Equestrians with Safesport Sanctions & Criminal Investigations

Is there anywhere to go to see which trainers or individuals involved in equestrian sports have criminal charges that are pending or convictions?

Due to confidentially issues, people are not provided with a lot of details around sanctions. When criminal charges are laid it is a similar situation.

Given that the majority of offenders likely have a history of abuse (in many forms) I think there is potential for more victims to step forward knowing their story will be heard and acted on.

How do you protect children when parents/caregivers do not have the knowledge that an offender is in their midst? There are many “grassroots” programs that could be operating with sanctioned individuals. There is the potential for those with criminal charges or convictions to remain involved in the industry. How is this prevented?

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If the program is not involved in accredited shows, then the coaches don’t need USEF membership. There is no oversight whatsoever of small time trainers. No oversight in credentialing, licensing, Safe sport. Anyone can set up in business as a trainer.

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This site is great for tracking registered sex offenders but doesn’t show those who have been charged and/or sanctioned, resulting in conditions where they are not allowed around children but not in this database.

I would assume the majority of parents, guardians and riders would want to know who they are surrounding themselves with.

There are a lot of people who don’t know Safesport exists and wouldn’t know if they have someone in their barn/program who is a risk.

If I’m following, you want to know if there is a way to know if an individual is being investigated for and/or charged with and/or convicted of sex crimes?

You can do a PDR through your local law enforcement agency where the individual lives and request a record of any arrests or investigations involving that person. That’s pretty much it. And it won’t necessarily show if they were convicted of the crime for which they were charged or being investigated. If you wanted to go that route, I guess.

The bar for Safe Sport is much lower than for criminal prosecution.

You can be suspended or kicked out of USEF without a criminal charge being laid.

However, how many such persons then retreat to small time beginner programs in the back of nowhere? I expect that the BNT that get expelled from USEF are more likely to find some behind the scenes slot adjacent to the big time.

My guess is that most very small time horse pros in the US do not bother to keep up USEF membership if they go at most to schooling shows. So they can’t be disciplined by USEF. There is no watch kept on them except if they are on a sex offender’s list, in which case they probably have probation conditions not to work with minors.

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Assuming you mean in the USA? Unless an indictment is under seal, criminal charges are public record. There will be a complaint/information/indictment that describes the charges. Until there is a plea/conviction they are only allegations. But you can still find and read them if you are interested.

Absent unusual circumstances, convictions are public record too. They are listed in databases like the one linked above.

You can also search criminal dockets for any of this information. There is no uniform repository for investigations/allegations because many result in no plea or conviction and in the USA a defendant is innocent until proven guilty in a criminal case.

If someone has a criminal conviction of this kind of thing Safe Sport can ban them from USEF membership on the basis of that.

But SS can also ban on the results of its own investigations and does not require the same standard of evidence as a trial. The details of the complaint are not made public. However my impression is that SS has powers to investigate quite widely in the world the individual moves in and seek out more victims.

I think SS or USEF maintains a list of individuals with suspensions or bans.

But they have no jurisdiction over grassroots non-members.

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… :woman_shrugging: Just my real life experience, as both a rider, and a parent…

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Perhaps it would be a public service to let readers know which trainers won’t pass a background check. Remember the longer you keep quiet, the more people could be injured.

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I hear you. But it’s amazing the harassment and backlash that can happen when someone dares to publicly speak up, and just share facts. One grassroots beginner lesson program popular with certain NoVa families I know of is run by people who do indeed have a criminal history. A friend of mine who is pretty well networked in the Hunter jumper community, a very good lifelong rider, with a child who is also a great young rider, well - she dared to mention these people’s criminal history on a discussion thread in a local community group, because a non horsey parent had started a post asking for recommendations for beginner lesson programs. A few other parents had piped up in response to the original post and said, “Oh - XYZ stables is wonderful, and so friendly and welcoming and not snobby or restrictive of kids hanging around the barn outside of their lesson times, and my kid loves spending time there during summers, etc, and it’s just a great, family friendly, fun program.” Anyway… my well networked HJ friend commented on the thread that the owners of the stables did in fact have a criminal record and weren’t highly regarded by some of the more experienced horse people in the area (all true)… then the fans of this lesson program started skewering her for commenting, called her an elitist snob on the thread, and accused her of trying to damage the stable owner’s reputation…

Hopefully some of the parents in the community with beginner kids interested in riding saw the comments, and were at least inspired to actually do a background check on the owner operators of this grassroots lesson program, and then make an informed decision as to whether or not they felt it was a good environment for their child… but it was disheartening to witness the pile on my friend experienced just because she dared to speak up on a public forum and state facts that others simply didn’t want to hear or know…

I witnessed a similar dynamic in a small community group when discussing youth lacrosse. There was a popular local family involved in coaching, and a major travel club organization. But two of the 20 something year old assistant coaches, who were also doing private cos hung for a number of 10 and 11 year old players - well - two of them had criminal records related to drugs. One actually was kicked out of college and lost his lacrosse scholarship because he was DEALING to other college students. A community member mentioned this history on a public board, and then multiple parents who were friends and fans of the local lacrosse club started piling on, accusing the one commenter of gossiping, threatening to permanently blackball the commenters kid from EVER playing for one of the major travel team programs, etc etc… Just insanity on the part of some folks.

Sticking your neck out and trying to share factual (but unflattering) information about coaches or programs involved in youth sports can be tricky and messy… even at the most basic grassroots levels. It’s sad and foolish… but true.

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Well, I have to pass a background check every year to be an R judge…

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I got it. And I would imagine you are totally up to date on all SafeSport requirements too :slight_smile: But you aren’t the sort of figure in sport I worry about as a parent (I mean that as a compliment :slight_smile: ).

Some of the grassroots/beginner lesson programs, which don’t participate in recognized competition, and also happen to be owned and run by people with sketchy records? They’re kind of a challenge. But at the end of the day, it’s really contingent upon parents to do their homework and watch out for their kids. SafeSport can only provide training and guidance as to best practices when it comes to identifying/avoiding/preventing minor athlete abuse, and provide some oversight of folks involved in recognized sport. But it’s a tough problem in sports, and sadly, easy answers and fixes don’t exist.

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Depending on the parents, they may not feel that a bit of drug use or some drunken brawls or stolen cars etc are the kind of crimes that worry them. If a coach actually is on a sex offender registry that limits their contact with minors, then you should contact the police.

But there are a lot of crimes and criminal records out there that don’t particularly pose a threat to children as long as the guns and drugs and brawls and etc are not present at the barn.

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There is generally not the place to reveal people who have pending criminal charges because here in America our system operates under the premise of innocent until proven guilty. However, a quick Internet search can often reveal a font of information, and all states have a sex offender registry which will reveal the location of sexual offenders and predators in any given area. You can also go to the local law-enforcement agency and run a background check on any person for a small fee

I can see letting a pot possession, or a young, stupid “drunken brawl” (without weapons involved) when people were young being a non issue, but stealing a car? I would be concerned about that.

That crime shows me a very different level of disregard for people and their property. Not stealing from other people should be ingrained by the time a person can drive a car.
I think that stealing cars is a behavior that isn’t as easily excusable for being young and dumb, as is smoking pot or other stupid behaviors when young.

It doesn’t mean that it is unforgivable, but in my opinion, stealing cars shows more of a character flaw. The premeditation and greed is there, and I would be uncomfortable with that.

Young like a minor, or young like 20s? And trust me, not picking on you, just using your post to highlight a few things: there are sooooo many crimes :laughing: I mean it. There are a lot of people with a criminal history for things that you would never guess, either the crime itself (ie “really? I can’t put my trash in the dumpster behind the local grocery store?”) to the people themselves - esp DUIs, but also a lot of grandmas for hit-and-run. My ex-husband had an arrest from when he was a young sailor in the Navy for “harassing wildlife” (yikes right?) because he had, on a dare, roped a duck or a seagull or something on a public beach and a bike cop was going by and saw it. He was probably mouthy and talked himself into that arrest, but he was and is an animal lover.

Should be, if their parents did their job right - but generally if the adult wasn’t raised to respect other’s property, then as an adult they don’t, then they raise kids, on and on. Think of the adults who vandalize an ex-boyfriend or -girlfriend’s vehicle by keying it or slashing the tires, etc. Not theft, but damage. What about Napster, probably millions of people used that (am I aging myself?). I have been doing this job long enough that minors I dealt with now have kids that I’m dealing with. Plus kids are jacking cars by age 11, definitely not the driver’s license age but people will still make the argument that kids that age don’t know right from wrong.

I am sure we can all debate our own line in the sand as to what things on a criminal record would or wouldn’t bother us personally in the history of a kid’s riding instructor. My point wasn’t to argue for a particular line. But just to say that there are a lot of things other than sexual assault of a child, and that many of these things might rightfully be irrelevant to some people. Especially if the coach has clearly turned over a new leaf. If the majority of the parents think the past actions are irrelevant, then community standards have spoken. In any given community, there will be crimes that don’t seem so bad because they are common enough in that world.

Where I live, almost no one in my age group would have reacted other than to commiserate over possession of marijuana (now legal). I expect income tax evasion is not going to upset too many people. Etc.

Whatever the criminal background was on this given coach, clearly most of the parents didnt think it was a crime that worried them. It might worry the person that brought it up, and it might worry me. But it didn’t worry them.

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Until it does.

And then that same parent is all shocked.

It is like it is OK when that trainer bad mouth’s that other client because the trainer is nice to you, but then comes that day that the trainer has a new favorite rider and you are the one being badmouthed.

I do agree, we all have to make our line in the sand. It is easier to make the line if you have facts though.

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Agreed.

The only point I was trying to make was that a “criminal record” can be for something other than child abuse.

For instance, I personally can’t stand a rowdy drinking party hearty semi-biker atmosphere around horses, friendly or not, for instance. Had enough of that in my teens. It goes toxic fast. And I wouldnt even need to know these folks had a criminal record. They might just not have a criminal record yet. But I can see other clients thinking this was fun.

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