2018 AERC Convention

So I’m still catching up…March has been a busy month that’s seen me head down to Florida for the FITS ride for work (company rep), back home for a few days, and then off to Reno for the AERC Convention. Coming up, I’m catering one of my mom’s workshop events, and then will be setting up at The Mane Event expo here in Scottsdale at the end of the month. Whew.

In a nutshell, Florida was awesome, and I even got to sneak in a short training ride on some of the most beautiful footing I’ve ever seen.

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Dandy Gold, a super-fun cutie Arab x QH mare. I fell in love with her, the same way I fall in love with all good horses.

AERC Convention

This was my 7th year attending the AERC Convention, and it was the best yet. I had some phenomenal help in running the Renegade Hoof Boots booth (Tim & Lara, who helped me out at Horse Expo last year, and are AZ-based long-time Renegade users/dealers, with Tim also being a trimmer), I got my annual All-You-Can-Eat sushi fix, it was probably the best-attended convention to date since I’ve started attending…and the topper…

I WON THE TEVIS ENTRY IN THE RAFFLE!!!

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I threw the vast majority of my tickets into the National, SW Region, and MT Region buckets — cool stuff in the National bucket (scored a $100 Riding Warehouse gift card out of that, as a matter of fact), and both SW and MT region had ride certificates up for grabs for rides I was likely to attend.

Only a few of my rather substantial number of tickets went into the separate Tevis entry drawing…just for fun. Because what are the odds, right?

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Barbara White (holder of the record number of Tevis buckles) is my new best friend, because out of all those tickets in the bin to the left, she pulled mine out. That’s got to be good luck…
photo by Merri Melde

I still don’t know if my epically stunned face after the announcement was ever captured on camera, but I’m pretty sure that was a good minute+ of “wait, was that my name?” processing going on before I managed to make my feet move from where I had been standing. I also think that’s one of the first times I’ve been stunned into silence…normally I announce my excitement with ear-piercing shrieks. This time, I was reduced to nonsensical babbling.

Four days later, I’m still pinching myself. I actually have the Tevis entry printed out and sitting next to my desk. Not filled out yet, obviously, but I’ve got time, and I’ve already reached out to my endurance network to see if anyone has a spare horse they’d like ridden…I’ve got ideas, and a possibility or two in the pipeline, so it’ll be interesting to see how the next few months shake out. All I know is, this is my 10th year attending Tevis, and I can’t think of a more fitting way to celebrate that than to ride it, God willing.

Obviously, winning the entry was the absolute highlight of the weekend, but even without that, it would have been an outstanding weekend. Reno is my favorite place to have the Convention (even if the hotel was more smoke-filled than I’ve ever experienced…even in the “nonsmoking” rooms, the stale smoke smell permeates the entire place), if only for the fact so many of my endurance friends attend. And it seemed like in was really well-attended this year. Definitely more vendors than in the last few years, and while I can’t speak for other vendors, I know we had a steady stream of people at the Renegade booth all weekend.

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Working the booth. Not sure what I was in the middle of doing or saying.
photo by Merri Melde

Tim & Lara were great to work with — they’ve been using the boots for almost as long as I have, and Tim is a trimmer, so is an incredibly knowledgeable resource to have available, as he can directly address trimming questions that people may have, or take a barefoot horse-keeping conversation far deeper and more involved than just “how do I put the boot on?”

I had a new display format for this year — a popup display with velcro-receptive fabric panels that allows me to print out photos/posters, attach velcro to them, and then change them out at will or to match a particular event/discipline. I really like it, and although I had to play some major “photo Tetris” while setting everything set up, the end result looked phenomenal.

I also did my annual “drool over ReactorPanel Saddles” booth visit. I finally got to ride in one down in Florida, and it totally sold me on them. I think I’ve finally narrowed down my favorites to the Tribute Trail with the endurance knee blocks (which, curiously enough, on a sawhorse, I’m like, “meh” about…but on a moving horse, they are phenomenal), or the HTT (flapless Heraldic on Tribute Tree) with the scooped bumps. Methinks I need to buy some raffle tickets for the RP drawing at Tevis this year. Because raffle luck…

Reno is also known as the AYCE (All You Can Eat) sushi capital of the world, so it’s become somewhat of an annual tradition for a group of us to go out one evening. And it’s really fun with a larger group (we had 10 this time), because you end up ordering so many different varieties, and getting to try everything.

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yummmmmm — AYCE sushi at Jazmine

I also had to keep my resident tack ho status firmly in place, and came home with a pair of mohair reins from Wild West Endurance Company (formerly Hooves N Whiskers), and a saddle pad and Myler bit scored from the tack swap. (I also brought stuff to sell at the tack swap and most of it sold, so the karmic sales/purchase ratio remains in balance.)

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Shopping and drooling. The purple/black/natural braid is a sample of the same colors as my reins. I want the black/turquoise combo on a future chestnut, though.

I failed to get any photos of getting dressed up for the Saturday night awards dinner, but I wore a dress, and had sparkly glitter high heels. I can wear more than just riding tights and running clothes.

I’ve learned the hard way not to schedule early morning flights out of Reno, since Saturday inevitably turns into a late night…that always coincides with the changing of the clocks for Daylight Saving Time. That’s one hour of lost sleep I’m never gonna get back.

Anyway…flight out wasn’t until the afternoon, so I could sleep in a bit, grab breakfast, and then wander down to catch the last hour+ of the AERC board of director’s meeting, which was quite interesting. I ran for SW Region director this past election cycle and didn’t make it, which I look at now and realize was a good thing. I would have been eaten alive. You have to have some pretty thick skin to be on the board, and not be afraid of confrontation and conflict. So maybe not now…but maybe in a few years. I like that they open up the meeting to members, so if I attend a few more of those and get a better feel for how the whole thing works, I’ll be in a better spot down the road to run and subsequently hold my own if elected.

Flying home was uneventful, even if Sky Harbor airport was an absolute madhouse zoo coming home. I think my parents will thank me if I can avoid flying home on a Sunday evening again any time in the near future, since that’s two Sundays in a row they faced down hellacious airport traffic for me. ;)

Starting now, my goal is to cram in as much saddle time as I can…I’ll be chasing down catch rides left and right, in addition to seeing what the pony may be feeling up to in-between. I’m also planning to up my fitness/workout regime to more than the 2x/week I do now, so that no matter what horse I end u[ riding, I know that I’ll be ready for it.

Plus, I’ve got new toys to play with…not that I need any excuse for good saddle time.

AERC Convention 2016

Another whirlwind Convention weekend has come and gone, leaving me short on sleep but exhilarated, inspired, and content after spending the weekend with some of my best friends and endurance “tribe.”

Convention means:

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running the Renegade Hoof Boots booth

 

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snow on the way in to Reno

 

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saddle testing…meet the new love of my life that will someday be gracing a saddle rack in the tack room…one of the flapless ReactorPanel models

 

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way too much fun with saddle testing…where’s that Money/Saddle Fairy when I need her?!?

 

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hanging out with friends

With tack swap sales, a teeny bit of shopping, really yummy food (all-you-can-eat sushi!!!) and drinks all thrown in, it makes for a really fun weekend.

Capped off with a driving tour of the Virginia City 100 ride, courtesy of Lucy and Kaity, who have both ridden it multiple times. They succeeded in getting me hooked on the idea of doing this ride, for sure.

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…