Show jumper Andrew Bourns has been suspended by the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) for four months for “excessively whipping” a horse.
The suspension began on January 1 and concerns an incident that occurred last March at the Winter Equestrian Festival in Florida.
The Galway rider told the Irish Examiner at the weekend that, while he understands he had to be punished, he did not feel a four-month suspension was justified.
“I recognise the USEF have a duty to govern the sport and accept they had to punish me, but the severity of the sanction caught me by surprise. I think it’s a little bit excessive,” said Florida-based Bourns.
“I’m a fair person and I follow the rules. My owners and everybody involved in my business have been very understanding and supportive. They’ve all been loyal and are standing by me.”
According to the USEF, at the Winter Equestrian Festival on March 18-22 last year, Bourns “was seen excessively whipping the horse, Tztargazer, while returning to the stall, which resulted in severe welts on the right and left flanks of the horse”.
The USEF directed that Bourns be suspended for four months. The suspension also applies to any horse linked to Bourns, whether held at the time of the incident or afterwards.
Bourns was also fined $4,000 and, for the four-month period, is excluded from “attending, observing or participating” in any USEF activities.
He could also face sanction by Horse Sport Ireland (HSI). Though the USEF ruled on the Bourns incident on November 18, HSI said it had yet to be officially notified. “We have not yet received any official notification from the USEF of the suspension, nor have we yet received any application from Andrew Bourns for an international licence to ride for Ireland in 2016.
If such an application is made, we may refer the matter to the HSI Disciplinary Officer, who would decide on the appropriate course of action based on the HSI rules. The matter could be referred to the HSI Disciplinary panel and in this context it would not be appropriate to comment on an individual case,” said a HSI spokesperson. “However, Horse Sport Ireland is committed to horse welfare and one of our key values is that the welfare of a horse should never be compromised in the pursuit of sporting success or commercial gain.”
Crucially, the USEF suspension will see Bourns miss the lucrative 12-week Winter Equestrian Festival, which begins this week, but he promised to make a successful return on the 10-year-old gelding Tztargazer
“He’s going very well. When the suspension is up, I’m going to make my comeback on that horse. He’s going super.”
Meanwhile, at the five-star show in Basel, Switzerland, Denis Lynch scored a big jump-off class win with Abbervail van het Dingeshof and then announced the retirement of the 16-year-old gelding, following a successful career that saw the pair compete in two World Cup finals.
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