South African rider Philippa Johnson-Dwyer’s Paralympics ended with a blow, as she was eliminated from the freestyle on the final day of competition at the Olympic Equestrian Centre in Rio.
Blood was spotted by a technical delegate at the post-test check. The blood was found on the flank of her horse Lord Louis, an 11-year-old chestnut gelding by Laureus.
“The blood found on the horse’s flank looked to have been caused by Philippa’s spur,” confirmed the FEI’s Ruth Grundy. “There’s no way of knowing whether it was a welfare issue or a mistake — the ruling has to be black and white.”
Any appearance of blood on the horse is cause for disqualification according to the FEI para dressage rule 8430.12.13, which states that if an FEI steward or the judge at C discovers fresh blood in the horse’s mouth or in the area of the spurs during the equipment check or competition, it is cause for the horse and rider to be eliminated by the ground jury.
“This was really disappointing but such is the nature of top sport — some days everything goes right, on others it all seems to unravel,” said Philippa. “It is having the courage to stand back up, dust yourself off and keep going that counts.”
This incident follows four disqualifications under blood rules in the showjumping at the Olympic Games, held the previous month at the same venue.
Philippa and Lord Louis had initially appeared on the scoreboard in provisional sixth place after their freestyle in the grade III section.
They finished seventh in the individual championship earlier in the week, scoring 69.39%, and fifth in the team test on the first day of competition, with 69.92%.
Philippa, who is married to Irish para dressage rider James Dwyer, was the sole South African representative at the Paralympic dressage in Rio, riding as an individual. This is Philippa’s fourth Paralympics, having competed at London 2012 with Lord Louis, and at Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008 with Benedict. In Hong Kong she and Benedict made history by winning South Africa’s first ever equestrian gold medal in the individual championship, as a grade IV rider.