Kevin Thornton: Directory of ‘neutral’ professionals needs to be set up

Kevin Thornton wants to set up a directory of “neutral” professionals to advise and support riders who find themselves in difficult situations.
Kevin Thornton: Directory of ‘neutral’ professionals needs to be set up

It comes after the Swiss-based Dundalk native was the subject of a vicious social media attack when the horse Flogas Sunset Cruise died at the GPA Festival at Cagnes-sur-Mer in the south of France last Monday week. In a short time, the 28-year-old rider was being accused of brutally galloping the horse to death.

However, he explained that he had three grey horses at the show and had ridden the 10-year-old Flogas for “between 15 and 20 minutes”.

He has said that he “hit him once or twice to get him moving forward” when he acted up, but rejected outright he had done anything to abuse the stallion.

Yesterday, he said his suggestion of a directory to be rolled out in various countries was garnering positive reaction.

“I’ve had a lot of people, from Ireland, here in Switzerland, but also the US, offering to help set up an organisation.

“I was in a desperate situation, but I was lucky to be put in contact with lawyer Monika Gattiker. Without her, I would have been lost. Her assistance in those crucial hours at the very beginning made a big difference in turning around the situation on social media and the media in general. It saved my reputation.

“It’s difficult to find a lawyer that has equestrian experience, which would be essential. Because of her experience, Monika had a contact to organise the vet to act as a witness at last week’s post-mortem [on Flogas Sunset Cruise].

“I would like to take what was an extremely negative situation and turn it into something positive. Basically, I feel there should be a list of contacts in each country to help riders if they find themselves in difficulty; for example, if they required a vet, a doctor, or even a psychologist. My situation was extremely stressful, but I was lucky to have strong support around me. Not all riders would be so lucky.

“It’s about providing neutral advice. I don’t think it would be difficult to organise. We can start in Ireland, but expand it so that there is a go-to number for other countries.

“I would also like to think that the first consultation would be provided without charge.”

Flogas Sunset Cruise underwent an autopsy last Friday and an initial examination refuted claims Thornton worked the stallion “excessively” prior to its death, according to a prominent vet acting as a witness on his behalf.

In a statement issued by Gattiker on behalf of Thornton, respected German vet Dr Peter Cronau, who attended the autopsy in Lyon, France, last Friday, summarised the first results, saying “neither sweat, nor sweating consequences (encrusted areas, change of skin surface, etc.) were visible on the horse’s coat”. He also stated that the “existent skin was undamaged”. This included no sign of spur or whip marks.

Thornton rejected accusations he had ridden Flogas Sunset Cruise for three hours, claiming “there is no way I would whip a horse to death”. He explained that people at the show were confused by the fact he had three grey horses, the others being Saper and Startschuss. Indicative of the confusion was that until the day after the stallion died, those active on social media thought the deceased horse was Startschuss. The situation was not helped by the show organisers issuing a flyer encouraging witnesses to confirm they had seen Thornton and another, with a whip, gallop the horse to death.

While Dr Cronau noted that there were no outward signs that the horse had been abused, he pointed out that there “are no conclusive results yet” as to the cause of death.

Dr Cronau continued: “Pathologic-anatomic-wise neither an aortic rupture nor any rupture of other blood vessels nor heart lesions which could be related to the sudden death were found. Further investigations have to be carried out, including blood analysis.

“Based on these findings the statements accusing Kevin Thornton of having worked (lunged and/or ridden) excessively cannot be maintained, as the horse did not show any signs of having sweated when it died. Further, any accusations that he had abused the horse with a whip and/or spurs also prove to be false. The first results of the autopsy fully support Kevin Thornton’s statement on the incident made on 11 October 2016, i.e. that he had ridden the horse for 15 to 20 minutes and definitely not worked too hard or even excessively, and that he had not abused the horse.

“The final results of the autopsy, which will hopefully provide conclusive results, will have to be awaited.”

The incident is the subject of a full investigation by the Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI), which this week declined to comment.

* Bertram Allen and Shane Breen will be hoping for improvement in Helsinki, Sweden, on Sunday when they line out in the second World Cup contest of this season’s Western European League.

Allen had two fences down with Molly Malone in last Sunday’s opener in Oslo, Norway, while Breen posted a first-round score of five on the 11-year-old chestnut stallion Golden Hawk.

Cian O’Connor and Good Luck made the jump-off in Oslo, but had a single fence down to finish 10th.

* Down’s Conor Swail made the most of his last-to-go draw on Cenzo to edge Corkman Shane Sweetnam and Cornwall in this week’s $35,000 1.45m Horseware Ireland opener at the five-star show in Tryon, North Carolina.

Swail has established a successful relationship with the gelding throughout the year, garnering top-five finishes in Florida, Coapexpan, Mexico; Spruce Meadows, Canada; and St Lô, France.

Sweetnam is also enjoying success with Cornwall at Tryon, having topped a $25,000 grand prix last week. The horse is typically ridden by his student Kaley Tomeu, who sustained a broken collar bone and turned over the reins to her trainer while she recovers.

It was the culmination of a strong week for the Kanturk rider, who also finished runner-up with Main Road in the $130,000 Suncast Grand Prix on Saturday night

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