Ban for rider who whipped horse until it collapsed with exhaustion and a broken leg

A rider who repeatedly whipped and “violently” kicked his horse until the animal collapsed with a broken leg has been suspended for 30 months.

A protest was lodged with the FEI over the way the UAE’s Khalid Jumaa Salem Al Khatri rode Castlebar Nato in a CEI1* endurance ride in Abu Dhabi last December.

The FEI Tribunal found Al Khatri guilty of horse abuse.

The Tribunal ruled that Al Khatri had repeatedly whipped the 12-year-old gelding with his reins, as he realised he was about to be overtaken. Under FEI endurance rules no item of tack or equipment is allowed to be used as a whip.

“Mr Al Khatri whipped the horse at least 18 times and violently kicked the horse until the horse eventually collapsed from exhaustion,” states the panel’s report.

“His actions were all captured in the live video footage… The Tribunal finds that his actions constitute horse abuse because he undoubtedly caused pain or unnecessary discomfort to the horse.”

Pauline van Drumpt of Clean Endurance, who submitted the protest along with video footage of the incident, told the Tribunal:“The horse is seen foaming at the mouth and breathing hard, visibly exhausted but going as fast as it can. Three minutes into the video, it collapses to its knees, tries to get up but collapses again. When it puts its right foreleg down to try and get up, the cannon bone can be seen bending backwards with a fracture.”

Warning: upsetting footage

The FEI veterinary department confirmed the cannon bone fracture, adding that the horse was not put down but the decision was made to “treat him conservatively with a cast or surgery depending on the owner’s decision”.

The department added that it had not seen any evidence “proving the cause or underlying factor to the fracture”.

“However, in general terms there is evidence that spontaneous fractures (fractures that have not been caused by external force such as hitting a solid object) in horses are caused by already existing bone fatigue (stress fracture) that are due to long term overloading and mismanagement such as overtraining, poor training surface and intense frequency of competing.

“Although pre-existing bone fatigue is the most likely cause of this fracture, there is no physical evidence to support this.

“High speed in a competition contributes to the overloading and could have triggered the fracture. There is however no physical evidence to support this.”

The Tribunal ruled that while there was no evidence to support a spontaneous fracture, “the fact that the horse ended up with a fractured leg, not being caused by external force, could not be ignored”.

Al Khatri told the Tribunal he used his reins to “encourage” the horse, and that no force was used to cause the horse any harm or discomfort.

He said: “The main reason why I was trying to encourage my horse to go faster was to allow horse number 75 to safely move away from me when we entered the rail as the horses were close to each other and that is typical with any herd or pack animal as they prefer to run close to each other and feel safe.”

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Al Khatri added that he retires horses in competition if they feel tired, adding: “Finally and with the love of animals and horses, it is no act of humanity to cause  harm to any living creature let alone an animal which I’ve spent my entire life growing up with and learnt so much from.”

The Tribunal disagreed that no force was used to cause the horse pain or discomfort, and dismissed Al Khatri’s claim that he was trying to move away from another horse.

The rider was ordered to pay CHF 9,000 (£7,252) and 1,000 costs (£805).

The case was one of three incidents of horse abuse on the part of UAE endurance riders ruled on by the FEI Tribunal this week. For more see next week’s H&H magazine, out 11 July.