An Olympia showing champion has been disqualified in a controversial decision after a substance described by the competition organisers as ‘make-up’ was found on the horse’s legs.
Lucy Ashworth’s 19-year-old gelding Randal IV was crowned winner of the Senior Showing and Dressage Ltd (SSADL) in hand championship at Olympia, the London International Horse Show on Friday (15 December).
But hours after the class had finished, he was disqualified and stripped of the title after officials ruled the substance on his legs, which Lucy said was chalk, counted as make-up — despite competitors’ being advised chalk was permitted provided it was not used in excessive amounts.
However, the SSADL has since told H&H that they do not agree the product was chalk, but rather an oil-based concealer. This is something Lucy categorically denies.
“We had a [competitors’] meeting on Thursday evening, as we always do at Olympia,” Lucy told H&H.
She added competitors were reminded of the rule that states make-up is not allowed, and also discussed how this would be clarified to include specific products from 2018.
“One person came forward and said ‘what about chalk?’ [for this year’s show] and they [the SSADL] said ‘that’s fine, as long as it is not an excessive amount’.
“I had already pre-chalked his legs before arriving and touched them up [when I got there].”
Lucy was disqualified under rule 27E, which states: “no make-up on equines is permitted”. This specifies “no body and face make-up” and “no body oils”.
Lucy added Randal has four small scars on his legs from abuse he suffered in his younger years.
The SSADL rules state horses are not penalised for scars, but Lucy chooses to cover these with black chalk, or chalk and water, to take away the reminder of the abuse he suffered and because she prefers not to see them in photos.
“It was only a small amount,” said Lucy.
“I didn’t quite understand what the problem was — I was the first one in, we did our show in front of the judges, the stewards, the helpers and no-one said anything.
“About two hours later, I got a phone call from Clare Frost [of SSADL] asking me to go back to where the trophies are collected as they had had a complaint that my horse was wearing make-up.”
The complaint did not come from the combination placed reserve.
Lucy met the officials and they all went to Randal’s stable.
“The [officials] went straight to his leg, rubbed a cloth down it and chalk came off — they said that as far as they are concerned, that is make-up,” she said.
The officials then went away for a few minutes, returning to tell Lucy that they had “no choice” but to disqualify her.
“What is the difference between a horse with white chalk and a horse with black chalk?” she added.
“I’m only an amateur, to take that away, to leave it until I have actually won, what if I had left [the show]?”
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The SSADL told H&H that Lucy “never mentioned” chalk, which she denies, and that she told them she used a “cover-up”. Lucy told H&H he had no other products on him but chalk.
“We didn’t take the decision lightly,” said SSADL president Sebastian Garner.
“A full investigation was taken at the end of the day there is a rule that make-up and cover-up cannot be used.”
Trevor Frost, of the SSADL, told H&H that Clare picked up one of the horse’s front legs and it was “totally black” and the other front leg was the same.
The SSADL took a sample on a tissue and Mr Frost added Clare still had some of the product on her hand days later.
Lucy said Randal had no other products on him and is appealing the disqualification.
“I just don’t understand where they are coming from,” she said.
“They kept coming back with ‘you covered up a scar’, but it doesn’t state that if you cover up a scar you will be penalised.”
Lucy has had the 19-year-old warmblood for two years and has used “a lot of TLC, time, patience, care and feed” to get him to the condition he is in now.
“In our eyes, he won,” she added.
“All the things the judges were looking for, he clearly ticked those boxes.”
A spokesman for SSADL added: “Following an objection lodged against the winner of the SSADL in hand champion at the final of the London Olympia Horse Show there has been a meeting of the SSADL disciplinary committee.
“The committee upheld the objection due to the winner being found in breach of rule 27E and subsequently the winner, Randal IV, has been disqualified.
“The results will be adjusted accordingly. The winner of the SSADL Anthony D Evans In Hand Final is now Laithehill Pasha and Alison Stratton.”
Have your say: do you think it’s acceptable to cover up blemishes in the show ring? Should it be allowed to use ‘make-up’ to enhance a horse’s appearance or not? Let us know your views by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
NB: This article was originally published on 18 December. For all the latest news analysis, competition reports, interviews, features and much more, don’t miss Horse & Hound magazine, on sale every Thursday