Irish show jumping knows no peace. Just days after a rift among riders left the senior team short of two key members, one of their top competitors, Cian O’Connor, had to quell rumours of having abused a horse.
Over the weekend, an Irish newspaper alleged that French chef d’equipe Jean-Maurice Bonneau had spotted O’Connor mistreating one of his horses at the Dublin Horse Show in 2003.
The rumour quickly proved unsubstantiated and Bonneau himself denied it when he told the Irish Independent that he never saw O’Connor do anything untoward. By then, however, the story had made several media headlines and O’Connor felt the need to issue a strong statement to rebut the allegations.
“I categorically reject an allegation made in Ireland on Sunday today indicating that I abused a horse at Dublin Horse Show in 2003. This story is totally untrue,” O’Connor said.
“I have learned that the French chef d’equipe, Jean Maurice Bonneau, who is implicated in this story, has never made such an allegation, nor has he any basis for such an allegation. My legal advisers will be vigorously pursuing this matter this week.”
The Equestrian Federation of Ireland also pointed out that there are specific procedures to report banned practices to the FEI and that no complaint had been lodged. “We in the EFI have been monitoring the current situation very closely, and we will not be found wanting in taking appropriate action if evidence can be produced of riders abusing horses,” EFI President, Avril Doyle MEP, said in a statement. “However, we have to add that the Irish Federation is unaware of any complaints of cruelty to horses, involving Irish riders, currently before the world governing body, the FEI.”
Bonneau further clarified that the only incident he had witnessed at the Dublin Horse Show concerned some grooms. “What I saw last week was grooms in a box doing something wrong. I said: ‘Stop it,’ and they disappeared,” he told the Irish Independent.
Bonneau also said that he “didn’t blame anyone” for the incident and informed his equivalent on the Irish team, Eamonn Rice, about it.
Some newspapers have reported that the incident Bonneau witnessed involved an Irish Army Equitation School horse, but the Irish Defence Forces have rejected all allegations of cruelty.
“[Bonneau] didn’t mention army grooms and didn’t name the individuals he saw. [Last week], an army groom got kicked by horse and other two [members of the Army Equitation team] went to restrain the horse while he was getting out. I think this is the instance [Bonneau] is referring to but he hasn’t made any official complain,” says Assistant Defence Forces Press Officer, Capt Seán Ó Fátharta. “We reject out of hand any suggestion or claim that army personnel would be involved in cruelty or mistreatment of animals.”