I think we need an overhaul of safe sport

I recently had a few instances where I thought ‘was this all for nothing?’

First one was a few months back when a new student came to me to start riding. She had been riding for a few months at a different farm. Then I find out that the reason they switched to me was because the mom felt the trainer was being inappropriate with their kid… I asked if it was trainer x and the mom said ‘how did you know?’
Trainer X is on the safesport list. He’s a registered sex offender. But that info isn’t front and center on the internet, or really anywhere, so no one knows.

If you type in the farm name, nothing about safesport comes up. Even if you type in his name, the safesport result is the 6th or 7th listing down. Once you click on that, you are met with confusing legal language.

Just today someone asked on Facebook about the farm for beginner riding lessons. I sent her a private PM. She had no idea what safesport was, was confused as to how a registered sex offender could teach minors, and wanted to know why none of this came up when she typed in the farm name. I couldn’t say anything but ‘ I don’t know’

Why is Safesport and USEF not trying to protect the most vulnerable group, those who are new to the sport, mainly children, who wouldn’t know to look up the name of a trainer on a safesport list?


Hmmm. I think Safesport’s jurisdiction ends at the borders of USEF. All they can do is ban people from the USEF which is a huge blow to a BNT but nothing at all to a backyard trainer.

Are there no laws about registered sex offenders having contact with minors?


Yeah, they can’t actually prevent him from teaching. But I really think they need to give more info for each person who is on the list. Like their farm name, so that it pops up when people type in the name of the farm.

It’s pretty unacceptable that you can look up reviews for a riding program for children and nothing comes up about the fact that they guy is a registered sex offender.

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Sadly a trainer could just change his/her farm/business name. If parents can’t or won’t search out information about people working with their child I’m not sure what more SS/USEF can reasonably do. It seems more like a failure of the parents to investigate the trainer and less a problem of the way SS/USEF reports the sanctions. The fact that a trainer has ANY SS violation that is founded ought to be enough to make a parent dig into that trainer more fully.


It looks like the problem is that at least a few parents HAVE tried to dig, but found nothing. If you are new to a sport/area/activity, you may not know the different ways to look someone up? I mean, if someone is a registered sex offender, you’d think that would be readily available, but what if the crime was committed/charged in another jurisdiction, so looking up the local records doesn’t get a hit?

Between the different jurisdictions/authorities managing the information is where the cracks lie, and that’s where these types of people manage to wedge themselves…

I think this is obvious to you because you know what Safe Sport is.
I think the vast majority of people have no idea what Safe Sport even is so seeing something at the bottom of the list when they google a name is not likely going to make the jump to the ‘must research further’.


If the parent has a child competing in USEF competitions, the parent would have to do SS training and therefore should know what SS is.

It is FOR SURE a problem that eash state has its own sex offender registry and some are clunky and hard to search. But I don’t think SS/USEF can do much about that. You can search the SS disciplinary database by name. I don’t know what could be easier than that. If someone doesn’t KNOW to even go LOOK at the SS database because that person doesn’t know the database (or SS exists) I don’t know that adding additional detail into the SS database is going to solve that problem.

The database seems awfully intuitive and straightforward to me…


It lists the name of the person, the sport, a general sense of the allegations (including the word “sexual” or “criminal” as appropriate), and the penalty.

If someone finds the database and doesn’t understand that John Doe getting in trouble for anything involving “sexual miscounduct” could be a problem… I don’t know what to tell you.

I don’t know how to fix the fact that someone new to a sport doesn’t know things about the sport. I don’t really think that’s a solution that can be fixed just by listing a barn name with the SS records or changing the way the records are searched/posted. The individual will just change his/her barn/business name and then the listing of the barn name with the SS records will be useless (or might convince someone that the “bad” John Doe must be a different John Doe because the barn name differs.

The problem OP is highlighting is that when you google someone’s name, hits about sexual misconduct aren’t necessarily the top hits. I don’t know how USEF or SS could solve that aside from paying a ton of money to top promote their website on google hits?!

She is not wrong that state sex offender registries can be clunky and hard to search but USEF and SS don’t have the funds/ability/mission to replace that function. They are not mirror sites for sex offender registries. They list members that have been sanctioned, and I think that info is relatively clear and there for the finding if someone knows to look.

The problem OP is really highlighting is that you don’t necessarily find all the info on someone on the first page of Google hits. And while that’s true… I don’t think that’s a USEF/SS problem.


Type the name out here, it will show when the name is googled :wink:


A practical solution :wink:


I think registered sex offenders can even slide around between states and end up in new schools and sports clubs, if the organizations are lax in their criminal background checks.

But when you are self employed there is no one to do a criminal background check. Parents may assume in this day and age that anyone working with children has been vetted, not understanding that riding coaches are self employed small business men who are not under the jurisdiction of a club, a school, a non-profit or a larger company.

Also of course the bar to get expelled by SS is lower than that to get a criminal trial and be put on the sex offenders list. There are lots of trainers sanctioned by SS (and rightly so) that haven’t had criminal charges laid. So they wouldn’t be on a sex offenders list.

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I believe this thread is about beginner up down riders just starting out. So no, the parents do not know what safe sport is because doubtful they have gone to any competitions yet, let alone a USEF one.

Edit to add:
The topic of safe sport came up recently with a group of adults that ride that I know (because of pony club requirements). Since none of them compete at anything above the local level, and clearly none of the participate in COTH, not one of them knew what Safe Sport was. I know it is hard to imagine since it something you (general) know all about, but truly there are lots and lots of people who have never heard of it at all.


But that’s the problem, isn’t it? The vast majority of people new to riding have never heard of USEF and have never heard of Safe Sport.

I also think that most parents would never think about doing a search to see if a riding instructor is a registered sex offender because most of them would find it inconceivable that a riding stable would ever hire a registered sex offender to teach lessons.

I don’t think Safe Sport needs an overhaul. Safe Sport was created via an act of Congress to meet certain very specific needs. We can’t expect it to be a universal solution. Safe Sport has no jurisdiction over anything outside the USEF sphere and they can barely keep up with that.

Are things like this outside the world of USEF a problem? Yes. I just don’t think we can look to Safe Sport for a solution.


That is a good point @OfCourseItsAnAlter.

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It would be nice if SS could somehow make a giant notification appear at the top of google whenever a member or prospective member of the sport looked up a coach, but that’s not really within their control.

Parents can check sex offender registries and hope they have the right state to find something if it’s there. The rest of us that do know about SS can make sure we spread it far and wide when someone gets added so that it does come up in google.

SS and USEF is doing the only thing they can do to protect children right now, but ousting those people from the USEF. They really can’t reach beyond that.

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You cannot fix the fact that…

  1. Google is an incomplete means of researching a trainer’s background


  1. People don’t know about USEF and/or SS

by adding additional information to the USEF/SS database. That’s my point (which several others have echoed in slightly different ways). OP’s suggestion to the 2 above problems was to add more info to the SS reporting of cases. I don’t think that would solve either of the 2 above problems. I don’t really think either is a problem that SS/USEF need to fix. #1 is clearly outside their scope. USEF and SS only apply to members and there’s already training that requires all members to be aware of SS. So I don’t think it’s USEF’s responsibility to educate NON-USEF members about USEF/SS.


I think this is an issue with equestrian vs other sports by and large. The facilities and businesses for many other sports have an affiliation with the NGB. I think one of the reasons for the aiding and abetting rules was to keep gyms from hiring people like Nassar. It would not be hard to have a beginner equestrian program teaching no USEF members and not attending any USEF events. But I don’t think the same is true for gymnastics or swimming or other sports.

So while a parent new to a sport may not have a clue about Safe Sport and thus not even think to go search the database themselves, the rules would likely prohibit a banned person from teaching kids in many other sports and so the purpose of the program is fulfilled.

I don’t think there is any real framework where you could get the same coverage for equestrian. You could require that all instructors be USEF licensed, but if the trainer certification programs (and their recent changes) are any indication, that is not going to happen anytime soon.


it is, however, possible to get a list of registered sex offenders in your area. Parents would be well advised to do their own due diligence for any social activity their children might be involved in. As far as what the trainer is restricted from, that comes down to the state authority. If they are ordered to not have contact with children, then state authorities can get involved if they are informed

Because the USEF has no jurisdiction over how people run their business, they have no power. If they were a national authority on approving and certifying instructor like they have in Germany, then they might be able to do something.

USEF is only concerned with competitions under their umbrella, nothing more


Perhaps it’s time for people to take responsibility into their own hands and not depend upon someone else. If parents can research schools, they can research a trainer. And if at the level referred to in these posts it would be comforting to think the parents might show interest in the child’s activity and actually watch their lessons. If they are interested in a baby sitting service then they should look to a baby sitting service. Safe Sport doesn’t seem to be an issue much anymore. It will be interesting to see what trainers show up at WEC that can’t participate at USEF events!


Except that WEC is honoring USEF, FEI and SafeSport sanctions so they can’t show there either.


Sure it is, at some level. The self-employed trainer giving up/down lessons out of his own barn is kind of like the lady I took swimming lessons from as a kid, who taught in her own backyard pool. There are people who own their own gymnastics and dance studios, not part of any organization, where kids learn the basics and just perform for their parents or in the local parade. These types of places are where kids tend to start out as a hobby… some will have passion and drive and move on to community or school teams that actually run background checks, and a few will make it to the higher levels of competition where Safe Sport applies. Nobody is checking into these grassroots type places, and I’d bet most of the parents there have never heard of Safe Sport either.