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Court confirms rider did abuse horse in competition, at appeal

A rider who appealed his abuse ban, partly by claiming the complaint should never have been filed, has failed in his attempts to overturn the ruling.

H&H reported last year that UAE endurance rider Abdul Rahman Saeed Saleh Al Ghailani had been found guilty of horse abuse by the FEI Tribunal, which fined him 4,000 Swiss francs and banned him for 12 months.

He was reported to the FEI by Pauline van Drumpt, of campaign group Clean Endurance for the abusive riding of his “exhausted” horse Sarab at a CEI3* in Abu Dhabi last February. The Tribunal found his “excessive” kicking and rein-pulling, with high hands, was likely to cause Sarab pain or unnecessary discomfort, and that his support crew’s chasing the horse was also against the rules.

Al Ghailani took the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, claiming that the initial complaint was inadmissible, as he said it did not comply with rules governing protests. He said it should have been submitted to the ground jury of the event, and noted that instead, it was filed six days later.

He also said his riding was a “field of play” issue, to be ruled on by the ground jury and one that cannot be reviewed unless there is evidence of bad faith on the in-field decision-maker.

He added that he had not breached any rules; that his support team was running towards the crew car rather than chasing the horse, and that he did not abuse the horse. He said he did not kick excessively, pull the reins with high hands or push it beyond its limits.

“[He] draws the attention of the panel to the fact that the type and extent of these actions are commonplace in… endurance,” the CAS panel report reads. It adds that Sarab passed six vet checks during and at the end of the ride, that other riders at the event acted in the same way and were not penalised, and that he “stopped kicking the horse once it became clear it was having no effect”.

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The FEI pointed out that its rules state that anyone witnessing horse abuse must report it “without delay”, so there is no formal time limit, and the submission was admissible. It added that while the rider was correct about field of play decisions, this does not apply in this case as no such decision was made, and the FEI can, under its rules, open an abuse case against anyone.

The panel found the FEI’s rules allow it to act against horse abuse regardless of any ground jury finding, and that preserving and protecting equine welfare, one of the FEI’s “paramount objectives” can only be met if a legal process allows the FEI to take action regarding the riders concerned.

It also found that the ground jury’s failure to sanction the rider was not a field of play decision, and the complaint was admissible.

The panel ruled that, having watched the videos, the rider was guilty of horse abuse. He was “clearly kicking and flapping forcefully”, and “powerfully pulling the reins up and down”, as well as stating that the horse was “clearly exhausted”, and that Al Ghailani’s actions did cause it pain or discomfort. The panel “strongly disagreed” that such actions were common in endurance, and found the support crew did chase the horse.

The panel upheld the Tribunal verdict, but decreased the ban from 12 to eight months, as it was the rider’s first offence, no concern were raised by the ground jury and the horse passed all vet checks, as well as the fact it was “not obvious” abuse.

A Clean Endurance spokesman said: “This is the first time CAS has issued a decision on an appeal in an endurance horse abuse case, and another landmark in the battle to improve horse welfare in the Gulf countries.”

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