by Eleanor Jones | Horse & Hound | 16th Aug 2021
H&H reported on 6 August, when German Annika Schleu was seen in tears as her ride Saint Boy napped, and later refused to jump. Her reaction and use of the whip, and her coach’s punching of the horse, sparked worldwide outrage.
More than 132,000 people have signed a Change.org petition calling for the riding phase to be removed from the sport.
Other suggestions to improve horse welfare, athlete safety and the reputation of the sport, which comes into the spotlight owing to concerns about the standard of riding at every Olympics, include better education and smaller fences.
John Ledingham, who represented Ireland in showjumping at one Olympics and was a team coach at another, was also Ireland’s modern pentathlon coach at three Games.
“Tears were brought to my eyes on 6 August as I witnessed the Olympian principles of fairness and animal welfare trampled underfoot,” he said. “What I witnessed should never have happened; it has brought the sport into disrepute, it has created enormous hurt to the victim, both human and equine; it can never be let to happen again.”
John told H&H he feels “very strongly that the structure is not correct”, and that it is open to what happened.
“A few changes could really improve it, and make it fair,” he said.
John said in some pentathlon events, not all competitors qualify for the riding phase. This, particularly for those without an equestrian background, means their riding may not be as good as their performance in other phases as they do not prioritise this training.
Top Image: Saint Boy, Dan Mullan/Getty Images.
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