Court upholds bans for pair that abused horse by using hind boots containing nails

  • A showjumper and his “trainer” who used hind boots with nails on a horse – then tried to cover it up by throwing the boots in some bushes – have had their appeals rejected.

    In February H&H reported that Essam Zbibi, a British-registered rider based in the UAE, and Hicham Gharib, had been found guilty of horse abuse by the FEI Tribunal in relation to gelding HH Sigma at a CSI3* show in Abu Dhabi in February 2021.

    The pair were reported to the FEI after officials at the show saw HH Sigma react “excessively” when a groom put hind boots on him. The chief steward was called and when he attended, Ghraib was seen taking the boots off and “running to the side of warm-up”, where he threw the boots “into the brush/shrub area”. The chief steward retrieved the boots, which each contained a “nail/sharp object” with “blood around the area”.

    During the Tribunal the FEI said it believed the boots were “constructed and designed in advance, showing intention and pre-planned abuse” – and the main intention of the “pins” was to cause pain and unnecessary discomfort to the horse so HH Sigma would lift his hind legs abnormally – and “win advantages in competition”.

    In his defence Zbibi told the Tribunal that marks found on HH Sigma were owing to an allergy, and he was “certain” the wrong boots were handed to officials. He also claimed Gharib was not his trainer.

    Gharib denied all allegations and claimed he was not in the warm-up as a trainer or support personnel. He said he removed the boots “as a favour” and did not recall seeing “nails or blood”. He added he had never been involved in horse abuse, the wellbeing of horses has always been his priority, and the allegations could cause “irreparable harm”.

    The Tribunal found Zbibi’s behaviour amounted to “clear abuse” and “maltreatment” – and based on the case material, that Gharib “assisted and encouraged” the abuse. The Tribunal believed Gharib’s attempts to throw away the boots constituted a “separate and clear breach” by trying to “cover up” the violation.

    Zbibi was suspended for four years from the date of the decision, fined 10,000 CHF (£7,969), and ordered to pay 2,000 CHF (£1,593) costs. Gharib was suspended for one year, fined 5,000 CHF (£3,984) and 2,000 CHF costs.

    The pair appealed the decisions to the Court of Arbitration for Sport and yesterday (6 July) the CAS panel dismissed both cases – and confirmed the FEI Tribunal’s decision. Zbibi and Gharib must now pay an additional 5,000 CHF (£4,284) each towards the FEI’s legal fees and expenses incurred during CAS proceedings.

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