I follow SafeSport news and issues pretty closely, and have commented about them on these forums extensively… I’m also a parent of two kids involved in youth sports (one rides, the other does two other sports)… and I started riding and showing as a young kid, and my husband participated extensively in other youth sports… so I will weigh in with my 2 cents on this topic.
It’s important to understand the intent behind the creation of SafeSport, and distinguish it from a more broad and general program that theoretically is focused on preventing all sexual (and other) abuse in youth sports.
SafeSport is focused on sports that are part of the Olympic movement. More specifically… SafeSport is focused on preventing and addressing the abuse of minor and young adult athletes who are participating in recognized competition in various Olympic movement sports. Though there is overlap with grassroots youth sports in many instances… SafeSport isn’t set up with that broad of a focus. And there is a reason for that. It’s not that people at SafeSport don’t care… it goes back to the root of the identified problems… in short… predatory coaches and professionals involved in MULTIPLE Olympic sports youth programs have demonstrated over and over that they will use young athletes hopes and dreams in order to coerce them into tolerating a variety of abusive situations. The Olympic movement has turned a blind eye to this well known dynamic for decades… and the issue has crossed multiple sports… and involved multiple coaches who are household names in a number of sports… and finally the dam broke, so to speak. There is a lot of public funding tied to Olympic sports in the US, so SafeSport has been developed to try and address these issues, and change this dynamic (of predatory coaches involved in Olympic sports, and youth development tracks and competitive programs).
It’s much bigger than just equestrian sports. SafeSport does provide training resources that are actually quite useful for parents, however, and help educate on how to better watch out on your child’s behalf.
As far as more general abuse prevention programs at the grassroots level in youth sports… equestrian activities frankly stink at it. My son plays Little League and has done youth lacrosse… and there are background checks and code of conduct requirements involved in each. Any parent with a child getting involved in riding would be wise to pay a small fee, and run a background check on any potential youth riding coach. Beyond that… social media actually can be quite useful. Search community groups, and local parent forums for feedback on any given grassroots lesson program. Often there is a lot of nonsense and drama to wade through, but you can sometimes identify red flags about a given grassroots “professional” operating in your area pretty quickly.
For my child who is NOT an equestrian… I actually found local FB groups and parent forums invaluable when trying to figure out which youth lacrosse programs to avoid. Specifically, this was useful when it came to travel teams… travel team sports is a bit tricky to navigate as a parent, in my opinion!
Last thing… and this is just my opinion and experience… but be aware as a parent of all the liability issues involved in getting kids up on horses, and riding and showing these days. I grew up in an era where there were many more ‘barn rats’ and all day camps then I see available now. I’m a little nostalgic at times… but honestly… any lesson program still welcoming ‘barn rats’ in terms of inexperienced tween and teenaged kids hanging around… well… that raises some red flags for me as a parent. Because the good professionals I know in this day and age are ACUTELY aware of liability and safety in their barbs at all times… and take it seriously. Even at a grassroots level. And that’s a good thing. I hate to come off as slightly paranoid… but the few lesson barns I know of in my general area that do still welcome barn rats… they lack good professional credentials in other respects, and aren’t places I’ve taken my child to ride at… even at the total beginner stages. And I scan bluntly think of two, right off the bat, that I know are owned and operated by people who would not withstand the scrutiny of the most basic background check. The local parents I know of who do like and use those grassroots lesson programs and barns often rave about how ‘welcoming’ and ‘friendly’ and fun the environment is for kids… and yes… drop their kids off for extended hours at these barns. It’s safe to assume the parents involved haven’t done thorough homework on the background of their kid’s riding coach… or… are just in total denial (that seems to happen too sometimes).
Oh well. I’m sure there are still a few programs somewhere out there run by squeaky clean, professional people, who do also still welcome barn rats and dropping kids off for the day… but I haven’t come across a ton. Liability is definitely one reason. But it’s interesting how some things go hand in hand… and in the horse world, it never hurts to thoroughly check out the background of any program that seems super nice, welcoming and friendly to all comers on the surface… Just my real life experience, as both a rider, and a parent…