Fatal injury claims life of Swiss eventing horse on Tokyo 2020 cross-country

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Jet Set pictured during the dressage phase of the eventing competition at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Jet Set pictured during the dressage phase of the eventing competition at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. © FEI

The death of a horse following an injury on the cross-country course has cast a pall over equestrian events at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

The Swiss horse Jet Set, ridden by Robin Godel, was euthanised after pulling up extremely lame on the Sea Forest cross-country course on August 1.

Jet Set, a 14-year-old gelding by Nordico, was pulled up after tearing a ligament on landing in the last water jump, Mt Fuji water complex, the 20th fence on the course and the fifth jump from the finish line.

Jet Set received immediate veterinary attention at the fence and, after an initial assessment, was transferred by horse ambulance to the onsite veterinary clinic.

Ultrasound scans revealed an irreparable ligament rupture in the lower right limb, just above the hoof, and on humane grounds, and with the agreement of the owners and rider, the decision was taken to euthanise Jet Set.

A heartbroken Robin Godel said: “Jet was an extraordinary horse. He left doing what he liked to do most: galloping and flying over obstacles.”

He said he was “deeply touched” by the support from the equestrian world.

In line with the FEI Veterinary Regulations, samples have already been taken from the horse and a post mortem will be conducted.

Jet Set is the fourth horse to suffer a fatal injury on a cross-country course this year, with the loss of Pakistan Olympic hopeful Kasheer (Riverbreeze) and Nightcaps on the same day in May in Australia, and Hendrix in Britain in June.

Andrew Nicholson and Jet Set on their way to winning the CCI3* at Bramham in 2016.
Andrew Nicholson and Jet Set on their way to winning the CCI3* at Bramham in 2016. © Mike Bain

Spanish-bred Jet Set was previously owned and ridden by New Zealand eventer Andrew Nicholson. They won the Bramham CCI3* in 2016, and Robin Godel, 22, took over the ride in 2020. Godel and Jet Set’s best results were third in the CCI4*-L at Montelibretti in Italy last October, and fourth in the CCI3* at Barroca d’Alva in Portugal last March.

The Swiss team will compete in the final phase, with substitute rider Eveline Bodenmüller and Violin de la Brasserie taking the field.

Below: Robin Godel and Jet Set on the Tokyo 2020 cross-country.

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22 thoughts on “Fatal injury claims life of Swiss eventing horse on Tokyo 2020 cross-country

  • August 2, 2021 at 11:51 am
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    I am heart broken for all involved.

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  • August 2, 2021 at 12:01 pm
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    Horrible! Innocent horses don’t ask for this and neither do children. Change the rules or ban this sport. Too many horses and riders die but at least the riders with the exception of children know what they are getting into. The horses are completely innocent and there is no need for them to die. I ride dressage and used to ride hunters. In show jumping the jumps collapse and you rarely see anyone die – in dressage it’s a fluke accident. The total number of deaths in this sport is unacceptable. It should be banned or dramatically changed. There was a move to have jumps that collapse several years ago but nothing has changed. I say these riders are murdering horses with this sport and its outrageous. Also the courses are too grueling and hard on the horses. Change the sport or ban it.

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    • August 3, 2021 at 11:16 am
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      They do have jump that collapse now. They were used in the event yesterday at the Olympics.

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    • August 4, 2021 at 6:03 pm
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      I agree with you in part-however this is what horses are born and bred to do. You can tell a lot of the horses enjoy it. I do agree with you about the collapsible jumps, that is a terrific idea. I also agree with you about the course being to grueling, I said the exact same thing to my husband. When you see so many horses that can not finish in the 7:45 time allowed for the current course it tells you the course is to grueling. Let the man who designed it take his horse (if he has one) over the course. Maybe then he would think about what he is asking these majestic animals to do. Go team U.S.A.

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      • August 10, 2021 at 11:57 am
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        The man who built the course is world renown and has much experience himself, there was nothing wrong with the course, it was shorter than normal and the fences had pins that broke very easily to allow the rails to drop easily, over the years the courses have been improved immensely. I get very tired of people bleating about these horses’ welfare, the safety record is good but nothing is without risk. I find it highly ironic that there is so much neglect and cruelty in ordinary fields and makeshift stabling all over our country, far more misery inflicted by thousands upon thousands of unsuitable people who either have no idea what they are doing or don’t care and exploit equines, or those who go to local shows and thrash these poor creatures round jumping tracks week in week out, don’t learn the essentials of care, don’t employ a farrier regularly, or feed well, provide proper housing or grazing, use poor equipment including gadgets of torture to force head carriage, etc. etc. and inflict long term abuse daily, yet where is the outrage there? Better a life of joy being well trained, fittened to a high standard, chosen for excellent conformation and talent for the best chances to stay sound competed by highly talented riders, cossetted and turned out on more than adequate pasture, to risk occasional calculated injury and be swiftly administered to, than suffer permanent misery in the hands of the majority of equine owners, who mistreat through arrogance and ignorance, but they have no public profile, they’re under the radar…….don’t exist in your head, that is where the most cruelty lies, take the scales from your eyes and trash them and bring them into the public consciousness if you are so concerned about horse welfare.

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        • August 21, 2021 at 12:37 pm
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          Catherine Delamere, I completely agree with what you say. The cruelty of humans to horses lies not here but with those who fly under the radar. I think people need to address this terrible issue before condemning those who have the closest relationship with their horse and give them a wonderful life.

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    • August 8, 2021 at 1:09 am
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      Totally agreed! Olympic Games should only take into account what human-animals can perform themselves, excluding disciplines with non-human animals who are FORCED to take part. R.I.P. Jet Set.

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    • August 8, 2021 at 5:21 am
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      Absolutely- this is unacceptable and inhumane. Then the German coach punched a horse and shrieked to the rider to whip the horse harder.The Irish rider whose horse fell just walked away- he didn’t care if the horse was injured.

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      • August 10, 2021 at 2:05 pm
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        These nasty types of human souls should be severely punished and permanently banned from the sport, from coaching, and from teaching…..no questions asked. This sport needs more regulating and monitoring and tough punishments for any animal abuse.

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  • August 2, 2021 at 5:41 pm
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    Would the reaction be the same if 4 riders had to be “put down” due to injuries in a cross country race?

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  • August 2, 2021 at 11:31 pm
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    Why was the horse euthanized? Could he not have been retired?

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    • August 3, 2021 at 8:39 am
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      It was irreparable – the horse would not have been able to walk. They don’t make the decision to euthanize lightly and only consider what is best and most humane for the horse.

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  • August 3, 2021 at 2:10 am
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    I watched this event on television and was dismayed to see what the horses endure for the “sport”.
    The event needs to be removed from not just the Olympics but overall and around the world. It is a sport for the wealthy. The same goes for Dressage, it’s all so silly and unnecessary in this day and age.

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    • August 3, 2021 at 11:40 pm
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      The horses see it as a sport too, and the riders can only really push them as far as the horse wants to go (thats what happened to the lady from Peurto Rico, her horse refused). However, the horses and riders know thereis danger in cross country,but that doesnt stop both parties from enjoying. Also what’s wrong with dressage? It is completely safe for the horse.

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      • August 5, 2021 at 2:47 am
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        I agree that eventing’s just gotten too grueling for horses. Over the 50 years I have watched it, course designers are designing more and more difficult obstacles. So you grease the horses legs so they can slide over it. Doesn’t that tell you something? And yes, not fair to the horses who will try to please us.

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    • August 10, 2021 at 12:34 pm
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      Don’t be so ridiculous! It is not a sport for the wealthy, but it is a sport for the very hard working and dedicated, name ten millionaire equestrian competitors. I come from very humble roots. You don’t seem to know what dressage is, if more people adopted classical dressage there would be far fewer miserable horses, it is the practice of training horse and rider to work towards balance and harmony, when a rider gets on a horse he puts it out of balance, the purpose is to train and build physique so the horse is able to carry the rider in balance correctly, this means less strains and injury mentally and physically, the rider has also to learn how to ride in a way that doesn’t interfere with this. High school movements executed well demonstrates this and the freedom that it allows to perform them. done with sympathetic and force free methods it can only be for good, if you had ever trained a horse in dressage you would know it is a huge achievement and thrill. What would you prefer to do that you deem necessary instead? Control every pleasure gained from a bond with an animal and destroy anything meaningful it seems. It is your choice not to want special and two way relationships with horses, my choice to spend time making it matter.

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  • August 3, 2021 at 3:31 am
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    Watching that event yesterday I was horrified by the jumps. That was the worst course I’ve seen in years. Not surprised that a horse got hurt. Horrified that he had to be put down. Beautiful animal and Olympian!

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  • August 3, 2021 at 1:21 pm
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    This is so sad, this horse was doing his best in a over demanding human world , it was not his fault he died this way.
    Things need to change, all injury’s we inflict on horses we are responsible for.
    We need to rethink how we ride horses. And how indeed we treat horses on all levels.
    They are full of heart and are our faithful companions.
    RIP dear Horse, we love you. Humans are slow to learn.

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  • August 4, 2021 at 2:19 pm
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    This story saddened me enough to start a petition to update safety regulations in the competition, I hope you will consider signing it

    http://chng.it/SPRYTZR4

    Thank you

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  • August 5, 2021 at 1:43 am
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    Yes the horse could have lived a long life but never to be competitive again. They didnt want to take the time to have surgery done and stall bound the horse for months. I personally know from my own experience with my horse. I proved them ALL WRONG. His tendon was completely severed. Sonogram showed it. I was told I’d never ride him again. It was crap. I wrapped his leg and kept him in his stall for 4 months. Only taking him out after the 2nd month to graze late at night with no one around. He did fabulous. Yes I was able to ride him 7 months down the road. No more competition just pleasure. Just depends how much you love the horse. How much you cant live without them. I went to hell and back for him and it was worth it!!

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  • August 6, 2021 at 2:26 am
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    I started riding at age eight and used to ride an amateur cross country course and do a lot of equestrian jumping all through high school and college. I had a Thoroughbred gelding who had a career in show jumping before I bought him and he truly did enjoy our rides and all the jumping we did. He never refused a fence and usually made adjustments in stride and leads without me even asking him, but I feel this was the case not only because he was a wonderfully talented and schooled horse, but also because I never pushed him too hard or for too long. I agree with many previous comments. This course and obviously others, are simply too difficult, dangerous and grueling. I was thrilled to learn that there were new “break away” jumps in this course, but disappointed when I realized it was only a few. They all should break away and the courses should be simplified as far as terrain and time go. A jump that breaks away on a steep hill could be more dangerous than one that doesn’t. I also personally believe this particular rider, Robin, was riding too fast and too recklessly. Even Melody Smith Taylor, one of the equine event announcers made the comment that Robin needed to gather up Jet Set’s stride into the jumps or he would be headed for a fall, just moments before the injury occurred. NO animal should ever have to risk death or die for our entertainment, especially one as majestic and capable as an equine athlete.
    On a side note, I agree with Deborah Lewis. I think the ligament may well have healed on its own if they were willing to go to the lengths it would have taken to transport the horse home and then hospitalize and mobilize him for several months. Maybe he could have recovered enough to be retired to pasture. Unfortunately, because of the enormous insurance policies the owners have on these horses, it’s just easier to euthanize them and get another horse. As stated in an earlier post, if we did this to injured human athletes, things would probably change in a hurry.

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  • September 12, 2021 at 6:48 am
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    If Jet Set the horse is considered an athlete, in honor of pos morten it deserved to win the Pierre Coubertain medal as a great reflection on the spirit of the sport.

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