I can be pretty opinionated, but I ‘ve finally decided to start writing some of them down as blog posts dedicated to my opinions as I move throughout the equine world. I want to say before this gets any further that this is just my opinion from what I’ve seen and heard. It might change down the road with more information, and I can admit I might not have it all, but this is it right now and I’m open to any kind of different opinions because I only know my story and the story of people around me.
I haven’t been a USEF member for very long. But in the last few months, it seems USEF is implementing some serious changes that are coming down hard, and making a lot of people less enthusiastic about competeing, myself included.
The biggest thing that is still baffling me is SafeSport. Because of the recent allegations for the US gymnastics team, all Olympic governed sports were required to complete SafeSport Training. I have nothing against this move, I think what happened with the US Gymnastics team was terrible. But I think it could have been done better. First off, the content to me seemed like common sense, but then again, common sense is very much dead these days. Secondly, I think there should have been one for the under 18 riders to complete. Only riders over 18 were required to complete SafeSport training, yet individuals under 18 seem to be the most often targeted in the cases that come to light. So why aren’t they doing SafeSport as well?
As it stands, Safesport isn’t as effective as the Olympic comitee and USEF want it to be. There are hundreds of articles out there on how SafeSport was essentially set up to fail, but thats on your own time if you want to read them. The idea of SafeSport was a good one, it just wasn’t done right. In this sport, I have heard of very few incidents with sexual assault in the horse world. Not to say it doesn’t happen and would never happen, or that even it has and I’m just like an ostrich with its head in the sand, but it seems quite rare. Maybe horse people have more common sense then others, I’m not entirely sure. To me, just implementing SafeSport was the tip of the iceberg.
The next newest changes to SafeSport training made zero sense to me. On June 1st, new rulings were update to regulate contact between trainers and coaches and students. Chronicle of the Horse summarized it best that I’ve seen, ” In short, they require that when traveling no adult should ever be in a room alone with a minor, and when communicating with a minor an adult should always copy another adult or the minor’s parent/legal guardian on the message. The policy also lists under its recommended social media practices that adults should not accept new page or follow requests to their personal accounts from minors.”.
So basically, no trainers alone with students. The most upset I saw online was because of the social media and texting rules. I personally think this is way too much. At first I was a little more open, but the more I read into it, the more ridiculous it became. Basically no contact between 8pm and 8am at all, all social media communications that are private need either a guardian or a legal adult in the private messages.
Heres why it’s contriversial to many people. A lot of parents are applauding this decision, while trainers and students are against it. I saw a lot of arguments in the Facebook comments on Chronicle of the Horse post linking the article, it was nuts. Some barns hire under 18 working students,many instructors do private lessons with those under 18 and are alone with them, because it is a private lesson. The most common case I see presented by people is that the trainers are a big back bone to many student’s lives. My trainers are pretty much my second set of parents. They were always there to listen to my problems in person, so I message them on the daily, and even did so back when I was under 18. When I was under 18, I was often left in charge of bringing in horses, and doing chores and also tacking up horses in a completely different building, so my trainers had to text me to have me bring horses in.
My parents would not have been okay constantly getting texts in a group chat like how USEF wants them to. My dad hates when we all spam the family group chat so constantly getting texts from my trainers would have driven him up a wall. By the time I was privately messaging my trainer, I was old enough to be left there for hours and my parents gave me some more freedom technology wise. Some of these parents online say that the parents should be more watchful on their kids technology and be more involved. The downside of this move is when you’re monitoring a kids phone like a hawk, the kid is less likely to let the parent be involved. When I was a kid and my parents were crazy watching my online usage, I didn’t tell them jack shit what I was doing.
When you invade someones privacy like that, it’s hard to gain trust. This also comes back to the age old argument of parents need to actually parent their kids instead of relying on schools to parent them for them. The best case scenario for this is in my opinion, to alert the kids of dangers and make them aware of the signs, something that could be solved with an under 18 version of SafeSport training. Parents should be involved in their kid’s lives in a way thats not invasive but still keeps them aware.
I personally think SafeSport was a step too far too fast. It’s a step in the right direction, but it’s been implmented wrong and it’s being implemented too fast. As of yesterday, a revered judge and well known equestrian athlete comitted suicide. The word around the internet is he committed because of sexual misconduct allegations against him from years prior. Because no one knows the real story, and if they do, no one is sharing it, I can’t say what I feel about it. I feel awful that something like this drove a such well loved and revered man to do this. This is why I’m wary of SafeSport, its not here to protect the members like it proclaims, but it’s really just there to cover USEF and the Olympics’s asses.