Show jumping’s social media stoush

Social media; great at times, but also dangerous at times. The ripples from a social media stoush back in February are still being felt at ESNZ

A bit of drama in the show jumping off-season! The social media policy for Equestrian Sports New Zealand (ESNZ) is getting updated, thanks to an incident at this year’s Tauranga Jumping Show. The policy will be strengthened, with more sanctions added.

The problem was a social media stoush, as a result of a fall-out between organiser Sally Steiner and competitor Katie Laurie, mainly about stable allocation. Even Dana Kirkpatrick, the ESNZ General Manager, joined the social media storm at one stage, adding her comments. The posts have since been taken down.

During the show in February we asked Richard Sunderland, President of ESNZ, about the incident, and he assured us that it “had been sorted,” but it seems that the issue didn’t go away as he hoped.

Richard Sunderland, President of ESNZ

The issue was escalated to show jumping board level for discussion, and after getting an independent mediator to investigate, the board decided to write to both Sally and Kate outlining the findings of the investigation (which remain confidential), and requesting a better level of behaviour from both of them. The board minutes also show the board intending to communicate directly with all those who had written to ESNZ about the incident, and that ESNZ would be asked to put a public statement on the website.

It was also minuted that: “The ESNZ Jumping board has made representation to the ESNZ board and management about the need for stronger policies for social media and an enhanced code of conduct for members, including sanctions/penalties for breaches of both. This will be pursued with the ESNZ board as a matter of urgency.

As a result, ESNZ put  this statement on their website. As you can all see, the statement is indeed on the website, but for the life of us (we searched and searched and searched, both manually and using the frustrating search engine) we can’t see how the statement could be accessed independently on the site. If you go into the site looking for it, and can find it without going through our link, let us know how you did this! We are guessing that the statement was put up but wasn’t put in any post – not that we could find anyway. We did ask for ESNZ to help us find where the post was, but their only suggestion was of no use. So yes, it was put up in keeping with the show jumping board’s request, but it was buried. And yes, the statement is also in the show jumping board minutes which are on the website.

ESNZ General Manager Dana Kirkpatrick gave us this further statement:

“It is clear that the current social media policy needs to be reviewed, as there is little in the way of sanctions that can be imposed under the current policy. I have received a letter from the Jumping Chair with a request to strengthen the social media policy, and sanctions around it. The policy has been referred to the ESNZ Technical Committee for review, and for consideration of what sanctions can be imposed in the future for members who breach the policy. These will then be included in the ESNZ General Regulations. They have discussed it at a meeting last week and it will be updated before the final changes are made to the General Regulations at the August meeting. We will also be introducing, over time, a new Member Protection Policy which will take a little longer to get ready for circulation, but will be a good guide for what members can expect.”

So, we await to see what the new social media policy will be, and what sanctions could be imposed. Social media usage can be fraught with issues, and hopefully a strong policy may help keep people from straying into dangerous territory.

Financial status

There is a lot on at ESNZ. Not only are they still sorting out the membership review (which we have asked for an update on and have not yet received, but we understand the first year free membership is to be canned), sorting out the fiasco that surrounds the endurance board implosion and trying to find a new high performance manager again, they are also dealing with judicial reviews and rules updates.

The financial crisis continues, but for now the various disciplines have bailed ESNZ Head Office (aka ESNZ Central) out, with loans at 5% – cheaper than having to go to the bank. The disciplines were asked to lend ESNZ Central a sum proportionate to the number of horse starts per discipline. We understand this is about $80,000 for jumping, and slightly less for eventing, dressage and endurance.

The board has also cashed up the Life Membership Fund Term Deposit in order to repay its overdraft. It is hoped the Life Membership Fund will be rebuilt once the organisation is back on track.

So, who said working at ESNZ Central was a breeze?