hile abuse and misconduct in the sporting world were once brushed under the proverbial rug, we're living in an age of frank discussion - or at least, we're moving in that direction. And frankly, it's about damn time that light is shined into these dark corners, and that victims feel the space and momentum to come forward.
In the aftermath of the serial child molester and disgraced USA Gymastics doctor Larry Nassar's conviction, and the #MeToo movement sweeping Hollywood and politics to uncover past injustices, many governing bodies of sport are moving to implement new policies to prevent further injustices on and off the playing field.
The equestrian world is no exception - to the abuse, or to the reaction. In 2016, famed coach and trainer, Jimmy Williams, was removed from US Equestrian's Lifetime Achievement Trophy, amidst multiple allegations of sexual abuse - including allegations by Olympian Anne Kursinski. While this case has been brought to light due to the bravery of a number of victims, plenty of abuses by others still lay hidden.
The question becomes, where do we go from here? US Equestrian is making a concerted effort to take steps that will protect all who participate in the sport from sexual abuse, harassment, and misconduct - as they should. Certainly, no member of our sport should have to fear for their safety or wellbeing.
The most recent action is the new USEF SafeSport training requirement, now mandatory for all adult members of the organization in order to be eligible to compete in sanctioned events. It's an online training, aiming to educate riders and trainers on how to recognize, reduce, and respond to sexual harassment and abuse. Members have a 30-day grace period upon joining or renewing memberships to complete the course - failure to complete means you can't compete as a USEF member - no points, no sanctioned events, nada.
Mandatory means mandatory, y'all.
US Equestrian President Murray Kessler says, “I am very proud of the work done in drafting this proposal and the Board of Directors which approved this critical rule designed to keep our children safe while they enjoy, excel, and advance in our sport.”
"The question becomes, where do we go from here?"
So is this a step in the right direction, a great solution, or a good intention that's gone a little off course? Do you think the new SafeSport training requirement will help reduce the cases of sexual misconduct, or is just another box to check?
Update: U.S. Equestrian has released a video with 5-time Olympian Anne Kurskinski, who speaks up about her feelings on SafeSport. Watch here:
It's time to weigh in, in the comments below: How do you feel about US Equestrian's new SafeSport mandate?
Photos by Erin Gilmore.