AERC honors an equine and rider team each year that exemplifies the spirit of friendship and enthusiasm with the Pard’ners Award. However competitive they may be, good sportsmanship remains their first priority. Together horse and rider personify the prevailing and abiding goal of AERC: “To finish is to win.” The 2019 Pard’ners Award was presented to Laurie Birch and Scudd Run in March 2020 at the nonprofit organization’s convention in Jacksonville, Florida. Laurie tells the story:
By Laurie Birch
Being awarded the 2019 Pard’ners Award came as a complete surprise! It was also a well-kept secret by others. At the request of one of my Pacific Southwest Region directors, I flew out to Florida with my very good friend and riding companion, Carla, to attend the AERC convention to be an awards presenter. I was not expecting to be a recipient.
As I was sitting in the audience that night at the National Awards Banquet, Carla went up to the podium and started to say some words that I recognized: “. . . Her horse went from a career on the race track to finding a life on the endurance trail. She is committed to finishing and over the many years of competing, both she and her horse have finished many rides . . .”
I knew then about whom she was talking. It was a well-written speech that anyone would be proud of and, when she was finished, and my name was mentioned, I stood up to take the stage to accept my award. I could also see others in the audience stand up as well and then it hit me: I must have done something right.
Doing the right thing. It’s that simple. Doing the right thing when the right thing is not popular. Doing the right thing when no one else is around. Doing the right thing when it helps others. Doing the right thing all the time. And doing the right thing will always work out best in the long run.
How wonderful does it feel like to celebrate a success with your equine teammate? If teamwork happens the way it’s supposed to, it can lead to amazing things.
Being the recipient of the Pard’ners Award is a uniquely coveted honor of which I now follow in the “hoof prints” of the others that preceded me. In all, if it weren’t for my horse, Scudd Run, aka Taz, this award would not be possible.
I am a firm believer in luck. Though you can’t control it, you can put yourself in a good position to be lucky. For example, I want to share this story from the summer of 2015. While setting up camp at Robie Park in preparation for the 100-mile Western States Trail Ride (aka Tevis Cup), I was approached by one of my fellow riders, Cathy, who was at the time in a dilemma. She had brought two horses, one for herself and the other for an Australian rider who was joining her on this ride.
Cathy didn’t know what to do as one of her horses came up lame. Instead of doing nothing, I suggested to Cathy that we go for a walk, to knock on trailer doors and ask others in an attempt to find another horse that she could use. With a little luck, motivation, and teamwork, someone did have a horse that was available. And that horse came from a fellow endurance rider who considerately let Tracy use her horse for the event.
In the end, both Cathy and Cathy’s Australian guest finished well on that Tevis ride. Not only was it her first 100-mile ride, it was also her first endurance ride in the States and she returned to Australia with a buckle! In this case luck put Cathy in a position where luck affected the outcome and both she and Tracy got the “brass ring.”
Over my 22 years in endurance, I have met people along the way that have had an impact on what I do, how I do it, and why it mattered to me. I try not to make judgments, and I try to respect everyone’s opinions and values. But I do believe there are a few things that, regardless of your principles, are basic to being a good rider: integrity, honesty, compassion for others and, probably most important, good sportsmanship. With my endurance family, I have encapsulated a special bond. Similar commitment and sharing the same interest exemplifies the deepest connection of friendship, enthusiasm and championship of the sport.
I believe a cohesive, mutually bonded team begins by building trust. As the rider, my job was to motivate and guide my horse to reach my goals. However, I would not have been able to accomplish this if my horse didn’t feel a sense of trust and loyalty in me. Daily routines in which I worked together with my horse for long periods of time, and which involved commonly shared risks, dangers, and travail, gave me a sense of solidarity with my horse.
Mutual dependency and the experience of acting as a unit led to an effective relationship. A trust was built from which both my horse and I drew confidence. Once my relationship with my horse had developed, I held a strong proprietary attachment to my partner which enhanced the effectiveness of our team. I consider my horse something with life and thought, like myself, who feels what I feel, understands me, and keenly participates in my pleasures. My horse is an extension of me, my mute surrogate. She has changed my life as well as defined it.
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. AERC also encourages the use, protection, and development of equestrian trails, especially those with historic significance. 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.