I will never again complain about the lost hour and a half that the original SafeSport training took me. Just before school started, my district office notified its teaching staff that we would be required to complete 3 hours of online "interactive" training courses on our own time. Oh, and I didn't get a certificate either.
The first one-hour course had three modules, one of which included our annual Employee Training. This is the SafeSport type of stuff: recognizing the signs of child abuse, child neglect, bullying, sexual molestation, etc. It also included all that business about teachers being mandated reporters (MR). Being a MR means I can get in big, BIG trouble if I knowingly turn a blind eye to anything that even smacks of child abuse. I've actually filed more than one Child Protective Services (CPS) report during my tenure as an educator. Forget about SafeSport's sanctions; not reporting could get me arrested. And jailed. And fired.
We were also notified of various laws that are new to California along with what to do if we have a shooter on campus. It was all pretty basic stuff except there was no way to pause or rewind the videos, so if you missed something, you were kind of screwed. Or in my case, the custodian came in to clean, and I had to ask him not to vacuum because I couldn't hear the video!
The second training, a mere 45 minutes, involved some really basic material. If you've been a teacher for more than ten minutes, you should already know this stuff. Heck, even my husband, who is not a huge fan of pint-sized munchkins, could have passed the test without seeing the video. In case you're worried, I scored 100%.
It was the third training that really made my eyeballs roll. I listened to a solid hour of how terrible adults can be to one another. Jeez, people, how inappropriate can you get?
I had to watch video after video about how it is not appropriate to comment on someone else's sexuality. I was also told that no still means no which means I am not allowed to keep asking the next door teacher out on a date after he has previously told me no 10,000 times. Really? Who does that? I am married of course, so it isn't me.
At one point in the video I was "welcomed" to my annual training. My ears perked up at that phrase. Annual? You mean I have to watch this same video again next year? While teachers get these trainings every year, this version, the online interactive thing, was new. I was horrified that I might have to spend three hours again next August listening to the same training. And on the heels of my SafeSport training which renews on September 1, 2020.
Rest assured all you moms and dads out there. I am the BEST TRAINED dressage rider you'll ever meet!
Man. They aren't messing around. On Sunday morning, I got this email from US Equestrian.
Last year, when the SafeSport training was launched, I dutifully, if not particularly willingly, completed the training well in advance of the required date. I did it on August 31, 2018 to be exact. US Equestrian's email arrived on September 1, 2019. I knew I was due for the refresher course, but since this is the first year for a refresher course, I wasn't quite sure how it was going to work. I assumed I'd get a friendly reminder just like when it's time to renew my membership. I got a reminder all right, but I didn't expect it to be so snappy and accusatory. Sheesh, US Equestrian. You made it sound like I failed to show up for a court hearing.
How about a slightly friendlier letter? Maybe along the lines of Dear Karen Sweaney, You are due to complete the SafeSport Refresher Course in order to be eligible to compete at USEF-licensed competitions. Yada yada yada. In fact, the email doesn't even mention that it's the refresher course I needed to take. Nope. Instead, I got a big fat accusation, "Because you did not complete the required SafeSport Training ..." Which kind of freaked me out because I did take the initial training, and I had a certificate to prove it.
While I might not be shy about voicing my opinion, I am still a rule follower, so I sat down on Sunday afternoon to take the course. I don't know if it was because US Equestrian's website was down over the weekend - I think they were moving to a new building, but logging on to my account on USEF and then getting to the SafeSport training both took a fair amount of time. Thankfully, I didn't have to retake the whole thing though. SafeSport seemed to know who I was and sent me to the Refresher Course.
Once I was finally on and ready to go, the course took no more than 15 minutes. I watched an introductory video, answered 7 questions on a pretest, and then read through a number of note cards all designed to remind me of what bullying, harassment, and sexual misconduct look like. I was also reminded of when to report a violation. The course ended with a posttest that was made up of the same 7 questions I took as a pretest.
As a classroom teacher who goes through much broader training each year, SafeSport's refresher course was thankfully quick and painless and certainly much better than was the original course.
And of course, when you finish, you get this handy dandy, very official certificate recognizing you for successfully completing SafeSport's Refresher Course. As I was studying the certificate though, I noticed that it stipulated that I had done Refresher Course 1. That got me wondering just how many Refresher Courses there might be, so I zipped back over to US Equestrian to see if I was truly finished.
Since I am hoping to take Speedy to a USDF-rated show in October, I wanted to make sure to get this done in as timely a manner as possible. I just wish US Equestrian would have been a bit less brusque in their communication. We're all supposed to support one another in a positive and friendly atmosphere, right?
I think we should expect the same thing from our governing bodies.
Mid-May seems awfully late to be starting the show season, but Speedy's winter of maiming himself put us a little behind schedule. Our first show will be at the Bear Valley Equestrian Center in Tehachapi over Labor Day weekend. We'll do Third Level tests 1 and 2. While the show is "only" CDS-rated, the scores count for a lot of different awards.
Any scores of 60% or better (ever hopeful!) count as qualifying scores for the Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC), the adult ammie's version of a championship show. While I love RAAC, getting there is not my primary goal for the season, but if we qualify, I'll undoubtedly go.
With a 60% or better, I will be able to check off one of the two score I'll need at Third Level to earn the CDS Sapphire award. I'll also need two qualifying scores at Fourth Level, so this is not a pressing goal.
Speedy needs 6 scores of 60% or better to earn his CDS Third Level Horse Performance Award. Earning 1 or 2 of them at this show would be exciting. So while it's "just" a CDS-rated show, the scores matter.
A week or so ago I wrote about US Equestrian and how much the organization bugs me. A few of you agreed with me while others didn't. I thought I'd clarify my comment about professional riders not needing to join USEF to maintain their pro status.
In order to compete as an adult amateur here in California, I HAVE to join US Equestrian. If I simply want to compete in my GMO's shows that are not USDF/USEF rated, I still have to join US Equestrian to get my my AA card. Professional riders who do not want to earn national titles do not have to join US Equestrian to be considered professional riders. Yes, they'll have to pay USEF non-member fees, but they don't HAVE to join. They are still permitted to show as professional riders. In my opinion, the adult amateur card should be free while professional riders should have to pay to play. But hey, I am only one person.
My Adult Amateur card is paid for, my SafeSport training is complete, and that first show entry of the year has been mailed. While I am working hard for good scores, I know that we're not quite performing in the 60% range yet. This show will give me an idea of what we have down and on what areas I most need to focus.
All that's left is to trim up Speedy's bridle path and drag out my show shampoos. Well, I should probably memorize those tests as well!
I have a love/hate relationship with US Equestrian, the official sanctioning body of all equine sports. And really, it's more of a hate relationship. There is so much that bugs me about the organization that it's hard to pick just one or two things. The only thing I "love" about them is that they make the rules, and I am a rule-follower through and through.
Before you jump all over me about how great US Equestrian is for equine sports, I get it. It works much the same as Trickle-Down Economics where favoring top horse and rider teams will eventually benefit grass-roots riders like myself - in theory anyway. We need to subsidize and promote the Laura Graves and Verdades of American equestrian sports. Without them there wouldn't be a place for the Speedys and Izzys of the world to compete. Insert big eye roll. Nothing personal, Laura. You're my idol.
I recently received the "yearbook" version of US Equestrian Magazine. It's the issue that chronicles all of the Horse of the Year Awards. It also included an article wherein US Equestrian's president, Murray Kessler, described the "Strategic Plan's five-step 'virtuous circle.'" A what circle? The plan, I refuse to call it a "virtuous circle," included:
The "plan" was followed by a lot of yada yada yada ... heard it all before kind of stuff that initiated yet another massive eye roll. Number 1 being ...
Revenues have climbed and reserves are up. No kidding, US Equestrian. Don't you remember your ridiculously high rate increase of two years ago? Our membership rose from $55 a year to $80, a 62% increase. When was the last time you got a 62% raise?
I guess the real reason that US Equestrian annoys me so much is that I get exactly two things for my $80 yearly fee: the privilege of showing as an adult amateur (professional riders don't have to join US Equestrian to maintain their professional status) and a magazine that I rarely read. That's it. There are no atta girl certificates, no patches or plates, nothing to earn. To US Equestrian, I am simply another $80 to add to their coffers.
To earn anything, I'd have to pay an additional $95 a year to bump up Speedy's Horse ID to an Annual Recording membership. And if I did that, I'm not quite sure what we'd be eligible for, but I am pretty sure it wouldn't be the types of awards that USDF and CDS offer when a horse earns a specified number of scores. So, no thanks.
In an effort to be fair to US Equestrian, they did finally send out something useful: the 2019 USEF Guidelines for Drugs and Medications. This little pamphlet was actually put together with the membership's needs in mind. The very first page has four QR Codes that actually work and take you right to the form you need.
The next page very succinctly sums up the rules and requirements relating to Pergolide, the drug used to treat Equine Cushing's disease. Speedy was diagnosed with the disease this winter, so US Equestrian's recent decision to allow Therapeutic Use Exemptions came at the perfect time for us.
The pamphlet covers a few other drugs as well and includes a Common Prohibited Substance list along with a quick guide as to when the last dose of some common drugs can be administered and how long many drugs remain detectable.
I am sure US Equestrian makes some positive contributions to dressage that actually benefit adult amateurs, but they're not doing the best job of making me aware of what those things might actually be. Since I need AA status - who wants to show Open?, I'll continue to fork over my $80 annually, but I don't have to like it.
Before I wrap this up, I found something in the Yearbook issue that totally and completely cracked me up. See for yourself.
Over the weekend I attended the California Dressage Society's (CDS) Annual Meeting. All members are welcome to attend Saturday's general session, but it's mostly chapter chairs that participate. When I found out that my chapter chair wasn't going, I asked if I could go as a representative. I got the go-ahead and headed to Anaheim as an official chapter representative.
I checked in alongside my friend, Jen, who is a chapter chair, and was made to feel welcome immediately. Even though CDS is the largest Group Member Organization (GMO) of the United States Dressage Association (USDF), the general meeting still had a small club vibe.
Kevin Reinig, the outgoing president, made numerous jokes during his report and even asked other members to step in to answer questions. The morning was long, and I could see how it might get boring to attend the meeting year after year, but I was fascinated. After the president's report, each committee chair shared their own bits of news, progress, or general state of things.
After a lunch break, which was excellent, we then reconvened for a roundtable discussion amongst regional chapter chairs. This part of the meeting was the most engaging as each chairperson shared their chapter's successes or obstacles. As a designated representative, I felt honored to share the wonderful things that my own chapter does. It was very gratifying to hear such positive feedback from the rest of the group.
What I enjoyed most about the day was the feeling of being so connected to the inner workings of the dressage world. Being a part of the CDS General Meeting felt like having a direct link to both USDF and US Equestrian. The people with whom I was rubbing elbows were the very same people that talk to USDF's people. And when CDS asks for something, USDF listens (usually).
Most of the time, we are content to school in our arenas, head to local shows, and collect our ribbons at the end of the day. We think of USDF and US Equestrian as these massive organizations that do whatever they want, whenever they want with no thought to our needs or desires. Being at this meeting helped me see that that is not entirely true. When we offer feedback to our GMOs, that feedback does make its way up the pipeline.
I can't say that I particularly want to serve my GMO in an official capacity, but filling in as a representative felt like giving back in at least some small way. I also offered to help another chapter in my region with a project they'd like to get started. The dressage community, at least here in California, seems to be pretty tightly knit with a genuine desire to work together. I like that, and I am proud to call myself a member.
The meeting was a lot like jury duty; I never actually want to get picked to serve, but once having done so, I'm left feeling like I've made the world a better place.
I have to ask a question. Now that US Equestrian's memberships are twelve-month rather than all of them expiring in December, why rush to renew it? Not that I am rushing - yet, but US Equestrian would certainly like me to hurry it up. The use of the exclamation points definitely feels like there's a need to hand over my money right now.
My membership expired this week, and US Equestrian has sent me several emails reminding me of the fact. I very much understand that is it in US Equestrian's best interest to get me to renew as quickly as possible, money in the bank and all that. Since I don't plan to show at a USDF-rated show until spring, why shouldn't I just wait a month or two and defer spending the $80 (plus another $25 if I spring for the insurance which I always do)? Christmas is expensive, you know?
Not to mention that I completed the Safesport training in early September, and when I say early, I mean the very first day of the month. If I renew now, I'll only have to take the refresher course that much sooner. Thanks, but no thanks.
What does everyone else do, renew now, or wait until just before your first show?
If you missed US Equestrian's announcement on Thursday regarding Safe Sport, you might want to check it out. Go. Do it right now.
I am just going to say exactly how I feel: This ... requirement by US Equestrian is an insult to the overwhelming majority of riders, and it smacks of simply protecting someone's ass. I am frustrated and discouraged to live in a society where common sense and even morality must be legislated by the government, or in this case, the governing body of equestrian sports.
I completed the training over the weekend. I figured I didn't have as much of a leg to stand on if I hadn't even seen the curriculum of the training. Now I've seen it. I will say this - it's a good course ... for coaches, teachers, nurses, law enforcement, scout leaders, and other people who are responsible for the safety of the youngsters under their care.
Should every human being recognize the signs of sexual abuse, bullying, and situations where there is an uneven balance of power? Absolutely. Should you or I report a suspected case of abuse even if it looks consensual? By the way, it is never consensual if a person under 18 years old is involved. And the answer to that last question was yes.
Should it be the function of my hobby's governing board to insist that I be trained to "protect young victims from sexual abuse?" No, it should not. As a competitor, I do not supervise children, I do not compete with children, and I rarely even see children at shows.
Should coaches and trainers be asked to participate in a training that focuses on abuse of power over youngsters? Sure, especially if they will be working with children. In my capacity as a classroom teacher who supervises children, you'll be happy to know that I participate in LOTS of these types of training every single year. You should also be relieved to hear that a training for suicide prevention was added to our back to school training this August.
Coaches and trainers (and even teachers) are in a position of power that could be abused. Is that likely? Of course not, but because of the twelve pedophiles and seven abusive coaches that have been found to be victimizing their young charges, the rest of us must now watch a series of videos and answer a stack of what would you do? type questions. I made up those numbers by the way; there are probably more pedophiles and bad coaches than that.
Does anyone really think that a pedophile who coaches kids will suddenly realize that their actions are morally and legally wrong after earning their Safe Sport certificate? No. US Equestrian's position is that everyone should take the training, even if they do not work with kids, since it is everyone's job to monitor and recognize the signs of abuse so that we can report it. Isn't that already everyone's responsibility?
Going back to my first point: it should not be up to US Equestrian to ban me from participating in my sport unless I complete a training in the hope that it will prevent sexual abuse. I don't need my moral compass to be shaped by an equestrian organization. That was the duty of my parents, my church, and my community.
US Equestrian's website states, US Equestrian is committed to creating and maintaining an equestrian community free of all forms of emotional, physical and sexual misconduct.
I could not agree more. But I knew and believed that before receiving a certificate that said I had been trained. I bet you already believe it too.
On a much light note, check out yesterday's blog post for a chance to win a pair of Roeckl gloves.
I was thumbing through my most recent issue of Dressage Letters, the monthly membership publication of the California Dressage Society, when an article about the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) caught my attention. If you don't show, USEF is the organization that provides us with our adult amateur status. Either I am totally out of the loop, or this will come as a surprise to you as well: we are no longer members of the USEF.
Apparently, the USEF has once again rebranded itself as a new organization, United States Equestrian. They even have a new logo.
I was a slightly worried that my $55 membership fee had been spent in vain, so I did some quick digging. First, the website is still to be found at USEF.org, and second, my membership card, which I hadn't even looked at before shoving it in my show binder, had tried to warn me of the impending change if I had only bothered to look at it.
Notice the new logo. The US is large and in red while Equestrian lies just beneath as in the above logo. It, too, is in a bold font while the now defunct Federation is pencil thin and in danger of not being noticed at all. It would seem that the name change had been thought about for some time. Next year, all they need to do is simply drop the Federation, and the transition will be seamless.
This is not the first time that USEquestrian (I simply can't use USE) has changed its name/or and logo. This has been going on for some time.
I am sure the name change was accompanied by tons of political squabbling, but since I don't show internationally and have no plans to be ranked nationally, the change doesn't really mean anything to me. As long as my $55 wasn't wasted, I'll just sit back and wait for the next card to show up sans Federation.
Was I the last one to notice that I am now a member of USE?
When I first started showing dressage in 2010, I was overwhelmed by all of the memberships that I needed for rated events. When I found out my horse also needed a bunch of ID numbers, I almost quit.
I have a whole page on my website dedicated to explaining what memberships you need to show at a rated event. Once you get yourself all sorted out, you then need to think about what your horse is going to need. Fortunately that part is a lot simpler.
Most rated shows ask for a horse's USEF number. I think you can just write N/A, but I decided to get numbers for both my horses. An Annual Recording Number is $75 and a Lifetime Recording Number is $200. I wasn't interested in laying out that kind of cash, but I discovered that a horse can get a Horse ID (HID), which is surprisingly FREE!
To get your horse recorded with USEF, which gives you a number to use for rated shows, simply log on to USEF's website, find your member page, scroll down a bit, and click the bright red ADD/UPDATE button below your member info. In just minutes, you can get a USEF number for your horse.
Horses with an HID are not eligible for any awards, but you can enter breed and registry information on a profile page. And if you ever decide to pursue USEF year end awards, it's really easy to pay the fee and upgrade.
USDF offers two choices for horse registration. The first is a lot like USEF's HID except that it's not free. The Horse Identification number costs $25, but it never has to be renewed. Like USEF's HID, your horse is not eligible for any awards, but he is eligible to show. This means that while you can earn scores toward your Rider Performance Awards and Medals, scores he earns won't count for Horse Performance Certificates.
The second registration that USDF offers is a Lifetime Horse Registration (LHR). This registration costs $95, but if you went with an HID originally, you only pay $70 to upgrade (I've done this for both Speedy G and Izzy). With an LHR, your horse is eligible for all of USDF's awards and programs as long as you also hold a Participating Membership (not a Group Membership).
For more information on fees and registration types, click this link.
I joined two GMOs this year. The California Dressage Society does not charge a fee for tracking the points or scores of the horses that you ride. in fact, neither of my horses even have an ID number with CDS. I think the office keeps track of the horses simply based on their show names.
The Dressage Association of Southern California, the second GMO, does charge an annual $10 fee that allows horses to be eligible for year end awards. DASC is a tiny GMO and has so far proven to be a bit unorganized. I joined in early November and have yet to receive my membership card/number nor Speedy's number. I also just sent an application and fee for Izzy's number just in case he does make it to a rated show this year. I don't think I'll do a DASC-rated show until April, so I'll just kind of wait it out and see what happens.
Your own GMO might have a similar fee structure for registering horses. Check with them before you earn any scores.
The Grand Total
As complicated as it all seems, the bottom line is you really only need to pay a one-time fee of $25 to meet the minimum registration requirement for horses competing at USEF-licensed/USDF-recognized competitions. If you want your horse to be eligible for Horse of the Year type awards, the price goes up a little for USDF and a lot for USEF.
I'd love to hear how other GMOs deal with horse registration. Does your GMO have a fee for your horse's membership, or is it "free?"
SmartPak sent me this email the other day ...
I am definitely a careful shopper, aren't we all?, but I don't shop at SmartPak just for the USEF savings. I go where the deals and best customer service can be found. Even so, SmartPak's prices are usually very competitive and that extra 5% often times makes the difference.
I looked over my 2015 purchases just to see how I saved so much. Most of the $28 bucks was saved on Izzy's SmartPak; he gets a daily dose of Quiessence, a magnesium supplement. But since shipping is so cheap (free) at SmartPak, I found myself adding various things to the monthly SmartPak shipment. Yes, I know that's part of SmartPak's sales campaign, but it works for me.
The number one add-on was fly spray. Pyranha Wipe N' Spray is only $14.20 at SmartPak; it's $24.95 at my local feed store. Now that I think about it, just buying my fly spray at SmartPak rather than at my local store more than pays for my $55 USEF membership.
Did anyone save more with their USEF discount than I did?
Now if only the Riding Warehouse would offer the same deal ...