Equestrians and Clothing

It’s almost “Rolex”, which is the old name us lifers call the Kentucky Three Day Event, now rebranded Land Rover Three Day. It’s an annual celebration of the epitome of eventing at a five star competition. Already the social media is blowing up with the announcements of who is doing what. A highly anticipated fashion show, also known as the jog, will take place both Wednesday and Sunday at the competition and already I’m seeing a whole lot of materialism being displayed.

This week, another person I know posted about looking good all the time in the barn, making sure you are fashion forward while riding. Lots and lots of kids read this stuff. They take this stuff completely to heart. And it’s wrong, and it’s dangerous.

What’s on the outside DOES. NOT. MATTER. What’s on the inside matters. How beautiful your horse looks. How fit they are, well trained, comfortable and relaxed, happy to do the job, well cared for and well shod. These things are the ONLY things that matter! How you smell, what you wear, your body weight DOES NOT MATTER in the least.

We will all read and view many, many posts and videos in the coming week, and I want everyone out there, especially young girls, who are NOT perfect and don’t have tons of fancy barn clothes, to know this: your pony or horse does not care what you wear. They don’t care what you look like. They care if you groom them. They care if you pick out their hooves. They care if you don’t pull on their mouth when you jump, or flop in the saddle after jumping a fence. They care if you make sure they are comfortable, fed, and happy. They don’t care about your shirt.

Take your precious, hard earned money and spend it on a fly mask or better bit for your horse. Do not waste it on the exterior trappings of a materialistic, addicted society emphasizing the wrong parts to a happy life. Save the planet (clothing is a horrible world-wide environmental polluter), save money, and don’t buy into the promotion of exterior looks over interior beauty.

I can’t bombard the internet with good photos and videos in the next week with “your clothes and size don’t matter” content. I just hope one or two kids somewhere read this and it renews your hope. Sure, watch the fun stuff but please don’t think you have to look that way or be that way to be successful. Be good for your pony – the only critic that matters.


I have over 15 acres of grass. Pastures, paddocks, arena, track, yard (front and back), driveway, ditch in front of property, and just about every single planter and planting space I’ve tried to manage here. Grass everywhere.

The greatest piece of equipment ever made in my opinion is the zero turn mower.

You’d think someone who enjoys decorating cross-country jumps and has schlepped literally thousands of plants and landscaping materials on cross country courses from NC to NJ would have lovely flower beds and planters.


I got grass, though. Maybe when I retire!

How many volunteers are needed?

If you have three good knowledgeable people, you can do a small dressage show. (Scribe, back gate person, secretary). Signs can do your parking and direction. Entries online as much as possible.

If you have five or six (or more) good people, you can do a jumper ring. Scribe, in gate, warmup, and 2 for jump crew or so. The more you have for jump crew the better it is for all the crew, as they can spread out, and cover areas of the ring without traversing the entire span – keeps them going a bit longer during the day. Having a couple of back gate/ in gate folks also helps, run them in 3 to 4 hour shifts if you can or pair them to learn to help each other as a team to keep rides moving.

An event takes the most people. In addition to the above, you need a starter for XC and finish timer. And jump judges….at least 20 for most recognized events. If you are running a starter event you really only need judges that can be stationed to see multiple jumps in their area. Olde Hope Farm used to have a tower that allowed the jump judges to see the entire jumping field. At Plantation, at the top of the hill that traverses the field, you can see most every jump. And you can always go on the honesty system, too, where the rider reports to the finish person if they had a stop or not. Yes, this works!

The point is, events take quadruple the amount of volunteers that other equestrian sports need to function. Because of this need, the sport has to continually utilize outreach to find volunteers to fill necessary jobs. A factor is the jump crew syndrome. That is, a bare minimum of help makes it harder for all who do show up. Better to have more than less, in order to give everyone collectively a kinder experience. So you can’t really get by with a bare minimum. It will erode your diehards, and then you will have nothing.

To jump crew for eight hours, to run warmup or bit check for eight hours, to scribe for eight hours is BRUTAL. Every single competitor at horse trials and events needs to know in their bones what it takes to survive an eight hour day volunteering. JMO.

Clinics: Be Careful Out There

I’m going to say something controversial: be really careful about doing clinics!


1985 – Me and Bruce Davidson – Mountain Meadows, Duvall, Washington

First of all, yes, I’m a participant in, and organizer of, clinics. And yes, I’ve learned quite a bit in clinics, and enjoy taking home what I’ve learned and working on it, to improve myself and my horses. And that is exactly what a clinic is for, and why people agree to teach them – to see good students make use of their knowledge and advice and use it to better themselves as riders. This makes for better horsemanship. That’s the goal.

On rare occasions – less, now that I know a bit more about life and horses – I’ve gone to clinics that were totally a waste of time, gas money, and my horse’s abilities and life. I’ve regretted these and still remember them painfully. I’ve searched for the meaning in the bad ones, and most of the time, what I learned what that clinician was a good person to stay away from, and the person setting up the clinic who talked me into it, was not to be trusted again. There are thieves in the horse world just like the real world.

So let’s talk about the good parts: A good clinic cements the basics, stretches you a little, and improves on what you have already got in the tank – a leaves you with positive things to do and feel going forward. Being able to watch all the other sessions in the clinic, those before your group and those after your group, especially those who are slightly ahead of you in skills, is an immense part of the clinic experience. Not everyone learns by observation, but most riders do, and because of that a good clinic, well organized, with a proper teacher leading it, will be a positive learning experience.

So that’s what a clinic is supposed to do.

And choosing to participate in a clinic should be a decision you should absolutely not make lightly. For yourself, and for your horse!

Here’s why clinics go wrong:

  • A huge mistake so many organizers and riders make today is to believe the press. What a person says about themselves on social media is not who they are! What they believe is not always what is classically correct. A couple of half-ass rides around a big cross-country course that happens to have television cameras around it does not make one an expert in teaching a novice horse and green rider! I have preached this over and over. Selecting a proper clinician needs knowledge aforehand of what kind of trainer and instructor this person really is. How much do they teach and coach at their home base? Do they have a program? Who have they produced? What is their forte? There are some incredibly good teachers out there that have never ridden around Rolex, but have produced young horses or riders that win events year after year. Don’t underestimate a good clinician; don’t overestimate a bad one.
  • It’s easy to go on line and watch a lot of Youtube videos of clinics, read clinic reports, look up clinicians online and read and discover their resume’s and riding history. I would hope everyone engaging a clinician would do that before booking. Be familiar with what they are likely to teach, and how it is taught. Here’s some examples of poor clinicians:
    • some clinicians are big on heavy gymnastic jumping.
    • Some incorporate the dressage first and like to build the jumping session slowly, picking on rider’s positions to a minute degree.
    • Some add more and more complicated exercises til a student reaches the point where they fail.
    • Some go very quickly, spending little time on flat work and moving right on up to higher jumps.
    • Some do not do groups well and tend to teach specifically to individual riders while the others in must wait and watch
    • some have an attitude about how riders present themselves and more worried about tack and dress
  • There are a ton of clinicians out there, sadly, because it is a lucrative endeavor and easy to make money if you promote yourself well enough.
  • The other thing is know your riders and horses. Who is likely to participate, what is their horsemanship level, are they a good fit for this clinic and his or her style? Is this a clinic where it will be important to watch other groups, and are the riders mature enough for that?
  • As a rider, my group is CRITICAL to my learning experience. An organizer must know the horses and riders and put groups together with a lot of thought – that is the best way for all involved to learn the maximum amount and get their money’s worth.
  • Having too many horses in a jumping group is just death for a good clinic – there is nothing worse than warming up, then sitting around, then taking a horse out and jumping through an exercise cold, then going back and sitting around.
  • Worse is people who chat or talk or interrupt the clinician while others are riding. Rude behavior by spectators, parents, other trainers.
  • Clinics that run behind schedule or just as bad, ahead of schedule, so you aren’t ready when it’s your turn to ride!
  • No accommodation made to allow nonriders to watch or observe the clinic (no chairs, no place to stand or sit and watch).
  • No place to put your horse while you observe or a parking area too far away to be convenient for horse care before and after. Cross country clinics tend to be located a long way from water for the horses, for instance. Just a few things that make a clinic an endurance contest rather than an educational experience.
  • Another false belief is that clinics are just like lessons with a guest instructor instead of your regular one. Yikes! I hope that people would not set up clinics for this reason – I guess I’m old fashioned – but the classical clinic scheme for me is always at least a day long or multi-day educational experience that involves observation and participation both. One should respect a clinic as a total educational, horsemanship enhancing experience – and the clinician should as well. That’s what I feel I am paying for.

See, you need to take something home from a clinic. If you take nothing home, it’s been a waste of your time and worse, a waste of your horse. The threat of losing more than you are getting, to me, makes clinic very very important choices to make for my training and my horses. I need to KNOW I am going to get more out of it than I would had I just stayed home, or taken a lesson with my regular trainer. That’s horsemanship.

So those are the reasons I think clinics should be very carefully thought about. They are wonderful experiences, done right – they are terrible experiences, done wrong.

Here’s a list of the professionals I’ve cliniced with:

Bruce Davidson

Jack LeGoff – 4 times

Sally Cousins

Sharon White

Tim Bourke – many times

Aviva Nebesky – 3 times

Charlotte Bredahl

Gunnar Ostergaard

Pam Pentz

Hilda Gurney – 5/6 times

Sandi Chohany

Phillip Dutton – 4/5 times

Boyd Martin

The ‘right’ way to go

When I first began to event on the west coast, we eagerly sought reports, photos, and news of the “big events” back east. Groton House was one of those highly-thought-of events that always had lots of news coverage in the media of the day. So while I never spectated or competed there, I knew Groton House as intimately as someone 2,900 miles away can – as all of us yearning for event knowledge, did.

We in the west were truly the lesser stepchild of the larger eventing community back in those days when Groton House was so revered and popular that it had a large waiting list of entered riders. Going east to a big event was always the goal of everyone as they trained and competed in the scant offerings west of the Mississippi. We soaked up any news and photographs of these events and poured over our copies of The Chronicle and USCTA News. We dreamed of attending a “real” three day event, and places like Groton House felt like a worthy goal.

Blue Ridge, Radnor, Groton House, Stuart … all gone now, but in their day, they were big exciting places to have on your calendar to attend. Maybe you were an amateur eventer with some hope that you could compete with the big guys at those beautiful places. To see them go is sad, because it marks the end of an era, the end of early dreams, when you were learning to event and just began to understand the addicting complexity of good horsemanship.

Over the years, as all shared experiences do, inevitably things change around events, around the land it’s held over, and around the people. My mother was in her 80’s when she was still volunteering for youth associations she had supported for over 50 years – and she prided herself on being able to change with the new rules, new industry standards and new program focus. Because of her flexibility and intelligence, she was still treasurer of her group at her death at 84. I learned from her the importance of not getting in the way of progress, even if you’ve been around a long time and were there at the start.

Eventing has changed over the years, and it’s a good thing – events have changed with it, people have changed with it. Our sport has evolved beyond its reliance on the cavalry holdover of “fit for duty”, a rather horrifying standard at times that made the sport in its modern iteration a glowing target for accusations of cruelty. I was also around for the growing pains of eventing in the 90’s and early part of 2000’s, and for the subsequent changes. Looking back now, I feel the changes were categorically good for horses. No longer would crappy footing be required to be traversed in roads and tracks squeezed onto unsuited hillsides and gravel roads around property not meant to have horses on it. Standards for building jumps and obstacles changed and prevented career-ending accidents and even deaths. Officials began to enforce horse welfare ideals and were empowered to make changes when they saw stuff on courses that didn’t fit basic guidelines for safety. That wasn’t all of the change that was seen, but most of what I have seen over the past two decades in the sport has been for the betterment of horses, and it’s hard to argue against that. I’ve seen changes in rules create bad riding occasionally over the years, and I’ve seen changes in the rules create brilliant horsemanship. Even if you were there at the start, you can’t stand in the way.

So when Ann Getchell, longtime organizer at Groton House says, “we ran the event in the ‘right’ order,” I looked back myself to events I attended on the west coast when I first started competing, and contrasted the events that I attended on the east coast, that occur many times in what is, I guess, considered the “wrong” order. And you know, it doesn’t really matter, does it? Today’s eventing may not have the classic order of dressage-cross country-show jumping all the time as all events used to have. But I’m not sad about that – it’s OK to have some changes.

Today, eventing provides a hell of lot fairer experience for kids and adults just starting out than it did when I began at the lowest offered level – Training – which was a brutal elimination test at times. I recall one event where the winner took a blue with a score over 80 points, and many a kid went home in tears after a very difficult and tricky cross country course scared and shocked horse after horse. If that was the “right” way to run the sport I am glad it’s gone. So much of what the sport was about was centered around the eastern seaboard in those days, and the disconnect was painful at times for those of us trying to learn how to event the “right” way but with no where near the resources of the other side of the country. But what’s done is done, and fortunately the sport survived its early mistakes, and actually thrived if you look at how well it is doing today. Our outlook is bright – not that we don’t still need every single event, from our newest to our oldest, to stay with us and continue to give us good sport, in the “right” way – a way that continually tries to make it better for the horses and educate the riders. That’s the way I want it to go. I think that is the way that everyone wants eventing to go, and for sure it was the way Groton House went out.

An open corner with flags that did not come loose, almost unseating me – another bad design of the 80’s
A typical cabin with solid upright wings and no groundlines under the roof overhangs on western courses in the 80’s

So goodbye to Groton House, and to all those grand memories that people lucky enough to compete there have. While we didn’t get to experience it, we did know it well, all of the great east coast events that we dreamed about and planned for and pictured ourselves riding in. And we move forward and we learn and we grow, and yes, we change a little bit, and the sport survives and thrives. It’s less an ending than a salute to a memorable part of eventing. The sport was built by those events and they paved the way for others to come along and keep it and care for it.

Freeman Farm in Oregon – whew look at that open oxer for preliminary.

Justice For The Bones In The Pasture

Photo by Donna Fairbairn

There are terrible politics involved with horse rescue – I say terrible, because mostly the obstacles are man-made and prevent the expedient and proper care of the compromised horses.

The problem with the Hebron horse farm was that so many people who should have been more observant, and had more of a moral compass, but who were not horsepeople, should have acted. At least we think they should have. The reality is that they did act and tried to act but could not bring the full power of the legal system to back them up until a video went public.

All of us who have horses and know what thin looks like have been in turn, aghast, shocked, saddened, disgusted, and angry at the photographs we have all seen of the surviving horses of that Hebron graveyard masquerading as a farm.

Late winter with no forage, no apparent feed and no care, with mares foaling, created the perfect storm of neglect for the herd with no shelter or protection from the last vestiges of a cold Delmarva winter. They could do nothing but lay down and die, exhausted, unfed, uncared for, diseased, and preyed upon by buzzards, feral cats and probably other wild animals. And die they did, body after body going to the earth, scattered near the living, who wandered searching for feed among their bones. Perhaps the offspring of the dead picked among the carcasses of their mothers or fathers, surviving until the next freeze iced over their water, and their dry and parched intestines twisted into knots of screaming pain to kill them.

What we can’t wrap our heads around is the 80-plus visits made by law enforcement, many of whom also own and love animals, to that horrendous property of death.
Why were so many signs of neglect and starvation apparently ignored? Presumably bones of the dead horses could be seen once you drove down the driveway. Neighbors have reported dead horses, bloated and exposed, with buzzards picking at the carcasses. Thin and neglected horses have been loose on the road, observed by the public, for years.

In 2014-2015, five presumably starved/neglected horses were identified by authorities, and the owner, Barbara Pilchard, agreed to a course of “action” by the Maryland Department of Agriculture, Maryland Horse Industry Board, and animal control of Wicomico County. The current county sheriff detailed the agreement in a press conference on Tuesday, March 20, 2018.
Follow up in the form of visits and compliance with some kind of recommendations for feeding existed then, but lost in the pubic record was who was responsible for checking on Pilchard, and what enforcement, if any, was to be undertaken should compliance not be forthcoming. When did that agreement end, and who said it was over?
What happened in that process? Then, the many, many visits to Cherry Walk Road to deal with loose horses on the road and on neighboring property prompted what action? Law enforcement used small, apparently useless civil penalties to bring Pilchard to some kind of tiny justice by charging her with letting her horses poop in the road and other people’s yards, for which they did get one conviction, resulting in a 30-day suspended sentence with probation. Minor civil offenses, but it seems to us that the big elephant in the room was the neglect of the horses, for which law enforcement did not seem to be able to do anything about.  Seems. And this is where we, as human beings, need to examine how humans are, and what we are, and how we think and deal with life and circumstances of life and death around us all.

Just looking at photos and evidence, it appears to me that however sunk in mental illness and depravity Pilchard seemed to be, she made an attempt to remove dead horses by dragging them, possibly with a tractor or her truck, to a boneyard on the property that wasn’t readily visible. If that was the case, it would be hard to see from a public road, and without permission, you cannot access private property. In addition, anecdotal reports are saying she was terroristic and threatened neighbors and others who attempted to round up and catch loose horses, or go on her property to inform her of loose horses on the road. She was reported to have threatened to run over a person who had caught a horse and was arguing with her on the road, and showed weapons to other people while threatening them to stay off her property. Anyone who has had numerous visits from law enforcement with little regard for complaints is clearly oblivious to doing the right thing. Her obsessive, combative and dismissive behavior made her dangerous, as do most severe mental illnesses gone untreated.

Let me stop here and talk about horses and the herd dynamic. When horses are grouped and live every minute of their lives in a herd situation, they learn survival depends on eating what you can when you can and running from danger immediately. If you don’t eat, and you don’t run, you don’t live very long. The uncut stallions mixed with the mares of all ages insured most of the mares were constantly in foal, which is when they are responsible for feeding at least two horses (a mare with foal) or some cases three horses (a mare, with foal nursing at her side, bred back for another foal). Any equine nutritionist will tell you that is the absolute most needy any horse can be in terms of food. Protein and mineral requirements are the top of the charts. The precise time of year they need the most nutrition is also the time of year when pastures are at their worst and hay and grain are needed the most – late winter, early spring. So the perfect storm, so to speak, for the starvation of mares in foal was March…when the farm’s death toll was discovered. While some in a herd are desperately fighting for a spot at the hay bale, others are eating well, look as though fat covers their bones, and are moving easily. That is the herd dynamic, where stronger and more active horses beat out the lesser animals to get at the available food. This way creates some horses that look okay, while some are not so good. The problem over the years, and especially when the 150 acres of pasture was in good grass in the summer, was the good horses. You cannot apply neglect laws to apparently healthy horses, and many in the herd were relatively strong for most of the year.

I personally have driven past this farm several times and each time noticed the large number of horses in the fields and some of the mares with bony hips and spines, but the majority of the horses I was able to view looked normal. Even now, within the rescued horses, many are in fairly good condition, but the neglected and starved animals are indeed horrific.

Nevertheless, there is a long legal and public history of complaint of neglect with this 100-horse herd – which at one time may have numbered over 150 to 200 horses.

But it ultimately took a television helicopter flyover, and a live streaming of what they were looking at, along with the convenient juxtaposition of one of the station’s reporters having an interview time with the sheriff that coincided exactly with the live stream, to finally put in motion the seizure. I think the horrors of that video finally rose to the level of taking action beyond just nuisance laws. I also believe that the owner was hiding the evilness of the property to the best of her ability, and health and perhaps finances slowly stopped those actions. I think that timing, an incredibly fortunate array of timing finally got action – the end of winter, the lack of hiding carcasses, a fed-up neighbor who finally had enough, a television reporter in the right place at the right time with the county sheriff, and nature’s time honored cycle of birth and conception set it all in motion.

There is public record that people who had been on the farm, who traveled the road, or lived nearby had been seeing these scenes for at least 15 years and making regular complaints about them. Supposedly, the person who finally got the television station to fly the helicopter over the farm had called and reported the dead horses to law enforcement before that call to the media.

Was it the spectre of publicity that initiated action? I believe that finally it was, but not for the reasons many blame. I believe that finally, having public acknowledgement of the scope and spectre of the Hebron horse farm problem gave the authorities the support they needed to go in guns blazing. This was what they were waiting for. There were no more blurred lines. The niceties and mild civil penalties they had tried to utilize to bring justice to this person were over – now, finally, they could act.

I believe the immensely problematic size of the horse herd – 100 horses that were for all intents, wild, unhandled, neglected, many starved, sick, hurt or suffering – to this small country area was more than a huge problem – it probably looked impossible to a non horse person. After all, the county had handled a 300-dog hoarding problem just two years before – but those were tiny Pomeranian dogs, that could be picked up and put in cages.

Big, strong, fast and frightening fully-grown horses were quite another matter, it seems, and those of us who have had horses all our lives probably can’t understand the reluctance to act from someone who has not. The county sheriff stated the officers were afraid of the electric fence; surely they would have been afraid of a mature stallion looking to defend his harem, or an group of 10 or 15 galloping horses coming at them down a road. The state of the property, with mud, holes, dead animals, smells, buzzards, manure and dangerously collapsed buildings would also have frightened anyone not used to walking around a pasture with such obstacles including a herd of horses wandering among the junk. It was going to take a village – more than that, a whole region of people – to get this job done.

I see those remnants of horses dead and feel the pain they felt when they died of colic, illness, or starvation. How any human being with a beating heart cannot feel that empathy for another being, that bleeds, and feels pain and lives on this earth – you begin to get close to understanding the depravity of mental illness, but only scratching the surface. Everyone of my friends that has been on the property says they are affected by what they have seen.

So I think about law enforcement and animal control people. When you do or see anything over and over, it begins to feel usual. You deal with what you see, compartmentalize, and go on. The desperateness, the persistent feeling of dread from the gruesome sights, pales over time. Those, especially those in law enforcement, often see the most horribleness of horribleness – and that is what we pay them to do. They handle all the crappiest shit that people do because we don’t want to deal with these situations. When we hire these people, we give them training, we pay them, we provide a leadership structure for them, and pat them on the back while we throw them to the wolves. Good luck, deal with it (because we don’t want to). And law enforcement goes out into our world and does what they do. You know what you know. You keep your job, you say nothing. You do it by the book. You refuse to allow emotion to get in the way. So much that they see is wrong and hurtful and often, so little they can do makes a difference.
I know how it feels to be so ineffective yet do your job and do it as well as you can. I also see things that are wrong. Many times I get into my car and think about what to do. Most of the time, when I have stuck my neck out, I have had subsequent trouble follow any attempt to “do the right thing”. I do not have bravery about it any more. I accept that I am a chicken, and that because being threatened by very bad people can have an affect on your life and presumed safety. Even just trying to help a person who does not want to understand, is completely ignorant, and has made up their mind they were going to obstruct you at every turn possible. They lay awake at night planning what they are going to do and say when you show up on their property. It’s maddeningly difficult to deal with such people.

Law enforcement lives with this every day. So, I understand it. I don’t like the fact that there are many excuses for not taking care of the starving and neglected horses in previous years, because the repercussions now will be very big, but I understand it, at least some of the reasons for it. I believe and I think others also believe, that human beings want to do the right thing, and in the end, the right thing was done. We will wait and see what investigation brings us about the facts of the property and who was responsible for actions that should have been taken – because that too is important, mostly to try and find the flaws and make changes to make sure serious hoarding of animals does not occur again. The most important part of justice is the living horses that were rescued now have a chance.

Justice for the bones in that Hebron pasture – it’s coming.

6/10/2018 Update:

Barbara Pilchard was indicted by a Wicomico County Grand Jury on May 21 on 16 felony counts of aggravated animal cruelty and 48 misdemeanor counts of animal abuse and neglect.

Safe Sport and Me Too

I’ve been reading about the new Safe Sport initiative, which is meant to help expose and stop harassment and bullying of athletes. As the United States Equestrian Federation is part of the international equestrian sport umbrella, according to the Safe Sport guidelines, if you show in USEF competitions, you are under that policy.

It’s important for stable owners, instructors, and trainers to know the policy considers them a “covered adult” for reporting purposes. And so you had better know what that means. If someone reports sexual harassment to you, you are obligated to report it to SafeSport regardless of where it happens (on showgrounds or not). And there’s special rules for children, too.

The link to the USEF page about Safe Sport is here: USEF Safe Sport Any reports of sexual harassment can be directed to three specific people at the USEF, and their contact information is listed on that page. In addition, they are providing training. “A critical component of an effective Safe Sport program is education. The Safe Sport Policy requires certain categories of individuals to successfully complete awareness training every two years. USEF encourages all members to complete the training. The training can be found here and accessed using the access code 7MNA-86XI-FX4E-9GAN. ” Note: the training is required for USEF officials (judges, technical delegates, stewards) and background checks must be made on a regular basis of these officials as well.

Further down the page is a list of resources including some checklists for various issues in reporting abuse and harassment. As a stable owner or trainer, you will want to read through some of the linked documents that pertain to you, and know what you should do if someone reports abuse to you.

The link to Safe Sport download page is here. Their written Code is important to read. They define and explain bullying and sexual harassment. Those regulations alone are worth reading. They explain the reporting procedure very thoroughly. There are other things in the Code that is important to know, so you should download and read through it. In addition, you may want to pass on copies or links to your lawyer, and they should get back to you on what your responsibilities might be as a trainer or barn owner under the Code.

If you have clients that show in USEF-recognized competitions – you are subject to the Safe Sport code, and it makes sense, since most trainers and barn owners are interfacing on a daily basis with children in equestrian sport.

Do you think someone might be sexually harassing a client in your barn? What about an equestrian professional doing this to someone, and  you’ve witnessed it – or have been the person that received a complaint. You might know both parties very well, and might have an opinion on what really happened. What do you do? The answer is not, “nothing”. In some cases, nothing might be the worst thing you can do. The Safe Sport initiative repeatedly lays out that a “Covered Adult” (which would be a trainer or barn owner) must report incidents, and neglecting to report things, or giving incomplete information, etc., can get you into trouble.

While much of the Safe Sport initiative came about before the recent USA gymnastics scandal, that set of incidences brought publicity to the spectre of sexual abuse of vulnerable athletes. Equestrian sport isn’t immune from this. I know people in equestrian sport who have been sexually harassed, and I’ve been harassed and bullied in my career with horses.  I wish that Safe Sport was available many years ago so that there was a way to report things that happened, and the system still isn’t perfect – they state right up front that anonymous complaints don’t go very far in the system. And if you are in a position where there’s only a couple of people – and a complaint is made – they are going to know who made it, which makes your life toast. So it’s not a perfect system, but as horsewomen, we are just going to have to figure a way to make it work for us – and more importantly, teach younger women to empower themselves and be better at protecting themselves from bullies and predators.

I think there is also a danger of the pendulum swinging the other way, and miniscule things having the potential to be blown out of proportion. No one should be put in the position to experience the difficulty of defending oneself against a completely false accusation, which does happen.

The good thing is now we have a way to stop both of those problems and protect our friends, clients, customers and competitors from being abused or harassed by wrong-headed people who probably shouldn’t be in the horse business anyway. Here’s hoping for that.

A couple of more important links:

Writing Resume Links

By Holly Covey

I blog for Eventing Nation and Horse Junkies United, as well as horse-themed thoughts here. I’ve also started a personal, non-horse blog that focuses on food, recipes, and family history at Forever Elsie.

If you want to see some of the things I’ve written recently, check out these links:

Forever Elsie Recipes Family history and recipes

Eventing Nation Almost 80 blogs, Article Views 88,600 plus; 2017, 2016, 2015

Horse Junkies United I’ve been writing for this site since it’s inception. (2010 – to date) Here’s a few favorites:

Book Contributions:


  • Quarter Horse Northwest (monthly magazine, published in Yakima, WA. 1986-1988) out of circulation
  • Mid Atlantic Horse Events (monthly magazine, published in Harrington, DE, 1994-1999) out of circulation

I have published articles in equestrian magazines for over 30 years, most having to do with equestrian competition, the people who deal with competition horses, news in the horse world, and opinion pieces concerned with horses and equestrians. (Equus Magazine, Horse and Hound UK, The Chronicle Of The Horse, Lariat Magazine, Quarter Horse Journal, Western Horseman, California Thoroughbred, etc.)

In 1986, my interview with renowned author Christine Picavet was judged a Top Ten Article of the Year at weekly equestrian magazine, “The Chronicle Of The Horse”.

I have had my writing presented to President Ronald Reagan; HRH Prince Phillip; and was given the last interview with award winning children’s book author Marguerite Henry prior to her death. I also wrote copy published in the official 1984 Olympic Equestrian Event program.

Business Website containing articles on my hobby of cross-country course decoration: eventhorse.net

Winner, Streetdelivery.com photo contest, 2014 and 2013