Former students of once-celebrated equestrian coach Jimmy A. Williams, a Show Jumping Hall of Fame trainer who died in 1993, are now coming forward to say he sexually assaulted and raped them when they were kids.
The accusations have rocked the equestrian community. The Chronicle of the Horse, an organization that provides "news coverage of national and international sport horse competitions," published testimony from five of Williams' former students detailing his abuse. The New York Times then interviewed 38 people familiar with Williams — including students, groomers, trainers, and equestrian officials — uncovering horrific stories of rape and molestation.
Anne Kursinski, a decorated show jumper, told The Times that Williams raped her when she was 11, and continually assaulted her for six years.
“I was a little kid,” she told the paper. “And he was God.”
Karen Herald, 58, who rode with Williams from the age of 16 to 20, also said she was repeatedly molested by the trainer but kept what was happening to her secret.
“The unspoken rule was of not saying anything, not divulging anything,” she said to The Times. “For the riders, it was, ‘Oh my God, I want to be the best rider.' [But for the parents] It was, ‘Oh my God, I want to be a part of this.’"
Several students said Williams would corner them in horse stalls, where he would shove his tongue into their mouths and push their hands into his pants.
“He would try to French kiss all of us,” Cece Durante Bloum, who rode with Williams as a teen, told Chronicle of the Horse. “He would kiss us, and we would laugh and say, ‘Ugh, that’s so gross! Stay away from him.’ ”
The United States Equestrian Federation named a lifetime achievement award after Williams in 1988, but quietly removed his name from the trophy in 2016, The Times reported.
“We did what we believed was responsible at the time to protect any potential victims, as we did not have a substantiated claim of sexual abuse,” Bill Moroney, the chief executive of the federation, wrote in an email to The Times. “Our public statement has [since] changed and the Jimmy Williams trophy has been retired due to the substantiated allegations from a victim with whom Jimmy Williams engaged in sexual misconduct during his role as her trainer.”
Williams was never officially charged with a crime.
[Photo: U.S. Equestrian Federation Logo, Screenshot via YouTube]