Show Jumping

Irish Rider Under Investigation Following Horse Death in France

A horse death at the GPA Jump Festival CSI2* in France on Monday has sent the internet abuzz with allegations of abuse. At this point, the story is fraught with more allegations than facts.

Here’s what we know:

Floras Sunset Cruise, ridden by Irish rider Kevin Thornton, died at the GPA Jump Festival in Cagnes Sur Mer yesterday after being ridden on a racetrack at the show venue. The circumstances of the 10-year-old grey stallion’s death are currently being investigated.

From there, the situation gets murky.

French media outlets reported that the horse was ridden to the point of exhaustion, an allegation Thornton adamantly denies. Others contend that the horse was whipped by the rider and his groom so that he galloped without stopping before finally collapsing.

The reports have been met with outrage by concerned horse enthusiasts on social media.

GPA Jump Festival released two statements on Facebook yesterday regarding the incident. The first reads:

“Following the accident that day on the racetrack, the organization will take all necessary measures to clarify the circumstances of this tragedy and punish those responsible.
The animal compliance is our priority and we are committed to uphold it !!!”

Four hours later, they followed up with this post:

Many strong reactions, we understand and we share.
For information, the rider concerned has been excluded from the competition.
To clarify this drama a procedure with the relevant authorities as well as additional tests are underway.

Thornton (28) vehemently denied the allegations to the Irish Field today, saying:

“I’m into horses all my life. There is no way I would ever whip a horse to death. I did not do that and I never would. I’m not that person.”

He contends that the horse was ridden for 15 to 20 minutes, not three hours, before it collapsed and that he had three gray horses at the show—all of which were ridden on the track that day. According to the Swiss-based rider, he whipped the horse “once or twice to get him moving forward” when it acted up at the entrance of the track, causing the horse to bolt. The horse “felt very weird” and keeled over in an arena shortly thereafter.

Thornton also noted that he wasn’t kicked out of the show, as the GPA Jump Festival implied. But that he opted to leave as he “didn’t feel fit to ride.”

Read Thornton’s detailed account of the tragic event at the Irish Field.

The Irish national federation, Horse Sport Ireland, has confirmed that the incident is under investigation.

“Horse Sport Ireland, the national governing body for equestrian sport in Ireland, are extremely concerned about reports of the alleged circumstances leading to the death of a horse ridden by Swiss-based Irish rider Kevin Thornton in Cagnes-Sur-Mer in France on Monday October 10th 2016.

“Last night, Horse Sport Ireland was in contact with our colleagues in the French Equestrian Federation, and the rider, to gather information on what happened. We will be continuing with this process.”

An autopsy is expected on the horse.