Rider suspended for trying to kick horse in the ring

  • Heiress Jazz Johnson-Merton has been fined and suspended for two months for her “unprofessional display of aggression and poor sportsmanship” at a competition last year.

    The amateur rider was caught on video falling from her horse at Hampton Classic on 1 September. The footage shows the Johnson & Johnson heiress falling after a fence, keeping the reins and appearing to try to kick her horse Joe Cool.

    The video garnered significant media attention and United States Equestrian (USEF) launched an investigation into the incident on 21 September.

    USEF has now ruled that Ms Johnson-Merton engaged in unsportsmanlike conduct, in violation of the federation’s rules. She will be suspended from 1 August to 30 September and has been fined $5,000 (£3,687).

    Two days after USEF announced it would investigate, Ms Johnson-Merton shared a letter she had written to the federation, which was published by top US equestrian magazine Chronicle of the Horse.

    It read: “In the recent incident at the Hampton Classic, I had a very inappropriate emotional response to my horse’s behaviour, one that I have never had before. I was scared and angry, and reacted very badly. For that I am deeply sorry. My reaction was short lived, and immediately after I realised my mistake, I got back on to jump a schooling fence in order to finish the day on a trusting note with this horse.

    “I can assure you that the apology that I gave to the stewards at the time and this plea to you now is genuine. I will never again exhibit this unprofessional display of aggression and poor sportsmanship.”

    A USEF statement at the time said it “holds the welfare and safety of horse and rider as paramount to its mission as evidenced by the recent Board of Directors’ approval of new, tougher welfare and safety penalty guidelines”.

    It added: “USEF rules are in place to ensure that horse welfare and safety are protected at all times.”

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