Oliver Townend given warning for whip use at Blair

  • Oliver Townend was given a verbal warning for “abuse of horse/excessive use of whip” at the Land Rover Blair Castle International Horse Trials, less than four months after the furore surrounding his whip use at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials.

    The British world number one eventer was spoken to on 26 August at Blair, following an official warning for over-use of the whip on both his rides across country at Badminton in May.

    Oliver said the horse he was riding was “developing a habit of running out”, and that he did so in the cross-country warm-up at Blair.

    “I wanted to nip this habit in the bud by correcting him,” he added.

    “I gave this explanation to the ground jury on the day, which they accepted. The horse performed well and is happy, healthy and now enjoying a break.”

    The day after Badminton, at which he finished in second and fifth place on Cooley SRS and Ballaghmor Class respectively, Oliver released a statement “apologising wholeheartedly” for his riding “if it looked bad”.

    “I absolutely love my horses, and their welfare is my top priority,” he added. “They are both young and inexperienced at this level, and I did have to work hard to keep their concentration and get them home in one piece as they tired in the heavy going. I hope that the way they both showjumped today demonstrates how fit, well and happy they are.”

    He later released a second apology, saying he had watched his rounds on film, and that he was “so disappointed and upset” about his riding, which “didn’t look good and I don’t want to look like that”.

    Continues below…

    It is not clear which horse the Blair warning concerns: Oliver rode Tregilder in the CIC3* and Cillnabradden Evo in the Event Rider Masters, finishing first and second respectively, and Crumlinpark Genie in the one-star, finishing in 45th place.

    Louise Evans was given a yellow card at Blair, for “dangerous riding/continuing after three refusals”. Louise declined to comment when approached by H&H.

    James Sommerville was also given a yellow card, for jumping the ropes after he came through the cross-country finish. He told H&H he felt the area in which to slow down was short.

    “My horse was pulling quite hard and was strong, and I had nowhere to turn at the end,” he said. “The ground jury said I should have turned left but my horse was still travelling and I felt I’d have had to do a 10-metre half-circle; I didn’t even consider that because of the speed we were going. He popped the ropes and I managed to pull up.

    “They had to yellow-card me and you have to take things on the chin but it wasn’t intentional by any means.”

    Blair event director Alec Lochore, Event Director said: “In response to rider comments in 2017 the pulling-up area has been lengthened to more than 130m from the finish line, and was not strung to the very end. No rider expressed concern with the distance provided before the cross country phase started.
    “To the best of our knowledge James Sommerville was the only rider to have an issue with pulling up. We will continue to review this area to ensure that is is both fair and sensible and, as always, welcome constructive feedback from the riders.”

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