2014 AERC Convention write-up and report

Convention aftermath means I was tired enough to get a two-hour nap on the plane trip home, a feat normally reserved for red-eye and/or international flights. But the fun times and awesome people were worth the few less hours of sleep than normal. And after two solid nights’ sleep in my own bed, I’m feeling relatively normal again…
My trip started bright and early at o-dark-thirty Thursday morning with a 6:15 flight – as in 6:15 AM – and I’m pretty sure my boyfriend earned sainthood status by dropping me off at the airport at 4:45 in the morning. At least there’s virtually no traffic in Phoenix that time of the morning…
I was fortunate enough to share the flight with a fellow AZ endurance rider, so the time passed with horse talk and a shared portable DVD player.
The packages I had shipped to the hotel ahead of time all arrived in one piece and were waiting for me when I got there, so I was able to get the Renegade booth set up in short order and ready for the next day.
One of the best parts of going to the conventions is getting to meet people. As was the case in Reno last year, I got to meet people I had only previous known through blogging and/or Facebook, as well as people I’ve spoken and emailed with as part of Renegade customer service and support.
While setting up the Renegade booth, I was able to meet Kristen Lacey of The Distance Depot, who is one of our Renegade dealers. (They also made the bright orange tack set that shows up in some of my photos. Beautiful work – I would highly recommend them for biothane tack.) And of course I wasn’t going to leave empty-handed, especially since they are carrying the new Kerrits Ice-Fil tights – eager to test them this summer and see if they make a difference in the heat.
Thursday evening was the first of the blogger meet-ups, when Caitlin of Rafikah Rosecame into town and we went to a fantastictapas restaurant. We’re both total foodies, and when I go to a new place, I love to default to what the locals consider the “good” places. This was definitely good, and with a name like The Iberian Pig, celebrated all parts of said pig. Mac-n-cheese infused with pork belly? Yes, please!
The whole point of tapas is to share dishes, which means you get to sample a variety of multiple dishes without feeling like you need to compensate with a 5-mile run the next day. Other dishes samples were eggplant fries, bacon-wrapped/manchego-stuffed dates, the aforementioned mac-n-cheese, and pork cheek tacos.
What I failed to mention earlier was the weather – 39* and very cloudy when I stepped off the plane, and sometime while I was setting up the booth, it started raining. Hmmm. At least I brought a good – and waterproof – jacket.
That rain continued through the evening, and Caitlin and I had a grand time traipsing around Atlanta before heading back to the hotel and continuing swapping pony tales for another couple of hours.
Eventually Mel (of Boots and Saddles), who would be helping me run the booth for the weekend, arrived on her very late-night flight, and fortunately I was still awake, since, despite my request, the hotel front desk had failed to actually grant her a room key.
Mel and I first met in person before Tevis 2012, after following each other’s blogs for years, and she was a huge help to me in running the booth at last year’s convention. This year, she was more than willing to help out again, and I couldn’t have done it without her. She’s also a Renegade dealer, has ridden endurance in them for a number of years now, and is very knowledgeable about the boots, troubleshooting, and how to clearly explain the function and biomechanical relationship of the boots and the hoof.
Like I said, invaluable asset to a convention booth.
Friday morning, the trade show opened at 8:00AM and we were all set up and ready. I was also joined in the booth this year by Cheri Briscoe, whose name is pretty familiar in endurance circles. She won this year’s National Mileage Championship, as well as the Jim Jones Stallion Award (high mileage stallion), the Bill Stuckey Award (high mileage 65+ year-old rider), and a couple of others whose details escape me at the moment (my brain was pretty fried by the awards Saturday night). Cheri has ridden in Renegades for at least the past five or six years, and has logged over 5,000 competitive miles in them – 1660 this past year alone.
l to r: Cheri, myself, Melinda

Cheri was also a great rep to have in the booth – she has enthusiasm and the field experience to be able to answer questions like “How do the boots do in the mud?”. (Apparently the Grand Canyon ride this past year involved practically swimming up part of the trail, and lots and lots of mud.)
Atlanta was a smaller convention than Reno, at least when it came to the trade show, but we were absolutely slammed with people. One of the reasons I was excited about going to Atlanta was the chance to connect with new market. Being west-coast-based, the rides that I, and a lot of Renegade people, attend are on that side of the country, so by setting up a booth in Atlanta, I was hoping it meant people that might not have been exposed to Renegades would be able to see them in person. One of the things about the boots, I feel, is that they are a very hands-on product. You really appreciate the mechanics and engineering behind the boots once you pick them up and can see the function of the heel captivator.
I also really like in-person troubleshooting, so if people did have any questions, or maybe were having concerns with their boots, I was able to physically demonstrate with a boot in hand some key points to look for in fitting and adjusting the boots.
hanging out at the booth
l to r: Caitlin, myself, Saiph, Liz
Friday also brought more blogger meetups – Liz from In Omnia Paratus and Saiph from Wait for the Jump has driven down from West Virginia and DC, respectively. They are both fun, enthusiastic people who I was so glad to meet in person…and so sad they’re on the opposite coast from me! They hung around the booth quite a bit – both are also Renegade users and used the time to further pick my brain about boots – and then after the trade show wrapped up for the evening, we did a blogger’s dinner of myself, Mel, Liz, Saiph, Caitlin, and a couple other (non blogging) people.
We, along with half the endurance population, invaded the Ruby Tuesday across the street from the hotel…and I’m pretty sure the restaurant staff never knew what hit them. 
blogger meet-up!
l to r: Liz, Mel, Caitlin, Saiph, myself
I know I was starving, with the same type of feeling I get after doing a 50-mile ride, and Mel and I both attacked a platter of fried food appetizers like we hadn’t seen food for a week.
don’t get between a hungry endurance rider and their food

After dinner, we all retired back to our respective lodgings, and of course Mel and I stayed up later talking horses and more horses.
Saturday was pretty much a repeat of Friday in talking with people, meeting up with more Renegade people whom I’ve spoken with over the phone or exchanged emails, so it was really nice to be able to put faces with names/voices – I try to make my job personal, and this is just one way of making that happen.
I also spent a bit of time perusing the Taylored Tack booth – Amanda Taylor makes some amazing biothane tack and her signature is patterned overlays on top of the beta biothane. They are works of art when it comes to horse tack, and I couldn’t resist picking up a pretty purple browband to spice up some of Mimi’s old tack. While I don’t yet have a full tack set from her, that is on my wish list. Tack Hoarders ‘R Us. And Amanda is one of the nicest, sweetest people…turns out that at the Lower Quarry check at Tevis this past year, I held and helped take care of the horse she was riding.
We bonded over the topic of Tevis (Tevis Junkies ‘R Us), and the small world of endurance riding, and I made several more visits over to her booth (she was one booth over from me) to oogle the beautiful pieces of tack and plan what I would like to order “someday.” I also ordered Artemis a custom, padded dog collar – everything I’ve tried irritates her very sensitive skin if left on for longer than a couple of hours, so Amanda is making a collar with the same waffle padding as on the horse breastcollars.
yours truly on Saturday
The trade show finished at 5 on Saturday, Mel and I had the booth down in short order, I made by rounds of good-byes to vendors and people who wouldn’t be going to the banquet that night, then Mel and I headed back to the room to change.
One of the fun things about the awards banquet is that people tend to get a little more dressed up than blue jeans – and boy do we look different without helmets, tights, and a layer of horse grime. Yours truly even wore a dress.
dressy girls!

The banquet was a blast, emceed by the always-hilarious comedy duo of Bruce Weary and Patti Stedman. Many jokes were made, and the ongoing joke/debate of the evening was the marital strife caused by The Parking of the Rig. (It also affirmed my stance that I think I want a husband that supports my riding, but doesn’t necessarily want to ride with me. Besides, I need a crew…)
I tend to get sentimental and a bit watery-eyed (it’s allergies!) when it comes to presentations that involve and honor our beloved equines, and there were several moments last night that were no exception. Hall of Fame horse was the big one for me – it went to John Parke’s Icelandic pony Remington, who reminds me of a hairier, gaited, gelding version of Mimi. Both are 13.3 hand, grey, non-Arabs who make “pony” into a four-letter word some days.
And on that – this weekend made me re-appreciate my little pony all over again. I spent a lot of time talking with people who I had never met, and relating stories that hadn’t necessarily made it to the blog, and it really made me very enthusiastic and appreciate of what an awesome pony I have.
This probably deserves a post of its own, but briefly, after getting re-invigorated and re-inspired this weekend, I have a new goal of putting Mimi back into a conditioning level of riding. I want to see how she holds up to endurance-pace conditioning and increased miles, and if she does over the course of several months…I want to try LDs with her again. But like I said, I’ll detail out this idea in its own post…
Convention is back in Reno again next year, and I’m pretty sure that attending the trade show is going to become a permanent thing. It’s right up there with attending rides as my favorite part of my job and I’m already working on some new ideas for the booth display…

7 thoughts on “2014 AERC Convention write-up and report

  1. For sure! Was so awesome to get the chance to meet…thanks for hanging out around the booth with us! And I have extended family on the east coast (Pennsylvania)…sounds like a good excuse for me to visit some time.

  2. Sounds like fun! I want in on that blogger meet up fun here one of these times :) Very exciting news about bringing your darling girl back for some LDs!

  3. It's back in Reno next year, which means you *will* be there. Not a whole lot going on here, ride-wise, until the fall, so that gives me the summer to see how she does.

  4. *blush* thanks for the endorsement.

    Cheri was a BLAST and she took the heckling at the awards banquet in good humor :).

    Its wonderful that I have friends across yhe nation now but its sad to sayngoodbye. Thank goodness for blogs.

  5. I will definitely post pics of Mimi's new bling…forgot my phone when I went down to the barn on Monday, but have to go down again today to meet the vet for spring shots, so will get some then.

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