In which we see text of the Protest and Grievance Committee findings

NOTE:  These findings have been copied/pasted from the PDF documents pertaining to three grievances arising from circumstances at the Lead Follow (Bumblebee) ride in January 2016.  I was not present at this ride and have no firsthand knowledge to report.  I am posting the findings here so that AERC members will see them.  These findings (barring an appeal) will also be published in an upcoming issue of Endurance News.

Because of blogspot's electronic dislike of PDF documents, I've had to tweak the formatting slightly to make the text readable, and to eliminate some random page numbers that inserted themselves into the body of the document.  I didn't make any other changes.  I hope I caught all the random stuff--if a number or character appears in a weird way, it's probably something I missed.  Sorry.

I will post my own opinions in an upcoming post.

--Aarene

American Endurance Ride Conference Protest and Grievance Committee Official Ruling 
PROTEST BY SUSAN SUMMERS AGAINST PETER DAVIES 

I. Overview A. Protest filed by Susan Summers (hereinafter “Protestor”) on February 29, 2016. 

B. Protest filed against Peter Davies (hereinafter “Respondent”). 

C. Protest involves the Lead Follow or Get Out of the Way Ride on January 23, 2016 (hereinafter the “Ride”). 

D. Key Assertions and Relief Sought by Protestor:  This protest is one of three protests arising out of the same general set of facts and circumstances that occurred at the Ride. In the present Protest, Protestor asserts that Respondent, a Ride competitor, unreasonably endangered the safety of others and engaged in unsportsmanlike conduct and conduct prejudicial to the sport of endurance riding by passing Protestor, her husband, and their guest at a gallop without warning and/or indicating an intent to race. Protestor also asserts that Respondent’s conduct was “not an isolated incident,” as he had galloped away from her and her dismounted husband at the prior year’s ride, leaving her husband with a spinning, hard-to-mount horse. 

 E. AERC Rules considered by the Protest and Grievance Committee (hereinafter the “Committee”). Rule 12.1: No one participating in an endurance ride shall engage in abusive behavior towards any other participant or member of the public at an endurance ride. Abusive behavior towards people includes but is not limited to: Unreasonably endangering the safety or life of others or their equines. Unsportsmanlike conduct. Conduct prejudicial to the endurance ride or to the sport of endurance riding. 

F. Protestor and Respondent both filed sufficient information for the Committee to discuss and rule upon the matter. Protestor was allowed to, and did in fact, respond to the substance of the Respondent’s submission. 

 2 G. The Committee corresponded electronically and via teleconference to discuss the matter and reach the following Decision. 

DECISION RELEVANT HISTORY:1 As stated above, Protestor asserts that Respondent violated Rule 12.1 by passing her group at high speed without calling out and/or announcing his intent to race. Specifically, she states that: 
(1) ride management had informed the riders that because of potential safety issues in the finish area, they might consider determining their placings prior to gates and high traffic areas near the finish; 
(2) her husband explained to Respondent their plan to cross the finish line in the order in which they had been riding (guest first, Protestor second, and her husband third); 
(3) she did not hear Respondent object or respond; and 
(4) Respondent passed them “with his horse at top speed” approximately 1.5 miles from the finish line without calling out, causing Protestor and her guest to have to circle their horses in the desert to regain control and run into cactus. She states that “while drafting along and bolting at the end is just poor etiquette and something you put in your memory banks for the future, passing a line of 3 horses at the speeds we were going with cactus all over the trail is just plain dangerous.” 

In support of her protest, Protestor submitted a letter from the guest who rode with her stating that Respondent “bolted past us on the side without giving a warning at all.” 

Respondent denies that Protestor or her husband ever discussed their planned finishing order with him during the Ride. He states that he was riding behind Protestor, her husband, and their guest until they arrived at a safe place for passing about ¾ of a mile from the gate approaching camp, at which time he “came up alongside [Protestor’s husband] with the thought of speaking to him. He looked at me and seemed very angry and started shouting to the two women in front of him, by about 5 or 6 horse lengths at this time, ‘this guy is going to try to pass you.’ I then galloped past the two riders who had sufficient warning of my approach by [Protestor’s husband] shouting at them.” 

In summary, he states that “I had no knowledge of this plan [for a finishing order] and when we reached a section of trail we had previously ridden that was a safe passing area I passed.” Respondent supported his response with a character statement from a ride manager and AERC Director. 

ISSUE: Did Respondent violate Rule 12.1? 

DISCUSSION: The Committee unanimously finds that the evidence fails to establish that Respondent violated rule 12.1 by engaging in conduct that unreasonably endangered the safety of others, was unsportsmanlike, and/or was prejudicial to the ride and/or sport of endurance riding. The ride records submitted by the various parties to the three related protests demonstrate that all are highly experienced and competitive riders who undoubtedly have extensive experience with

As noted above, three separate protests were filed arising out of the same Ride and same factual circumstances involving the actions of Peter Davies and Dennis Summers both on trail and in camp. Some witness statements were identical in one or more of the protests, and in some cases different statements and/or evidence (such as emails) were submitted in different protests. 

Consistent with its authority under Rule 14.2.6 to conduct independent fact-finding, the Committee has elected to consider all evidence submitted in any of the three protests when ruling on each protest. However, each protest is analyzed independently based upon the specific claims, allegations, and defenses made therein.  passing, including at significant speeds. 

While it is certainly good ride etiquette to announce an intention to pass before passing, there is a difference between good etiquette and conduct amounting to the kind of “unsportsmanlike conduct” that constitutes an actionable violation of Rule 12.1. Even assuming the truth of Protestor’s assertions, the Committee concludes that Respondent’s conduct did not rise to the level of unsportsmanlike conduct and/or conduct prejudicial to the sport of endurance within the meaning of Rule 12.1. 

Further, the Committee notes that it cannot conclude that Respondent’s actions endangered Protester and her guest, as Protestor argues, given that Protestor’s husband’s response to being passed by Respondent was to take off past Protestor and her guest after Respondent to beat him to the finish.

 The Protest is denied. 

 1 Protestor’s letter states that “Dennis could not contain himself and went after him,” and her husband stated in an email that “[t]hey managed to turn and hold their horses. Me, I was having none of it and passed him with a much faster and fresher horse.” Respondent stated that when Protestor’s husband passed him “at speed” to re-take the lead, he yelled angrily “if you want to race I’ll show you a race.” Protestor’s guest stated that “Dennis decided to go after him.”



American Endurance Ride Conference Protest and Grievance Committee Official Ruling 
PROTEST BY JOHN SIMPSON AGAINST DENNIS SUMMERS 

I. Overview 
A. Protest filed by John Simpson (hereinafter “Protestor”) on February 26, 2016. 

B. Protest filed against Dennis Summers (hereinafter “Respondent”). 

C. Protest involves the Lead Follow or Get Out of the Way Ride on January 23, 2016 (hereinafter the “Ride”). 

D. Key Assertions and Relief Sought by Protestor: This protest is one of three protests arising out of the same general set of facts and circumstances that occurred at the Ride. In the present Protest, Protestor asserts that Respondent, a Ride competitor, verbally abused, threatened, and physically assaulted a fellow competitor, Peter Davies (hereinafter “Davies”), during the Ride. In particular, Protestor asserts that Respondent galloped his horse into camp at the end of the Ride, upset and mad, then approached Davies (a significantly smaller and older man) after Davies finished shortly thereafter, stopping within inches of him, yelling at him, and threatening to “whoop his butt” behind the trailers. Protestor further asserts that approximately an hour later during the best condition judging, Respondent again approached Davies, got “directly in his face,” placed his hand on Davies and pushed him against his horse, and spoke to Davies again “in a threatening and physical manner.” Finally, Protestor asserts that Respondent had difficulty pulsing in his horse at the finish and that his horse was lame at the finish and the best condition judging. 

E. AERC Rules considered by the Protest and Grievance Committee (hereinafter the “Committee”). 

1. Rule 11.1: No one participating in an endurance ride shall abuse an equine present at a ride. Abuse of an equine includes but is not limited to: Recklessly overriding an equine or riding in a manner likely to cause harm or injury. 

2 Conduct towards an equine which is prejudicial to the sport of endurance riding and puts the sport in a negative light. 2. Rule 12.1: No one participating in an endurance ride shall engage in abusive behavior towards any other participant or member of the public at an endurance ride. Abusive behavior towards people includes but is not limited to: Verbal abuse. Physical assault. Causing or threatening injury. Unreasonably endangering the safety or life of others or their equines. Damaging or trespassing on property. Unsportsmanlike conduct. Conduct prejudicial to the endurance ride or to the sport of endurance riding. 

F. Protestor and Respondent both filed sufficient information for the Committee to discuss and rule upon the matter. Protestor was allowed to, and did in fact, respond to the substance of the Respondent’s submission. 

G. The Committee corresponded electronically and via teleconference to discuss the matter and reach the following Decision. 

DECISION RELEVANT HISTORY:1 As stated above, Protestor asserts that Respondent verbally abused, threatened, and physically assaulted Davies during the Ride, and that Respondent overrode his horse at the Ride finish. His personal description of the relevant events is supported by the statements of numerous witnesses, each of whom corroborates one or more aspects of Protestor’s assertions. Specifically, the head control judge stated that he witnessed Respondent get into Davies’ personal space, speak angrily to him, and “chest bump” him during the best condition judging. He also stated that he felt that “Mr. Summers endangered the safety and well being of his horse by the way he finished the race.” Other witnesses corroborated that Respondent “galloped” or “cantered very quickly” toward camp in a designated non-racing area, invaded Davies’ personal space and placed his hand on Davies to prevent him from leaving and/or “chest bumped” him, and was “yelling” at Davies. Davies provided a statement in which he described Respondent’s “threatening tone and body language,” threat to go “settle” things behind the trailers, and chest-bumping to block Davies’ path. Davies stated that he “felt [Respondent] was on the verge of losing control and might become physically violent at any moment.” 

1 As noted above, three separate protests were filed arising out of the same Ride and same factual circumstances involving the actions of Peter Davies and Dennis Summers both on trail and in camp. Some witness statements were identical in one or more of the protests, and in some cases different statements and/or evidence (such as emails) were submitted in different protests. Consistent with its authority under Rule 14.2.6 to conduct independent fact-finding, the Committee has elected to consider all evidence submitted in any of the three protests when ruling on each protest. However, each protest is analyzed independently based upon the specific claims, allegations, and defenses made therein. 

With respect to his actions involving his horse, Respondent states that he cantered easily along the backside of a fence leading toward camp, then jogged into camp after he made the 180 degree turn toward camp. He notes that his horse recovered in ten minutes and passed the final vet check, though she was stiff at the best condition judging. With respect to his actions toward Davies, Respondent argues that: (1) his actions toward Davies were “very minor,” were “justified,” and were “reasonable considering [Davies’] past actions”; (2) the protest is motivated by the “anti-racing” sentiments of Protestor, the witnesses, and ride management, as well as by their desire to have Respondent disqualified so that Protestor’s partner could win rides that Respondent (or his wife) would otherwise win. 

Specifically, Respondent states that: 
• Davies, who had “sucked in” behind Respondent and his group for several miles during the Ride, endangered Respondent, Respondent’s wife, and their guest by passing them unannounced near the finish and not declaring his intention to race; 
• Respondent believed that the prior year, Davies had “ditched him” at another ride by “bolting” away after Respondent had dismounted and opened a closed gate; 
• His two post-ride encounters with Davies at the Ride involved “no yelling, no profanity, no pushing or punching. We exchanged words and I walked away. After BC I once again had a moment of conversation with Peter with the same result.” 
• In prior rides in the same region, Respondent and his wife had been accused, unjustly, of cutting trail by some of the same people involved in the present protest (as protestor and witnesses) because their ride time was so fast. 

ISSUE 1: Did Respondent violate Rule 11.1? 

DISCUSSION: The Committee unanimously finds that the evidence is not sufficient to establish that Respondent violated Rule 11.1. In reaching this result, the Committee notes that Respondent’s horse pulsed down in a timely manner and passed the post-ride vet check, both of which militate against a finding that she had been “recklessly overridden” at the finish. 

ISSUE 2: Did Respondent violate Rule 12.1? 

DISCUSSION: The Committee unanimously finds that the evidence establishes that Respondent violated rule 12.1 by engaging in abusive and unjustified behavior toward Davies that included verbal abuse, physical assault, threatening of physical harm, unsportsmanlike conduct, and conduct prejudicial to the endurance ride or to the sport of endurance riding. 

The rationale for this ruling is as follows: 
1. The evidence establishes that Respondent intentionally sought Davies out on two occasions after the Ride finish (the latter instance occurring approximately an hour after the heated finish), addressed him in anger using a threatening tone and body language, made physical contact with him using his chest and/or hand, and explicitly threatened him with physical harm. Further, this was all done in full view of many spectators, some of whom expressed fear that the incident would escalate and endanger others. Respondent himself acknowledges his state of mind (“I swung off my horse fighting the urge to pull Peter off his horse and kick his butt as he crossed the finish line”) and even reiterated his threats several days after the Ride in an email to the Ride manager stating that “I guess the good news is he is a little old man or I would have scattered him all over camp right at the finish line-right or wrong.” 

Finally, in a letter written days after the Ride, Respondent’s wife acknowledged that his behavior was “unsportsmanlike” (though contending that he should not be punished without punishing Davies, who she also believed acted in an unsportsmanlike manner, and that a punishment less than disqualification was warranted). 

2. The Committee unanimously finds that Respondent’s conduct was not justified so as to absolve him of liability under Rule 12.1. For the reasons set forth in its ruling in the related protest of Susan Summers arising out of the same Ride, the Committee found that the evidence does not establish that Davies’ actions on trail in passing without calling out and announcing an intention to race amounted to unsportsmanlike conduct in violation of Rule 12.1. Further, the Committee notes that it has difficulty concluding that Davies’ actions endangered Respondent’s wife and guest, as Respondent argues, given that Respondent’s response to being passed by Davies was not to stop and check on his wife and guest, but rather to take off after Davies to beat him to the finish.

3 Finally, even if Davies’ conduct had been unsportsmanlike, it would not have justified Respondent’s reaction, including his threatening conduct that caused the victim to fear for his personal safety and disturbed numerous bystanders present in the area. 

ISSUE 3: What is an appropriate sanction for the violation? 

DISCUSSION: In the present case, no physical injury or harm was involved; however, there were two distinct incidents an hour apart, both incidents caused fear and apprehension to nearby bystanders, and Respondent has demonstrated no remorse for his conduct (and, indeed, reiterated his threats at the finish, the best condition judging an hour later, and days later in an email to the Ride manager). As the Committee stated in another recent ruling, a physical assault is a very serious matter that simply cannot be tolerated by the AERC at its rides, which are family-friendly events; the same is also true with respect to open threats of physical assault. Such assaults and threats can endanger not only the direct victim, but also others in the vicinity, who may feel compelled to intervene to assist the direct victim or who may be located in the same area and unable to get clear of the incident. Associated verbal abuse compounds the problem. 

Given the seriousness of physical assaults and threatened physical assaults generally, Respondent disputes that he made physical contact with Davies. The Committee finds that the preponderance of the evidence demonstrates that some contact was likely made, though it acknowledges that the witness statements are not 100% consistent on the nature of that contact (chest-bumping versus contact with the hand or shoulder). However, the Committee notes that its ruling and penalty would not change even if there had been no actual physical contact given the verbal abuse and explicit threatening of physical harm by Respondent. 

3 Respondent’s wife’s letter states that “Dennis could not contain himself and went after him,” and Respondent stated in an e-mail that “[t]hey managed to turn and hold their horses. Me, I was having none of it and passed him with a much faster and fresher horse.” Davies stated that when Protestor’s husband passed him “at speed” to re-take the lead, he yelled angrily “if you want to race I’ll show you a race.” Respondent’s guest stated that “Dennis decided to go after him.” which are intentional actions of the perpetrator against another that involve offensive physical contact and/or the threat of same, the Committee believes that a strong sanction is warranted. Thus, the Committee finds that the appropriate baseline penalty is a one-year suspension, with the possibility for a six-month reduction of that period upon completion of an appropriate anger management program. In particular cases, depending upon the facts of the case, more severe penalties may be warranted. 

RULING: The unanimous opinion of the Committee is that Respondent violated Rule 12.1 by verbally abusing, physically assaulting, and physically threatening Davies at the Ride. Therefore, the protest is upheld, and the Committee finds that the following penalties are appropriate: 1. Respondent shall forfeit any placements and completions from and including the date of the violation (January 23, 2016) through the date of this ruling; and 2. Respondent is suspended from participating, in any capacity whatsoever (including as a rider, crew member, ride official, ride volunteer, or spectator), in all AERC rides for a one-year period beginning on the date of this ruling. 

However, this suspension period can be reduced by six months upon Respondent’s submission to the AERC of proof of completion of a 10-hour anger management course approved in advance by the Committee Chair.4 3. Respondent is censured and warned that any future violations of this nature will be subjected to more severe penalties. 4 An example of such a course would be the course offered at www.angermanagementonline.com.


American Endurance Ride Conference Protest and Grievance Committee Official Ruling 
PROTEST BY DENNIS SUMMERS AGAINST JODIE DUKERICH 

I. Overview A. Protest filed by Dennis Summers (hereinafter “Protestor”) on February 29, 2016. 

B. Protest filed against Jodie Dukerich (hereinafter “Respondent”). 

C. Protest involves the Lead Follow or Get Out of the Way Ride on January 23, 2016 (hereinafter the “Ride”). 

D. Key Assertions and Relief Sought by Protestor: This protest is one of three protests arising out of the same general set of facts and circumstances that occurred at the Ride. In the present Protest, Protestor asserts that Respondent, the ride manager, violated Rule 12 by acting in a manner that reflects poorly on the sport of endurance riding when she disqualified him from his first place finish as the result of a “minor incident” involving him and Peter Davies (hereinafter “Davies), a fellow competitor, in camp after the Ride and failed to address the allegedly unsafe riding of Davies on trail. 

E. AERC Rule considered by the Protest and Grievance Committee (hereinafter the “Committee”). Rule 12: It is the duty of everyone participating in an endurance ride whether as a rider, crew member, ride official, ride volunteer, control judge, or spectator to act in a manner which does not disrupt the ride or reflect poorly on the sport of endurance riding. 

F. Protestor and Respondent both filed sufficient information for the Committee to discuss and rule upon the matter. Protestor was allowed to, and did in fact, respond to the substance of the Respondent’s submission. 

G. The Committee corresponded electronically and via teleconference to discuss the matter and reach the following Decision. 

DECISION RELEVANT HISTORY:1 The relevant facts and evidence concerning the actions of Protestor and Davies are set forth fully in the related protests brought by John Simpson against Dennis Summers and by Susan Summers against Peter Davies that have also been decided on this date by the Committee. Those facts and that evidence are adopted by reference as if set forth fully herein. In the Simpson Protest, the Committee found that Dennis Summers, Protestor herein, “violated Rule 12.1 by engaging in abusive and unjustified behavior toward Davies that included verbal abuse, physical assault, threatening of physical harm, unsportsmanlike conduct, and conduct prejudicial to the endurance ride or to the sport of endurance riding.” 

In the Susan Summers Protest, the Committee found that “the evidence fails to establish that Respondent [Peter Davies] violated rule 12.1 by engaging in conduct that unreasonably endangered the safety of others, was unsportsmanlike, and/or was prejudicial to the sport of endurance riding.” 

These findings set the stage for the ruling in the present protest brought by Dennis Summers against Respondent, ride manager Jodie Dukerich, in which he challenges her disqualification of him based upon his post-ride conduct in camp involving Davies. In the present Protest, Protestor claims that the incidents between him and Davies were “very minor,” the manner in which he received notification of his disqualification was “if not against rules . . . at the very least inconsiderate,” and Respondent should have given more consideration to the reasons for his post-race anger before disqualifying him. 

ISSUE: Did Respondent violate Rule 12? 

DISCUSSION: The Committee unanimously finds that the evidence is not sufficient to establish that Respondent violated Rule 12. In reaching this result, the Committee notes its findings in the related protests that: (1) Protestor’s conduct violated Rule 12.1; and (2) the evidence did not establish that Davies’ conduct rose to the level of a Rule 12.1 violation. Given these findings (the bases for which are explained fully in the two related rulings), the Committee finds that Respondent did not violate Rule 12 in disqualifying Protestor, who would have been disqualified anyway as a result of the Committee’s ruling in the Simpson Protest. Further, while the Committee agrees that it would have been preferable for Protestor to have been notified of the disqualification directly before the ride results were posted, Respondent apologized to Protestor for this oversight, which, in any event, does not rise to the level of a violation of Rule 12. 

The protest is denied. 

 1 As noted above, three separate protests were filed arising out of the same Ride and same factual circumstances involving the actions of Peter Davies and Dennis Summers both on trail and in camp. Some witness statements were identical in one or more of the protests, and in some cases different statements and/or evidence (such as emails) were submitted in different protests. Consistent with its authority under Rule 14.2.6 to conduct independent fact-finding, the Committee has elected to consider all evidence submitted in any of the three protests when ruling on each protest. However, each protest is analyzed independently based upon the specific claims, allegations, and defenses made therein. 

Comments

  1. I'm curious whether Davies was using the Summers to pull his horse along beforehand. Cuz that could have created the hard feelings; I can't say I'd be pleasant about it if someone I didn't know used me to pull a horse along and then without a word tried to pass me at the end. Manners!

    At a ride I didn't know well, on the last loop the Summers came up fast behind me and asked if they could pass. I pulled aside for them, and then a moment later ride camp was right there. NOOO! Not that I'm the type to refuse that request and race them though! I guess I should just think of it this way, "Once I almost beat the Summers.": )

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  2. This is off topic, but this part made me laugh out loud: "came up alongside [Protestor’s husband] with the thought of speaking to him. He looked at me and seemed very angry and started shouting to the two women in front of him, by about 5 or 6 horse lengths at this time, ‘this guy is going to try to pass you.’ I then galloped past the two riders who had sufficient warning of my approach by [Protestor’s husband] shouting at them.”

    Again, I don't know enough about what happened to place my judgement on the overall case, but the fact that the guy was trying to make it sound so *reasonable* made me laugh. "So I was coming along to maybe talk to them, but he seemed all angry and unreasonable and was all randomly screaming 'He's gonna try to pass you!' So, I, like, figured that the people up ahead were all pre-warned by his shouting so I raced past."

    I'm gonna try that on my next trail ride. "Naw, it's okay if we gallop past other riders. They're pre-warned by other people's screaming."

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  3. The interpretation of the phrase "went after him" is very telling. There is the rebuttal for the appeal. The committee took it as going to specifically get the person to cause harm. As opposed to "ride" to catch up with him.

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  4. I think the main issue is that in any sport, if there is an argument or fight, anything one person did is nullified in comparison to a person who threatens or causes any physical harm or even throws a punch, even if that person doesn't connect. Nothing is saying that what Davies did was "okay", but any of his previous actions are unimportant as soon as someone threatens or becomes physically violent toward that person. -- It sounds to me like someone was really angry that they lost a race, and the race itself became more important than anything.

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  5. David, check your facts and read all materials. Dennis was the one that won. Why on earth would he be so mad when he won unless something bad happened out there? And if you read everything the plan was to come in at a trot letting the South African win.

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  6. I've known Dennis and Sue for nearly twenty years. While admittedly, I haven't competed much in the last ten, I've known a ton of people who have and do. I've never known or witnessed either Dennis or Sue to be churlish or behave badly during or after a ride. I've more than once seen either or both of them to be the first to offer congratulations to anyone who did well in a close finish -- even if it meant their horse finished further back.

    This AERC ruling is complete and utter crap, and as someone with junior students deeply interested in endurance, I strongly think I'll try to misdirect that student into some other discipline, instead, because I have no interest in training my young riders in politics instead of horsemanship.

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