A rider who competed in a major Endurance race in Dubai in January has been suspended and fined after the FEI Tribunal found that his striking of his horse on the neck with a water bottle amounted to horse abuse.
The tribunal considered the case against Ali Mohd Ali Al Hosani following a formal protest by journalist Pippa Cuckson.
England-based Cuckson provided video footage of the incident in support of her protest.
The tribunal suspended Al Hosani for six months, fined him 2000 Swiss francs, and ordered him to contribute 1000 francs towards the cost of the judicial procedure.
Al Hosani, registered with the Emirates Equestrian Federation, was competing on the horse LCE Corleone in the Sheikh Mohammed Cup CEI 160km race on January 4.
Two days later, Cuckson lodged a protest alleging horse abuse, including misuse of aids – a water bottle.
In her written protest, Cuckson described the incident which gave rise to her complaint:
“One groom has just handed a slosh bottle to the rider. He can be seen pouring it over the horse’s neck with his right hand, then passing the empty bottle into his left hand while he takes a second bottle from a second groom.
“He passes the second bottle with his right hand behind the saddle, presumably to slosh the horse’s loins, while simultaneously giving the horses a big kick.
“He then swings his right arm forward and strikes the horse in an angry manner on the neck twice.
“This is done forcefully and from height, in an action quite different from pouring a slosh bottle. With the speed of the manoeuvre he cannot have known whether there was any water left in the bottle and thus claim he was still sloshing the horse.”
Cuckson noted that the incident occurred on the fourth loop, when the horse’s average speed had dropped considerably from earlier circuits.
She asserted that, at the time of the incident, Al Hosani had likely realised his horse was tiring and he had fading hopes of a top-10 placing.
Al Hosani submitted that he did not intend to hit or abuse the horse.
“I would like to explain what happened exactly and as it shown in the recorded video, it is clear that when I took the second water bottle from the groom I started spraying water of the horse neck, I did this twice because I felt that there still water in the bottle so I poured it again.
“It is true that I poured the water vigorously due to speed and I tried to pour as much water as possible, but I did not intend at all to hit or abuse the horse.”
Al Hosani described the incident as a matter of misunderstanding and emphasized his “respect and commitment to all rules and regulations governing endurance rides”.
The tribunal, comprising Harveen Thauli, Constance Popineau and Cesar Torrente, said it disagreed with Al Hosani’s explanation that he “did not intend at all to hit or abuse the horse”.
“In the tribunal’s view, the video evidence shows that he clearly hit the horse with the water bottle twice and in an aggressive manner.”
It disagreed with his claim that he “poured the water vigorously due to speed”.
The tribunal further noted that before hitting the horse, Al Hosani gave his mount a big kick.
It found that Al Hosani used the water bottle as a whip, thereby violating the rules of Endurance.
He had struck the horse with the bottle twice and in an aggressive manner. “This is clearly visible in the video,” it said.
“The tribunal noted that Mr Al Hosani’s actions occurred during loop 4 when the horse’s average speed was dropping.
“The horse’s speed was 24.24kph in loop 1 but dropped to 18.12kph in loop 4 and 14.11kph in loop 5.
“The tribunal thinks that Mr Al Hosani most likely hit the horse out of frustration or anger because of the horse’s falling speed.
“In any event, the tribunal finds that Mr Al Hosani misused his water bottle as a whip to beat the horse excessively. The tribunal further finds that his actions constitute horse abuse because he likely caused pain or unnecessary discomfort to the horse …”
Such behaviour warranted sanctions, it said, in imposing the suspension and fine.
Cuckson, commenting on the decision, said she was pleased the tribunal had recognised that the incident violated FEI rules. Al Hosani’s actions had been an affront to horsemanship and the welfare of the horse.
“I am only sad I was reduced to lodging this protest because the ground jury did nothing – notwithstanding the incident being captured on the official livestream of the ride, and then going ‘viral’ on social media.”
Cuckson said odious behaviour was often seen on the field in FEI Group 7.
“As we know, the FEI Endurance Temporary Committee is reviewing the future and doing sterling work in a difficult political climate.
“To my mind, the biggest stumbling block is the entrenched culture of weak judges in thrall to the wealthy paymasters in FEI Group 7.
“There can be no other explanation as to why incidents like this are overlooked time and again.”