This article was updated on Aug. 24 at 3:45 p.m. to include statements from Peggy Fackrell.
The U.S. Equestrian Federation has rescinded the judging and stewarding licenses of hunter/jumper judge, steward and competition manager Peggy Fackrell for improper social media posts and comments relating to the organization’s diversity, equity and inclusion efforts and related offensive emails she sent to various organization officials.
The Hearing Committee, which met with Fackrell via Zoom, ruled unanimously July 16 that Fackrell violated the USEF Social Media Policy For Licensed Officials, and the USEF Licensed Officials Code of Ethics.
Fackrell, who runs the Let’s Show competitions in California, argued she didn’t violate the policy by stating her personal opinion on aspects of the USEF Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Action Plan, such as in an April 25 Facebook post that was widely circulated, because she wasn’t acting as a licensed official at the time. However the Hearing Committee found that USEF’s social media policy applies whenever a person can be perceived to be acting as a USEF licensed official, and in Fackrell’s post, she appeared to be speaking from her perspective as a licensed official.
“What the USEF has done to me is take away my freedom of speech,” Fackrell said. “They have indicated that because they don’t like what I said, and they don’t appreciate the way I said it, I have no rights. That, to me, is a violation of what this country is all about. Somebody said a long time ago you may not like what I say or how I say it, but goddammit I will defend to the death your right to say it, and I feel very strongly about that.”
Fackrell, Shasta, California, was accused of sending offensive emails to the USEF President Tom O’Mara, CEO Bill Moroney and other staff relating to the USEF DEI plan.
“Based on the evidence, the Hearing Committee ruled unanimously that Mrs. Fackrell sent offensive and inappropriate emails to the USEF President, CEO, and Staff,” reads a report from the Hearing Committee. “The Hearing Committee found that Mrs. Fackrell can hold or express a different opinion and question an initiative of the Federation, but the manner in which Mrs. Fackrell chose to express her opinions and question the DEI initiative resulted in these violations.”
Also in its decision, “[t]he Hearing Committee found in Mrs. Fackrell’s favor that she was evidently unskilled in social media interactions which contributed to her blundering into public facing communications when she thought she was communicating with a more supportive group. However, her public facing comments were inappropriate for a Licensed Official, and her comments directed to the USEF Officers and Staff were unnecessarily abrasive and rude.”
Fackrell said that she thinks the USEF is going after her to distract from other problems.
“I think they’re doing it to take away from the fact that they’re being attacked royally about the cost of horse shows, and they don’t like it,” she said. “They can’t come up with a good answer, and they can’t do anything about making managers charge less, but they could do other things, but they won’t. They won’t even talk about it. In order to take the heat off of them, they found a new target.”
The Hearing Committee rescinded her judging and stewarding licenses, effective Sept. 1 through Nov. 1, 2022. After that, Fackrell is eligible to renew her licenses assuming she meets the requisite qualifications.
A USEF representative said that the licensed officials social media policy has been in place since 2019.
“Peggy Fackrell’s suspension is the first instance that the USEF Hearing Committee has found a violation of the policy,” a USEF representative said in an email. “If Ms. Fackrell decides to renew her licenses after November 1, 2022, she would be required to take the DEI training to renew her licenses. She can manage competitions as her suspension only applies to her licensed official status. We believe the USEF Licensed Officials Social Media Policy is important and this is an example of how it can work.”
Fackrell said she will not renew her license if DEI training is still required.
“It’s wrong,” she said of the training. “It’s bad. It’s dividing our country.”