Show jumper Michael Whitaker has appeared in court this week after an owner claimed a horse in his care was permanently damaged following a vitamin injection.

Hampshire-based Thierry and Lucy Cabanne allege that show jumper Fakir De La Lande (“Frank”), who was at the Whitaker yard from 2000-2001, had to have tieback and Hobday operations because of the injection, and that it lost significant value.

The case was heard at Cambridge County Court this week and the judge is expected to rule on the case some time in the next couple of weeks. Whitaker’s witnesses included fellow show jumpers Billy Twomey, Peter Charles and Grant Cashmore, while the Cabannes’ included several vets, including Tim Greet from Rossdale’s.

The horse, a six-year-old stallion on its arrival in the UK, had been considered “one of the best on the French circuit”, according to its owners. New Zealand rider Grant Cashmore had the horse for six months before it went in May 2000 to Whitaker’s yard, where Billy Twomey and Whitaker brought it on.

The horse’s owners say they were led to believe Frank had the potential to be worth £500,000. However, Whitaker insists that the horse, although grade A, was “mediocre” and worth only around £40,000. He claims the horse’s owners are exaggerating its worth.

In August 2001, Twomey rode Frank, then eight, at the Hickstead Derby meeting. The Cabannes allege that a groom gave the horse B12 a month later at Arena UK — but that the horse then deteriorated, developing a “sleepy” left eye, a stiff neck and larynx problems, which necessitated tieback and Hobday operations.

The horse was later placed briefly with Peter Charles, but then went to rehabilitation at Hartpury College, where vets diagnosed irreparable nerve damage and lack of balance.

“I’m not a dreamer and I know horses can break legs and go wrong and so on,” Thierry Cabanne said before this week’s hearing. “But we decided to sue because we felt Michael had been negligent.”

Whitaker denies that the injection caused the signs.

  • This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (13 January, 05).

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