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The FEI has opened a case against Irish showjumper Kevin Thornton for alleged abuse of a horse at an international event.

Flogas Sunset Cruise (not pictured) collapsed and died at the two-star GPA Jump Festival in Cagnes-Sur-Mer, France, on 10 October.

Swiss-based rider Kevin had been riding the horse prior to the incident.

Following the show, an investigation was launched into the horse’s death (news, 12 October).

At the time, Horse Sport Ireland said it was “extremely concerned” about the circumstances of the fatality.

The FEI also launched an investigation into the horse’s death and a post mortem was carried out.

A spokesman for the federation said the case has been taken in accordance with articles 142 — the abuse of horses— and 163 — protests — of the FEI general regulations.

“The athlete has been given the opportunity to provide a written reply to the allegations, including any documents, witness statements or other evidence that may be used in any legal proceedings arising out of this case,” said a spokesman for the FEI.

“Once this information has been received and a full case file has been compiled, the FEI will submit the matter to the FEI tribunal under Article 142.2 of the FEI general regulations.

“As the matter is now the subject of legal proceedings, the FEI will not comment further at this time.”

‘Completely devastated’

Kevin has refuted the allegation that he abused Flogas Sunset Cruise in any way.

Last month he said he was “completely devastated” over the loss of Flogas Sunset Cruise, “a really special horse”, owned by himself and Vinnie Duffy.

He said that Vinnie gave him the ride on ‘Flogas’ around five months ago and “the partnership developed forward nicely”.

“Upon arrival at the show in Cagnes-sur-Mer, the horse was fit and in super form,” said Kevin.

“In the first days of the competitions the horse was rather hot and strong, even difficult. After discussions with the owner we decided to exercise him on the gallops, some change of training method as preparation for the second show week.

“On Monday, after I had ridden my other two grey horses, Saper and Startschuss, I proceeded with Flogas. I took Flogas up to the big gallop where a section was open to riders.

“He was in a normal snaffle bit, he acted up at the entrance, so I hit him once or twice to get him moving forward. That was the first time I had ever used the whip on him.

“He bolted off around the gallops. I tried to hold him and stay calm. I cantered for one round, and then slowed him down when he stopped pulling, turned him around and back towards the gate where a colleague was waiting. Flogas nearly jumped on top of this person.

“I moved him on up the straight again towards the jumping arena. He was not breathing heavy or fast. He suddenly felt very weird under me, I got off and walked a few steps with him, when he suddenly collapsed.

“I took the saddle off him and shouted for a vet. I rang Vinnie and told him what was happening.

“I totally reject allegations that I was riding Flogas for three hours – it was 15 to 20 minutes before the incident happened. Clearly, people have become confused that I was riding Flogas for a long length of time, as I have two other similar grey horses (Saper and Startschuss), that I had ridden previously to him that day.”

Post mortem

In a statement on his Facebook page, Kevin detailed the initial findings of the autopsy of Flogas Sunset Cruise according to Dr Peter Cronau, the witness vet who attended the autopsy on his behalf.

“According to Dr Cronau neither sweat nor sweating consequences (encrusted areas, change of skin surface etc) were visible on the horse’s coat,” Kevin said.

“He also stated that the existent skin was undamaged. This refers also to spur and whip marks.

“As to the cause of the death, there are no conclusive results yet. Pathologic anatomic-wise [sic] neither an aortic rupture nor any rupture of other blood vessels nor heart lesions, which could be related to the sudden death, were found.

Further investigations have to be carried out, including blood analysis. Based on these findings the statements accusing me of having worked (lunged and/or ridden) excessively cannot be maintained, as the horse did not show any signs of having sweated when he died.

“Further, any accusations that I had abused the horse with a whip and/or spurs also prove to be false. The first results of the autopsy fully support my statement on the incident made on 11 October, that I had ridden the horse for 15 to 20 minutes and definitely not worked too hard or even excessively, and that I had not abused the horse.

“As we are still awaiting the cause of death I believe that this testimony is enough to exonerate me from any wrong doing.”

On 7 November, an FEI spokesman told H&H the federation was reviewing the official report that has been provided to them by the pathologist who performed the post mortem on the horse.

“This official report will form part of the ongoing FEI investigation,” the spokesman said.

“Dr Peter Cronau did not conduct the post mortem. He attended it as an observer and his observations are unofficial.”

Kevin told H&H yesterday (10 November) that he was “shocked” that a case had been brought against him.

“I didn’t expect that because I thought that the report from Dr Cronau, a well respected vet with the FEI, was fairly conclusive,” he said.

“I think the witness statement was influenced a lot by what the show published at the beginning. It’s all a bit uncalled for.

“We just have to stand by the facts — I have to keep going.”