A rider warned about her future behaviour by British Dressage (BD) after an abuse case against her was dropped has succeeded in clearing her name.

An appeal panel of the British Equestrian Federation (BEF) met last month and found BD did not follow the correct disciplinary procedures when issuing prix st georges rider Sue Carson with a caution, despite failing to substantiate abuse charges against her.

Mrs Carson, who also owns a saddlery business, said she hoped the lessons learned from her nine-month ordeal would prevent anyone else from going through a similar experience.
“This episode has caused an awful lot of stress, upset and expense to me and my family,” she said.

The allegations against Mrs Carson, who has been a member of BD for more than 20 years, were made after she rode an intermediaire I test on her horse, Hulland Bonanza, at Addington Manor, Bucks, on 27 January this year.

She explained: “Bonanza didn’t go particularly well during the test, so I returned to the collecting ring and reprimanded him by riding him forward. Nobody said anything to me, I competed the next day, and I didn’t think any more about it.”

But six weeks later Mrs Carson received a letter from BD saying that she would be the subject of an investigation, after five individuals complained about her using rough aids.
Mrs Carson said she was shocked by the contents of the letter.

“I read what the complainants had written and, in parts, their accounts contradicted each other,” she said. “If there was a case to answer, why had no one reported it on the day? Why wait six weeks before sending me that letter?”

On 11 July, Mrs Carson appeared before BD’s disciplinary sub-committee. Although the committee members decided that the charge was “not proven” beyond reasonable doubt, they still issued the 42-year-old with a caution.

Unhappy at the outcome, Mrs Carson paid a refundable £200 to submit an appeal to the BEF. Documents from the hearing, seen by H&H, show that the BEF revoked the caution on the grounds that BD is unable to impose penalties on a member “where a case of misconduct is not sustained”.

Although she has continued to compete at BD shows, Mrs Carson said there had been no communication from the governing body since she was cautioned.

“I feel very sad about what has happened,” she said. “No one from BD has tried to explain why this happened. What frightens me is that this could have happened to anyone. It was like a witch hunt.”

A BD spokesman told H&H: “Due to the technical nature of this case, we have been advised by our lawyers that we should make no further comment.”

The BEF was also unable to comment to H&H.

  • This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (23 November, ’06)