The FEI Tribunal has issued its Final Decision on the case opened by the FEI last November against Irish show jumper Kevin Thornton for alleged abuse of the horse Flogas Sunset Cruise, which died at a show in Cagnes-sur-Mer in France on 10 October 2016.

The FEI Tribunal found the athlete guilty of horse abuse and has suspended him for four months from the date of the decision (6 June 2017), and imposed a fine of CHF 5,000 and costs of CHF 5,000 (approximately 9,000 euro in total).

In its findings, the FEI Tribunal determined that the athlete’s behaviour “went way beyond what could be considered an acceptable conduct towards a horse” and further concluded “with confidence that the horse has been whipped repeatedly, substantially and excessively and clearly more than the three (3) times alleged by Mr Thornton”.

The FEI stated in its testimony that “even if the horse had survived, a case of horse abuse would still have been opened by the FEI”. As the autopsy did not confirm the cause of death, the FEI Tribunal clarified that it was “not deciding on the potential responsibility of Mr Thornton for the tragic death of the horse”.

Sabrina Zeender FEI Secretary General
FEI Secretary General Sabrina Ibáñez

“The FEI stood up for horse welfare by taking this case to the FEI Tribunal and given the severity of this incident I truly would have expected a much tougher sanction”, FEI Secretary General Sabrina Ibáñez said. “It was important to the FEI that the allegation of horse abuse was confirmed by the Tribunal. We had requested a two-year suspension, but the level of sanctions is at the discretion of the Tribunal and we respect its independence.”

The Decision can be appealed before the Court of Arbitration for Sport within 21 days from the date of notification (6 June 2017).

The full text of the FEI Tribunal’s Final Decision on this case can be viewed here and includes eyewitness statements about the incident that were submitted to the investigators.

Thornton (28) from Dundalk, Co Louth but living in Switzerland for the past six years, co-owned Flogas Sunset Cruise, a 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse, with Co Mayo’s Vinnie Duffy.

Despite being named by the Tribunal as Kevin Thornton’s “administering National Federation”, and despite worldwide coverage given to the decision, Horse Sport Ireland had not issued any statement on the matter 24 hours after the FEI announcement.

Jack Burns