This article has been updated to include a statement from the Ebelings.
Top dressage rider Ben Ebeling has been accused of sexually assaulting a girl when both parties were minors, according to a civil lawsuit filed June 30 in California. His parents, dressage Olympian Jan Ebeling and Amy Ebeling, who serves as the ranch manager for the family’s The Acres training facility, also were named in the suit, accused of negligence and negligent supervision.
In a statement issued Friday evening, the Ebelings called the claims “false and outrageous,” and suggested the filing of the case was timed with CHIO Aachen (Germany), where Ben is vying for a spot to represent the U.S. at the upcoming Blue Hors FEI World Dressage Championships.
The suit, which also names ACR Enterprises Inc. (doing business as The Acres Dressage and Ebeling Training), seeks damages for sexual battery, negligence and negligent supervision.
According to the suit, Ben drugged and raped the girl, a dressage rider who was a student of his father’s, in 2017 at the Ebelings’ The Acres farm in Moorpark, California. She was 14 and he was 17 at the time of the alleged incident.
The suit accuses Ben of using his “celebrity status” as the trainer and owners’ son to begin grooming the victim, identified as Jane Doe, when she was 12 and he was 15 or 16.
“This included, but is not limited to, him paying special attention to Plaintiff, engaging in displays of favoritism, inappropriate flirtation, making lewd and sexual comments about the Plaintiff and her body, and encouraging Plaintiff to engage in illegal activities,” the suit states.
In April 2017, the suit alleges, Ben invited Doe on a bike ride and brought alcohol he had stolen from his parents. Ben encouraged Doe to drink from the bottle, and “[a]lmost immediately, Plantiff lost complete control of her body and lied [sic] on the ground to steady herself before losing consciousness,” it states.
Ben then undressed the girl, who was drifting in and out of consciousness, assaulted and raped her, the suit alleges.
“Due to Plaintiff’s state she was completely unable to defend herself or fight back, despite her terror,” the suit states. “Once he had finished, Benjamin Ebeling replaced Plaintiff’s clothing and carried her back to the main Acres house, leaving their bicycles behind as Plaintiff was completely unable to move.”
Doe reached out to the U.S. Center for SafeSport around the fall of 2020, which prompted an investigation that identified additional minor victims, according to the suit.
“In the course of its investigation SafeSport discovered allegations of additional sexual misconduct perpetrated by Benjamin Ebeling against other minor equestrian athletes,” reads the suit.
Dan Hill, spokesman for the U.S. Center for SafeSport, confirmed that the Center does investigate minors for allegations of sexual misconduct, and he said that an allegation in a civil suit does not automatically trigger a temporary suspension. The Center declined to confirm that there was an investigation into Benjamin, Amy or Jan.
The suit accuses Jan and Amy of “fail[ing] to maintain any form of security or monitoring of activities, events and training sessions, so as to prevent improper contact between young athletes placed in their care.
“[Amy and Jan] knew or had reason to know that Benjamin Ebeling had previously engaged and was continuing to engage in unlawful sexual conduct with minors, for his own personal sexual gratifications, and that it was foreseeable that he would engage in illicit sexual activities with Plaintiff, and potentially others”
Ben, who now lives with his parents in Wellington, Florida, is currently representing Team USA on the Nations Cup team at CHIO Aachen (Germany) and is currently scheduled to compete tomorrow, July 2.
“At this time, Ben Ebeling is currently eligible to compete,” read a statement from a spokesman for the U.S. Equestrian Federation. “The U.S. Center for SafeSport has jurisdiction over cases of allegations of sexual misconduct. USEF will reciprocate any actions or decisions made by the Center in this matter.”
Mike Reck, a lawyer for the plaintiff, said that he has been working with Doe for months.
“Do [the Ebelings] know the allegations exist? Absolutely. Do they know there was a criminal investigation? Absolutely. Do they know SafeSport was investigating? Absolutely. Did they know the lawsuit was going to be filed yesterday? I don’t think so.”
The Ventura County Sherriff’s department could not confirm that there is or was a criminal investigation into Ben.
“The Ebeling family is aware of the baseless claims made against their son Ben, Jan and Amy, and their company. The allegations are false and outrageous. The Ebeling’s lawyers will vigorously prosecute any claims they may have against the Plaintiff. They also will take all necessary and legal steps to prove that the claims made against them arise solely from corrupt motives.
“It is no accident that the filing of the civil complaint against the Ebelings occurred on the eve of dressage’s largest competition in Aachen, serving as final selection for the FEI Dressage World Championships. The Plaintiff and those supporting her are seeking to destroy a young man’s rising career for the sake of advancing others’ unwarranted gain. We believe that judges, juries and arbitrators now understand that lives should not be destroyed by sordid stories. That is why there will be no compromise in resolving this case.