Lei's Story
This story reflects the participant’s personal experience as told by them and may be triggering for individuals who have experienced sexual abuse or misconduct.

After hearing Maggie share her story, I think it’s time I told mine.

I was groomed from ages 11 to 14 by a trainer I trusted with my life. We’ll call him “Tim.” I started riding with him in 2016. Moving to his barn, I was hopeful we’d find a horse I could finally move up on.  

Tim gave me a lot confidence in the beginning. He always called me special and gave me special treatment—he’d let me ride client horses or when a sales horse was being tried, I’d get to ride it before the client came out. At the time, I thought it was because he saw potential in me.

After about a year, the relationship changed. He started making weird comments. He’d tell me that I looked pretty that day or, when I started puberty, he’d comment on how my body was changing. I brushed it off at the time, the trainer I thought I knew wouldn’t be like that. But deep down I knew it was weird.

One day, we were at a local show. It was August. I was in the show changing room and he walked in while I was getting dressed—I had no pants on and my shirt was half off. But instead of leaving, he stayed in the room. I started to pull my pants up, trying to make it seem like he came in by accident. But it wasn’t. He walked up to me and put his hand right between my legs and started moving it back to my butt.

I didn’t know what to do. I felt frozen.

I eventually got the words out to casually call my younger sister over. He quickly moved his hand away and I pulled my pants up before she came in. She didn’t know what happened and I didn’t tell her; I tried to block it out of my mind the rest of the show.

But on Classic Day, I won a big class. I was so happy! And everyone else was too. I rode my horse back to the barn and Tim was waiting for me at the crossties. I got off and he opened his arms for a hug. Being 13, I didn’t think anything of it, so I hugged him. He grabbed my butt when he hugged me. I pulled away frantically, but not noticeable enough to make a scene.

Things like this continued for about five months. He would make uncomfortable comments and look for opportunities to touch me. I thought about telling my sister, but I was scared. I thought I’d rather it be me than her.

It wasn’t until he scammed my parents out of $100,000 in a fraudulent horse deal that I was finally given an out to leave. I never told anyone. My family knows about the weird remarks, but not the touching. Everyone just thought I was “the favorite.”

After talking with Maggie, I can’t imagine what others went through. I’m grateful every day to be out of that situation

But I also live with what happened and it’s blocking me from having meaningful emotional connections with people. Anytime I’m shown affection like that, it brings me back. It’s hard for me to do normal things, like change in front of friends or to be physically touched.

I just want to share my story so others don’t feel alone, like I did. And for my own closure. Because it’s not just me. It happens more than you think.