For most of us in the equestrian world, horses are our entire lives.
The barn is where we spend most of our time and, let’s be honest, all of our money. Our sport is where we find much of our greatest joy and our closest friends. It’s our second home and often our traveling road show.
For children and young adults specifically, there are so many wonderful things equestrian sport has to offer.
The other week, on the eve of my daughter’s 16th birthday, she was out in our driveway with her dad, learning how to back up and unhook the horse trailer. She spent most of that day with her friends at the barn, riding and working with an animal that is easily 12 times her weight, cleaning tack, and organizing and packing her trunk for a horse show in Southern California. In fire season, when the air is filled with toxic amounts of smoke, she goes to the barn every day to nebulize our family’s horses.
There is no other Olympic sport where athletes learn to be responsible for another living thing and develop important care-taking skills at such a young age.
Equestrian sport is also unique in its longevity and breadth. It is one of a handful of sports that people stick with as they grow into adulthood and where a 13-year-old child can compete in the same class against adults. It’s a sport where a family can ride, compete and connect together, in the same place.
That is what I love most about this sport.
For over a decade, horses have been my family’s everything. My sharpest, strongest memories of raising my girls all revolve around our time with horses. Ten hour drives up and down the west coast; an RV packed with people for weeks at a time; night checks, blankets, polo wraps, hay, manure; all of it. My closest friends and the people I love most are all dedicated to this amazing lifestyle.
Since launching the #WeRideTogether movement, we are shining a light on a side of our sport that desperately needs repair. According to recent research, 40%–50% of athletes in all sports experience sexual harassment or abuse before their 18th birthday. When you look at individual and high-performance sports where one-on-one interactions between minors and coaches and other adults are commonplace, such as ours, the numbers are likely even higher. Talking openly and honestly about sexual misconduct and its many forms is the first step in addressing the situation.
If we can’t talk about it, we can’t fix it.
Please join us in making equestrian sport the leader in the fight against sexual misconduct. Let’s work together to identify and implement mechanisms to ensure that every child that pursues a life in horses can focus on what’s important: riding and developing their horsemanship skills.
Each of us has a part to play in the solution. Whether you are a trainer, a parent, an administrator, or running the backgate, we can all get involved through education and awareness. #WeRideTogether is striving to raise awareness for sexual abuse, provide a safe platform for victims to share their voices, and start the discussions we need to be having about the behavior of all participants. It is not about bringing down our sport; #WeRideTogether is about elevating equestrian sport and making our industry better, stronger and healthier for everyone.