely.
Your horse should know how to trot out on the line for the vet
Your horse should have the basic conditioning to be able to finish the ride in the allotted time barring any issues such as a misstep, metabolics, hydration issues. No horse is ever guaranteed a finish and lord knows I'm not sure we will finish Biltmore, but you need to have some conditioning done.
You need to have the basic hydration and nutrition that your horse requires at baseline on a daily basis down. You may need to alter this for the ride, but at least know where to begin from.
The potential mentee (is that even a word?) then responded in a way that makes me want to bang my head against the nearest wall until the current world and perception of entitlement makes sense to me...probably close to the point of a concussion.
She basically said that if she had to do all that herself she would never come to a ride. She has a horse that apparently hates cows and yet her first ride is planned to be at a place with known cow encounters. She asked in a rude way if that would mean that she shouldn't go to that ride. She also stated that not everyone can know their horse inside and out and that she wants to go to a ride without any risk of making a mistake and that that is what the mentor is for.
Wow. That is so wrong on so many levels :(
First off - yes, if your horse has a known and unsafe aversion to a certain thing and you refuse to work on desensitizing them to it - you should not attend that ride. You definitely should not attend that ride with the thought that this poor sap who agreed to mentor you for free (having already paid their own ride fee as well) will go even farther and train your horse and you during the ride. If I was your mentor and we happened across a cow and you said you knew cows would be there and knew the unsafe reaction your horse would have and yet still came, I would leave you there. But then I guess I am mean.
Second - you need to know your horse's baseline. Period. Even if you board your horse you can ask the BO how much they eat and drink. How do you expect a mentor who just met you at the ride to know any of this if you, who owns the horse, don't? Do you think they have super powers? Rely on them to help if your horse has decided not to eat or drink or needs e-lytes. Not on the baseline.
Third - you want a mistake free journey? You want to show up and have someone else do all the work for you? Go elsewhere. This whole sport is about trial and error. Its about you figuring out how to be a better horseperson. You WILL make mistakes. You WILL have to pull or get pulled and it WILL be because of a bad decision you made. It happens. Then you learn not to do it again and move on. Don't strap some helpful person with the task of carrying your butt the entire way.
Well...then some other experienced people chimed in and agreed. Safety is essential. There are so many things you can't simulate. You can't recreate ridecamp, you can't recreate vetting in entirely, you can't recreate the weather that day or your horse's mood. But you can come to it fit. You can come to it with a well mannered horse who has been on terrain similar to the trail you plan to compete on. If you know there will be water crossings - practice at home. If there is something your horse reacts violently to then expose them at home. Or if you still insist on showing up, don't plan to ruin someone else's ride (and waste their money) by taking the entire ride time to get past the object. Its not fair and its not safe. Practice trotting out at home. A bad trot out can end your ride. Why make your mentor suffer through this at the ride? Make it as easy and enjoyable as possible so that when all those things you didn't even think of pop up you can focus on those and not about getting your horse to cross a creek.
We live in such a culture of entitlement and lack of both personal responsibility and pride in work. It drives me crazy!!! You want to show up and have someone else do it all for you? Ugh.