Your child wants to go for championships. Terrific! They have worked hard and deserve it. There is just one little hiccup..you can’t go. Work is demanding and your other children can not stay home alone. What do you do?
This is a question that many equestrian parents may be asking themselves in the near future. Your finances are already stretched to the limit by supporting your child’s dreams of equestrian competitions. With the new Safe-Sport requirements, gone are they days of “go with your trainer” and have a good time.
In the United States, the world of preventive care, has gone to a new level of requirements mandates: Parents and/or guardians, are now required to attend all training sessions and competitions. This requirements is a effort to prevent misconduct among the professionals in the field, namely trainers. And not just trainers who are under suspicion, but ANY TRAINER, who desires to compete in a USEF rated competition.
While the debate of right or wrong, discrimination or witch hunt, rages on, how does that effect the, you, in the day to day challenge of your talented minors? How do we allow them to experience all that life has to give, in the sport of horses, yet follow the rules of Safe Sport? Or can we?
There is always the option of paying a chaperone to go with your child. Of course this would include the additional expenses of extra hotel rooms, transportation and food. But it does provide the trainer with a adult witness, in the event the minor claims or 3rd party witness reports, that something happened that should not have.
Most families will find their pocket book is already stretched to the limit with horse care, training and competitions fees. There simply is no money left to provide an additional service of chaperone. So what do you do?
Some suggested solutions have been for a parent to sign a release for their minor children, in order that the child may attend a competition out of town. There comes another hiccup with option: different states have different rules on what a parent can and can not sign for, in terms of minor liability releases. If you live in one of listed states, shown below, this may be the legal option for you and your minor,.
It is not without it’s limits. Namely it still does not completely clear a trainer of any potential accusations. Any USEF member can report a trainer, permission or not. Guilty or not. The mere appearance is enough to cause issues.
AN EXAMPLE OF THE PROBLEM
An interesting case, reported by James H. Moss J.D., occurred in 1996 in Michigan when a 10-year-old girl was injured when another child jumped into a swimming pool on top of her. The mother agreed to not sue in exchange for a $3,275 settlement with the YMCA, where the injury had occurred. However, when the girl turned 18, she filed a lawsuit against the same YMCA. The court ruled that the parent “had no authority, merely by virtue of being a parent, to waive, release or compromise claims by or against the parent’s child.” In other words, the mother did not have the legal authority to sign away the child’s rights, and the YMCA was still liable for the negligent act.
As of 2014, there are only 14 states that allow a parent to sign away the rights of a minor in the liability case.
If you don’t see your state listed, you should assume a parent can not waive a minor right to sue or to file a complaint against a equestrian professional. Once again, this leaves the equine professional vulnerable to accusation and all the potential resulting actions from the Safe Sport organization.
The sad result is fear. Many talented and caring trainers, are going to be reluctant to help your child. They need witnesses. Adult witness. Yet they can not afford to pay for them.
Of all the possible solutions, the best is coordination with other parents within the same barn. Especially ones that are not USEF members, riders or own any horses that are registered with USEF.
In simple terms, one of you, parent, guardian or 3rd party friend, has to go and watch at all times. Pain in the ass, yes. But necessary, if you want your child to experience all the equestrian world has to offer. You will need to work out what is acceptable and what is not between two or more parents, but at least you are in compliance and in charge with what happens with your minor child.
Ultimately you should always check with your own legal counsel and competition organization for new rule changes. And the debate, rages on.