Liverpool International winner disqualified amid a storm of controversy: ‘I’m heartbroken and feel I’ve been unfairly punished’

  • Young showjumper Richard Howley (pictured) has been stripped of his win in yesterday’s under-25 class on Clane K at the Equestrian.com Liverpool International show, disqualified from the remainder of the competition and handed an FEI yellow card after walking his horse in-hand in a non-designated area last night (2 January).

    The FEI ground jury confirmed today (3 January) that the Irish rider was disqualified for being in contravention of FEI rule article 159.5.5, which states:

    “Automatic disqualification for the entire event of a horse that was found to have left the restricted area without permission”.

    “I watched the class and the prize-giving with my owners, then went to the stables around 11pm to take my horse out for a walk as she’d been a bit gassy earlier in the week,” Richard told H&H.

    “I brought the horse up to the stable exit and the girl on the door didn’t check my pass and allowed us out. I was going to walk the horse in the warm-up, but the bowsers were in there watering and I didn’t want to spook the horse, so I walked abut 20 metres down the road until they’d moved, and then went into the collecting ring.

    “We walked three laps on each rein – the horse had its number and rugs and boots on – and then I put her away.

    “If I’d known we weren’t allowed out, I’d never have gone. No way.”

    Richard was at the show without a groom and was only informed of his elimination at 11am today, shortly before he was about to get on his horse, which was tacked up and plaited, ready to compete.

    “I feel I’ve been overly punished for trying to look after my horse to the best of my ability,” he said. “The show team have been fantastic – and it is an absolutely amazing show – but the FEI ground jury have taken the decision without gathering all the facts.”

    The rider was informed that there was no mechanism for appeal.

    “It should be compulsory to get correct statements from all parties before making such a big decision like this,” he added.

    “I feel I have been penalised unfairly. It’s way too harsh a decision and I’m absolutely heartbroken, not just for me but for my owners too, who travelled 3.5 hours to be here. And I don’t understand why it took the FEI ground jury 12 hours to inform me.”

    Horse & Hound contacted the FEI and they declined to comment.

    New podium line-up

    Richard and Tom Rowland’s nine-year-old Guidam x Hemmingway mare Clane K’s elimination means that the podium is now an all-British line-up.

    Kerry Brennan and Liane Smith’s Wellington M – a rising 13-year-old KWPN Quidam De Revel gelding – becomes the new class winner and takes the €990 first prize.

    Pippa Allen and Hope Springs moves up into second place, netting €600, while Alfie Bradstock riding Graham Fletcher’s KBIS Caicos moves onto the podium into third place.

    The disqualified horse, Clane K, is new to international competition, having started under Irish rider Aoife Dooley in August 2015 and a spell under British rider Leonie Aitkenhead.

    This is the second controversial elimination in as many weeks after Bertram Allen was disqualified from the grand prix at Olympia after blood was found on his horse Quiet Easy 4. Bertram appealed but it was dismissed by the FEI.

    Image credit: Trevor Meeks

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