A Bahraini endurance rider has been suspended and fined for horse abuse after the FEI Tribunal found he used an extra set of reins as a whip during a 120km race.
Whips are banned in endurance.
Khaled Ebrahim Khalil Khairi was suspended for three months and ordered to pay a fine of 2000 Swiss francs over his treatment of Happy Jack during the CEI2* race in Sakhir, at the Bahrain International Village, on January 14 last year. He was also ordered to contribute 1000 Swiss francs toward the cost of the case.
The FEI Tribunal ruled that Khairi’s actions in using an extra set of reins as a whip met the definition of horse abuse as described in the FEI General Regulations.
It emerged that the FEI had received a protest on January 17 last year in which a witness alleged Khairi had abused Happy Jack.
The anonymous protest form said: “As a viewer and a fan I travelled to see the competition in Bahrain, and as a horse lover and fan of this sport I have seen very bad sportsmanship from the rider who abused the horse harshly, that disturbed me as a viewer and many who were watching.”
The FEI, in support of its case against Khairi, submitted a video received together with the protest form.
The FEI submitted that the video showed a tired horse being pushed by its rider to keep going, and that Khairi used a whip on Happy Jack excessively and pushed him in order to force the horse to keep galloping.
The video showed that the horse was followed by a vehicle during the ride, and that the rider used some kind of whip – an extra pair of reins – which the rider later handed over to the driver of the car.
The world governing body submitted that the video provided prima facie evidence of abuse within the meaning of the general rules. It further noted that, in his explanation, Khairi admitted that he whipped the horse at the event.
“The FEI was further surprised that Mr Khairi used a whip despite the prohibition to do so, and further that according to him, it was a ‘mild response to the horse’s behaviour’.
“The FEI was of the opinion that such behaviour of a rider had to be sanctioned, in order to protect the welfare of the horse, but also to have a deterrent effect for the future.”
It said it concluded that Khairi had inflicted unnecessary pain and discomfort to Happy Jack through using the extra reins as a whip, and also violated the ban on vehicles following the horse on the course.
Forcing the horse to continue to gallop, as Khairi did, created a welfare risk for the horse that deserved punishment, the FEI added.
Khairi, in his explanation to the tribunal, admitted that he whipped the horse but argued it “was not a harsh response from me but a mild response to the horse’s behaviour that was not befitting the ride as the horse became lonely”.
He continued: “This particular horse requires to be accompanied by [a] group of horses during the ride. I had whipped the horse for motivation and did not abuse it.”
He admitted that the crew vehicle did follow them, but stated that “it crossed into the trail after the crew found my actions inappropriate and relieved me of the rein which I had used to whip the horse”.
He apologised in his explanation and offered an assurance that such an incident would not happen again.
The tribunal, comprising Henrik Arle, Laurent Niddam and Harveen Thauli, ruled that, in carrying the extra reins as a disguised substitute for a whip, he had breached the rule that clearly forbids the use of whips (or any other item as a whip). In addition, it found he had been followed on at least part of the course by a vehicle.
“The next question is to determine whether the conduct of Mr Khairi constituted horse abuse under applicable FEI rules and regulations.
It ruled that whipping the horse during the event (when whips are banned) for the purpose of keeping a tired horse cantering would have caused the animal pain or unnecessary discomfort, and thus amounted to abuse. It found that the FEI had established that horse abuse had occurred in the incident.
The tribunal said Khairi’s use of a whip was unacceptable and had to be penalized.
It took note of the rider’s apology.
It imposed the three-month suspension, plus the fine and costs. Khairi was ordered to forfeit any medals, points or prizes obtained in the event, and was disqualified.
His suspension runs from the date of the tribunal decision – February 13.
The full tribunal decision can be read here.