REGARDING EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION OF CONCERNS
Importantly, we thank you for membership in what is now the largest youth equestrian association in the Country. We could not have reached this milestone without the support of our wonderful young-riders, their families, friends, coaches, trainers, sponsors and our affiliate organizations. Our strategic plan never included the goal of being the largest youth equestrian group-we just wanted to provide an easy, cost-efficient and safe entry to our wonderful sport while gaining recognition for our riders as the athletes they are. It worked! In the 15 years since our founding, nearly 35,000 current members and alums have embraced the concept.
Despite this achievement, since IEA Hunt Seat Finals in April, there have been an extraordinary number of Facebook posts with negative comments about the IEA—including remarks relating to alleged safety issues and lack of responsiveness from IEA personnel. Unfortunately, a disgruntled observer chose to air grievances through spiteful and slanted posts. IEA recognizes that everyone is entitled to his or her opinion, but prolific rants on social media only serve to stir hysteria among the uninformed, negate legitimacy, further inaccuracies and damage the Sport at all levels.
This is not the forum to rebut the comments made about the IEA on Facebook, but we underscore, as you all know, that rider safety is our highest priority (fun is second) and the IEA has safety policies and procedures that are regularly reviewed. We note, however, that when the IEA learns of alleged safety issues through social media and not through its established reporting and/or appeal procedures, it makes any issue, real or perceived, difficult to meaningfully address and can lead to uncertainty and confusion among the members of the IEA regarding the issue.
IEA staff, personnel, and volunteer leaders are always striving to make the organization better and are committed to improving each area of operations—especially safety-and yes, communications and responsiveness, as well!
IEA has the highest regard for quality competition as well as for the safety and well being of participants and horses. Feedback regarding the operation of IEA and the events hosted by our membership is always welcome if presented in accordance with applicable policies and procedures. As a reminder to our membership, details on how to present matters of concern, suggestions, or comments are outlined below.
IEA has a Social Media Policy, which is set out in the IEA Rulebook and encourages responsible use of social media. In part, the Policy provides as follows:
The IEA, like any organization, always strives to improve its operations so competitions remain among the best in equestrian sport. No matter the subject, every post must demonstrate proper intent and be written with good sportsmanship in mind. All comments should be crafted with appropriate tone and prose. Please note: Social media is not the forum for filing complaints or criticisms about IEA staff, rules, officials, or events. Serious concerns and recommendations for rule or policy changes should be expressed through procedures outlined in Rule 9000 of the IEA Rulebook. The IEA management attempts to communicate through all methods in a transparent manner, and social media is no exception.
It is worth noting that improper posts could lead to individual and/or team disciplinary actions (Rule 9502) and, in the case of libel, legal recourse.
Before setting out how matters should be presented to the IEA, a reminder regarding roles and responsibilities. First, Show Stewards serve to interpret the IEA Rules and Regulations. Their duties include, among other things, determining the suitability of rider to horse (tall or small), rider to class, and horse to class level and stopping a class in the event a horse or rider should be considered unsafe (Rule 6701). Second, it should be noted that while several teams may co-host a competition, one team must be the designated host. The duties of the coach of the host team include being the primary decision maker and ultimately responsible for running a safe and quality competition that complies with all IEA Rules and Regulations (Rule 4204.2). Third, the role of IEA is to promulgate Rules and Regulations and ensure a fair process for the airing of issues, which is described below in detail.
PRESENTING MATTERS TO THE IEA AND INDEMNIFICATION
- IEA members have the right to bring matters to the attention of the Board of Directors by submitting a request in writing to the attention of the Zone Administrator. Members who have general concerns, compliments, or suggestions for the IEA should present the matter to their coach, who then should contact their Zone Administrator. The Zone Administrator will then bring the matter to the attention of the IEA Board of Directors (Rule 2901).
- Any matter that concerns the safety of horses and riders, or the ethics of coaches or riders shall be considered an urgent matter and shall be dealt with immediately by the Show Steward, and such determination and decision will be final during the show (Rule 2901).
- By making application to, becoming a member of IEA, or competing in any IEA sanctioned event, competition or show, all IEA Members, and the parents, next friend and legal guardians of the Rider Members, agree not to sue, not to bring any claim against, and to indemnify and hold harmless IEA, its officers, directors, members, National Steward, Zone Administrator, employees, show officials, judges, stewards, agents, representatives and assigns against all threatened, pending or completed action, suit or proceeding, whether civil, criminal, administrative or investigative (hereinafter collectively referred to as “Action”) arising by reason of or from injury, death, or damages of any kind that occurs at, traveling to, around, or near, or training and preparing for, any IEA approved or sanctioned competition, show or event. Litigation expenses, attorney fees and costs incurred in defending an Action maybe paid by the IEA in advance, however, the responsible Team, Coach, parents, legal guardians and member shall reimburse IEA for said expenses, fees and costs (Rule 2902).
- Generally, when encountering an issue at an IEA competition, coaches and officials should first bring their concern to the IEA show steward. If it is a parent or rider that has the concern, the coach for their team must speak on their behalf.
- If the issue is not resolved at the show, or the issue is related to a rule violation that does not concern an IEA competition, then a coach, steward or show official can file an official Petition and Protest Form available on the IEA website (Rule 9303.1).
- The Petition and Protest Form is submitted through the IEA Membership Office and is then sent to the Zone Administrator to be presented to the Zone Ethics Committee (Rule 9303.1).
- A formal petition regarding an IEA competition must be filed within 10 days of the competition (Rule 9303.2).
- A formal protest of an alleged rule violation must be filed within 10 days of the discovery of the violation (Rule 9303.3).
- Hearing procedures are outlined in Rule 9303.5.
- If the defendant, or the accuser, disagrees with the verdict, they can file an Appeal Form (available on the IEA website) with the IEA Executive Committee. The Appeal form is filed with the IEA Membership Office and is immediately sent to the President and Executive Committee (Rule 9303.7).
The specific procedures are set out in the 2016-2017 IEA Rules and Regulations of Membership beginning on Page 50 and are extracted below:
RULE 9303 – JUDICIAL PROCEDURE
9303.1 Formal petitions, protests and appeals must be written by a coach member, steward or show official and submitted through the IEA Membership Secretary on the appropriate form. The Membership Secretary will immediately forward the petition, protest or appeal on to the Zone Administrator who will bring the matter before the Zone Ethics Committee. (emphasis added)
9303.2 Formal Petition - Any request submitted in writing to the Zone Administrator with respect to a particular cause, including a review of a decision made by a show steward. Petitions relating to events or decisions made at an IEA show must be submitted within ten (10) days of the pertaining show.
9303.3 Formal Protest - A notice of alleged violation must be in writing, submitted through the IEA Membership Secretary and addressed to the Zone Administrator within ten (10) days of discovery and must state the full name and address of the accused and the accuser and contain a complete and definitive statement of the acts which constitute the alleged violation. Precise details regarding a violation of the Rules are necessary.
9303.4 Appeal - Refer to Rule 9303.7.
- Following receipt of a formal protest, the ZEC shall notify the defendant in writing of the charges.
- The defendant and accuser shall be given at least seven (7) days notice of the date of the hearing.
- The hearing shall be recorded and a copy thereof forwarded within seven (7) days to the IEA National Steward.
- To conduct the hearing at least four (4) members of the ZEC must be present.
- After giving all persons an opportunity to be heard, the ZEC shall in closed session within seven (7) days of the hearing determine if a violation has occurred, and if so, what penalty, if any, should be imposed.
- To reach a verdict or impose a penalty, at least four (4) members of the ZEC must concur in the verdict and penalty.
9303.6 Notification of Verdict and Penalty
The verdict and penalty, if any, shall be set forth in writing by the chairman of the ZEC within seven (7) days of the determination, and sent by certified (or “Fed Ex”) mail or return receipt email to the defendant and the accuser. A copy shall also be sent to the Membership Secretary, National Steward and the President.
- If the defendant or the accuser is not satisfied with the decision of the ZEC and National Steward, she/he may bring an appeal to the IEA Executive Committee.
- The appeal shall be made in writing on the appropriate form within fourteen (14) days of the verdict’s receipt and accompanied by a $250.00 bond to be returned only if the appeal is sustained. It shall be sent to the IEA Membership Secretary, who will forward it to the President and the Executive Committee with a copy to be sent to the Chairman of the ZEC and the National Steward.
- The Executive Committee will respond within fourteen (14) days of the appeal’s receipt. The Committee may affirm, reverse, or modify the verdict of the ZEC and National Steward. Its opinion shall be set forth in writing by the National Secretary and sent to the defendant, the accuser, the Chairman of the ZEC, the Board of Directors, and the defendant’s team coach or other appropriate team authority. The ruling of the Executive Committee is final.
9304 Extraordinary Procedure
9304.1 In the event that the ZEC upon receipt of written charge determines 1) that the outcome of the hearing could affect eligibility for either a Regional, Zone or National Horse Show and 2) that a hearing upon the notice required cannot be held in sufficient time before such Regional, Zone or National Horse Show to ensure that only qualified riders or teams will be able to compete, the ZEC may on a two-thirds vote follow the extraordinary procedure herein.
9304.2 If the ZEC determines that the extraordinary procedure is necessary it shall follow all procedures outlined in Judicial Procedure except all communications shall be carried out as soon as possible by telephone.
9304.3 The date of the hearing must be no less than twenty-four (24) hours after notification.
Also, in addition to the formality of procedures outlined above, please note that ANYONE can submit an IEA Show Evaluation Form, also available on the IEA website.
IEA’s success is dependent on the teams, riders, coaches, and parents who participate with a cooperative spirit and enthusiastically support activities at the Regional, Zone, and National levels. Working closely with other leading national equine associations, IEA is committed to our mission to provide educational and competitive opportunities for middle and secondary school students. Many thanks to those who choose to help us in these worthy endeavors.